Due to the cancellation of the GEOWEEK event in Washington, DC, the GETI organizing meeting, also scheduled to be held in Washington, was not held. In its place, the session was conducted by WebEx on Monday, March 23. In that session, a senior U.S Department of Commerce official involved in export controls on geospatial and LiDAR software was a special guest on the web conference to discuss the formation of a new trade association of equipment, instrument, and software firms in the surveying, mapping, GIS, and geospatial market, the Geospatial Equipment, and Technology Institute (GETI). Anita Zinzuvadia, Senior Engineer, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), U.S. Department of Commerce, provided a briefing on the recently imposed Final Rule on Software Specially Designed to Automate the Analysis of Geospatial Imagery (including LiDAR point clouds), as it was added to the Export Control List.
Ms. Zinzuvdia is in the Information Technology Controls Division at BIS. She oversees the implementation of Category 4 (computers) and 5 (telecommunications and information security) of the Commerce Control List. Her team has been looking at export controls on artificial intelligence, which led to the geospatial control.
In America, associations are an ordinary and effective means by which companies in a kindred line of business can band together to promote their industry or profession’s common goals, objectives, and interests. For more than a century, associations have been a traditional means by which Americans have joined forces to achieve mutual shared aspirations, and trade associations have been the vehicle by which businesses, indeed competitors, can work cooperatively in a legal environment and structure.
“Trade associations are the safeguards of small business and thus prevent the extinction of competition. With wisdom and devotion, their voluntary forces can accomplish more for your country than any spread of the hand of government.”
– Herbert Hoover, 1923
Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner, they create hospitals, prisons, schools. Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate. Everywhere that, at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an association in the United States.
– Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835
Various specialties and disciplines withing the surveying, mapping, and geospatial community each have their own national associations:
- Private-sector services firms have MAPPS
- State GIS Coordinators have NSGIC
- Local government GIS coordinators have URISA
- Academicians have UCGIS
- Intelligence community participants have USGIF
- Licensed land surveyors have NSPS
- Photogrammetrists and remote sensing specialists have ASPRS
And there are several others.
The one sector of the geospatial community that does not have a home is surveying, mapping, and geospatial equipment, instrument, and software firms. While many firms in this line of business are Sustaining or Associate Members of the aforementioned organizations or others, in most cases such firms are not voting members, have little or limited voice, and these associations rarely address an agenda of issues of interest and concern to specific to equipment, instrument, and software firms.
A Geospatial Equipment and Technology Institute (GETI) could fill this void and provide a forum for firms providing surveying, mapping, and geospatial equipment, instrument, and software to address their particular needs and interests. It can be a non-profit organization, formed under section 501 (c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code as a forum for networking, advocacy, information sharing, market studies, business partnering, and other collaborative activities.
Recent events have demonstrated the need for an organization such as GETI. First, it was discovered that U.S. tax dollars from the National Science Foundation (NSF) are being used to subsidize a university to develop new geospatial software that will duplicate and compete with the private sector. A webinar was recently held that demonstrated there was little consultation with the existing private sector, for-profit software, and equipment firms, and highlighted the fact that the U.S. government lacks policy and procedure for evaluating the need for geospatial research and development (R&D) and forgetting the commercial sector’s input, for prioritizing such R&D, and for assuring those tax dollars are not wasted on unnecessary, low priority, duplicative, or competitive R&D. An organization like GETI can provide that effective voice and needed advice to the government.
Additionally, in January, the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, issued a Final Rule and Request for Comments on Software Specially Designed to Automate the Analysis of Geospatial Imagery, as it was added to the Export Control List. Here is a legal analysis of export control on geospatial imagery software. Again, an organization like GETI can serve as a watchdog, advocate, and voice for surveying, mapping, and geospatial equipment, instrument, and software firms.
It is an accepted and recognized practice in the government affairs and association management field in Washington, DC that forming coalitions of like-minded organizations is an effective way to leverage common interests and increase each participants’ influence and effectiveness. With that in mind, the following are a few letters GETI has been part of to make sure the interests of equipment, instrument, and software firms in the surveying, mapping, GIS, and geospatial market were represented:
Coalition Letter to Senate Armed Services Committee in Opposition to Ligado Proposal Citing GPS Interference
Construction Industry Procurement Coalition Letter to President Trump on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Payback Policy
Letter to President Trump Urging Increased Federal Infrastructure Investment
Letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Seeking Full Funding of $146 Million for USGS 3DEP
Letter to House Appropriations Committee Seeking Full Funding of $146 Million for USGS 3DEP
President Trump Urged to Issue Further Guidance to Clarify Essential Infrastructure and Critical Businesses and Services
GETI is being organized by John Palatiello, a recognized leader in association management, public policy, and government relations for firms and organizations in the surveying, mapping, geospatial, and engineering-related fields.