FIG Standards Network

[ Standards Network Work Plan - WG 1.1 ]

David Martin

FIG Standards Network


The Network is continuing the work of an FIG Task Force which was established in 1998 in response to concerns from the Commissions, the Council and the General Assembly that standards were becoming increasingly important in the work of surveyors, and that the issue was not being addressed sufficiently by FIG.

Official ISO Standard

After several years of intensive work, on 1 November 2012 the 'Land Administration Domain Model (LADM)' was approved as an official International ISO Standard. This is a milestone in the development of land administration systems.The proposal for this standard was submitted by FIG to ISO almost five years ago.

The Network's terms of reference are as follows:

  • Building and maintaining relations with the secretariats of standardisation bodies;
  • Proposing priorities on FIG's standardisation activities, including advising the Council on priorities for spending;
  • Setting up necessary Liaison relationships with standardisation bodies;
  • Ensuring that lead contacts to Technical Committees etc are in place;
  • Maintaining an information flow on standardisation to FIG members, including through the FIG website and FIG Bulletin, and more directly to relevant Commission Officers;
  • Maintaining the Guide on Standardisation and related material on the FIG website;
  • Working with other NGOs, within the framework of the MOUs signed by the Council; and
  • Advising FIG's officers and members on standardisation activities as necessary.

The Network sees itself as at the hub of FIG standardisation activity, making the necessary linkages and providing the necessary advice to commissions and others.

Click picture for bigger format.
Members of the Standards Network at the FIG Congress in
Sydney in April 2010.

Why standards are important

This topic is addressed in a number of papers and reports presented by the Task Force (e.g. FIG WW2000, Prague, Intergeo 2001, and FIG Congress 2002, Washington. In summary there are perhaps three ways in which to make a case that standards are important.

Firstly, the breadth of standardisation activities. To put some numbers on this, there were 17,041 ISO standards in print at the end of 2007, amounting to 652,340 pages. The current standard set includes:

  • ISO 2172 - Fruit juice - determination of soluble solids content - Pycnometric method
  • ISO 6806 - Rubber hoses and hose assemblies for use in oil burners - specification
  • ISO 8192 - Water quality - test for inhibition of oxygen consumption by activated sludge
  • ISO 11540 - Caps for writing and marking instruments intended for use by children up to 14 years of age - safety requirements
  • ISO 17123-3 - Optics and optical instruments – field procedures for testing geodetic and survey instruments - theodolites
  • ISO 19111 - Geographic information - spatial referencing by coordinates

Secondly, there are the benefits of standardisation. Research undertaken by the Technical University of Dresden and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovations http://www.din.de/sixcms_upload/media/2896/economic_benefits_standardization.pdf found that the benefit to the German economy from standardisation amounts to more than US$ 15 billion per year (more than standards and patents). Other studies for the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Delphi Foundation, have also stressed the very significant benefits brought by standardisation. For instance, a 2005 study for the DTI found that 13% of the UK’s economic growth between 1948 and 2002 could be attributed to standards (www.berr.gov.uk/files/file9655.pdf).

Thirdly, at a very practical level, all aspects of our lives involve standardisation. Perhaps the difficulties caused by the lack of standardisation in some areas make the benefits more clear: how many times has anyone forgotten their international plug adapter and been unable to charge electronic equipment in another country? And how often have we all been frustrated (or worse) by the American insistence on using a different standard paper size (and a different measurement system) from the rest of the world?

Turning to the field of surveying, many of the disciplines within the profession have not to date been subject to de jure standards. Some have existed for land survey instruments but these have not been widely used. In the valuation field, national standards have long existed. For the suppliers and users of geographic information, however,  standards in the series ISO 191xx are being developed by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 211 and a series of them have already been published.

The process of creating standards is a lengthy one - most ISO standards are under development for more than three years. This time scale has to be shortened in a world where technological developments are happening more and more frequently; standards will otherwise constrain development. The same difficulties can arise with legislation - the cadastral survey regulations of many countries prescribe methodologies which must be used, thereby often disallowing GPS methods.

The main participants in the process of developing standards are generally academics and public servants - people whose organisations can afford for them to spend time on, and travel to, the necessary meetings. In general, practitioners are present in much more limited numbers. This means that standardisation bodies will often have limited knowledge of other initiatives - they will assume a 'green field site' when in fact a good deal is already in hand.

These reasons summarise why FIG felt that it should become more involved in and aware of standardisation activities.

Progress and Plans

One of the main early pieces of work completed by the Task Force (in 1999) was a questionnaire to ascertain the elements of standards activity which surveyors see as important. More than 50 responses were received. A summary of the results is attached. These results helped shape the Task Force's work plans.

A key output identified by the Task Force was an FIG Guide on Standardisation, which would assist FIG Officers, Commissions and Member Associations in participating in and influencing the standardisation process. It was developed by the Task Force with input from a large number of people. The FIG Guide on Standardisation was formally ratified by the 2002 General Assembly, and was updated in 2006.

Contained within this Guide is FIG's policy on standardisation. Its key elements read as follows:

"Overall, FIG's aim in the field of standards is to assist in the process of developing workable and timely official and legal standards covering the activities of surveyors: FIG is one of the few bodies through which surveyors can formally be represented in international official standardisation activities. In so doing, FIG is supporting its objective to collaborate with relevant agencies in the formulation and implementation of policies. FIG is also committed in its objectives to developing the skills of surveyors and encouraging the proper use of technology, activities which are becoming increasingly shaped by standards.

FIG will generally seek to ensure that de facto standards become official standards as technology matures, or at the very least that all relevant official, legal and de facto standards are produced in full knowledge of all other related material.

FIG sees the following roles for professionals in the standardisation process:

  1. Assisting in the production of workable and timely standards by proposing material which can be transformed into international standards (rather than relying on work developed by others) and by participating in the process of developing standards; and
  2. Disseminating information and creating explanatory material and guidance notes to ensure that all members of FIG are aware of the most recent standardisation activities, standards and regulations, and their implications for surveyors.

In supporting this policy, FIG will dovetail the work of its Commissions and other bodies with that of official standardisation bodies, to ensure that the greatest possible benefit for practising surveyors and their clients is achieved. This dovetailing will be reflected in Commission, Task Force and Permanent Institution (PI) workplans - these will include the creation of necessary information and explanatory material, and any planned output from any of FIG's bodies will be discussed with the relevant standardisation bodies before it is created. FIG will also seek to work closely with other international bodies representing surveyors, to ensure the most effective use of resources."

The Standards Network began its work at the FIG Congress in 2002. At that meeting, it agreed its plans for the following year and its membership. It is working under Commission 1 but consists of a member (usually a Working Group chair) from each of the Commissions. In this way, it plans to maintain strong links with each of the Commissions. The Network has maintained FIG’s profile in the standardisation community, and also maintained a summary of the work of the various FIG Commissions related to standards and standardisation.

Plans for 2009/10

Click picture for bigger format.
Some members of the Standards Network at the meeting in Stockholm in June 2008.

The Network meeting in Eilat in May 2009 reviewed the previous year’s work and agreed the need for a limited number of key focuses in 2009/10. These are:

  • Continuing FIG’s leading work in the field of official standards for testing and calibrating, survey instruments, particularly in ISO Technical Committee 172 Subcommittee 6. A key focus in this area will be to ensure that standards for new technologies (including laser scanners) are created at an appropriate time.
  • Continuing to build FIG’s relationship with the International Valuation Standards Council (IVSC), determining how FIG can most effectively contribute coherently under the new IVSC governance arrangements and putting appropriate arrangements in place;
  • Continuing to influence the development of good practice in the area of construction economics, working with the International Cost Engineering Council and others, and in spatial planning and developments. These are areas to date not covered to any extent by official standards;
  • Remaining an active contributor to ISO/TC 211 (Geographic Information). The work of ISO Technical Committee (TC) 211 (www.isotc211.org) will have a profound impact on large numbers of surveyors. Many of the first generation of TC211 standards are conceptual models, not providing the detail. TC211, however, has now moved into the more detailed area, including the development of registries. Particular aspects we are focusing on at present include:
    • Leading work to complete an ISO standard (19152) covering the Land Administration Domain Model, work in which FIG’s Commission 7 has provided the project leader and editor;
    • Any relevant TC211 work on sensor standards (for hydrographic, photogrammetric and laser-based survey work), including continuing to comment on ISO 19130 in this field;
    • Involvement in outreach activity. TC211 has an Outreach Group, tasked with ensuring that the market is aware of the standards and their implications, and that standards developers are fully aware of market views. FIG has long advocated this work, and is an active contributor to the work of the Outreach Group. The Network will continue to coordinate with the Outreach Group to ensure that FIG plays a full part in this important work. One success of this coordination was an extremely successful Standards Workshop held in Cairo in April 2005. The presentations from this workshop cover a wide range of areas;
    • The qualification and certification of personnel (see also below);
    • Considering whether any FIG material can expedite the development of standards in this area.

In addition, the Network will maintain a profile for standardisation activity in FIG, including:

  • Maintaining and disseminating the summary listing of FIG activity relevant to standardisation (see current version);
  • Continuing to keep FIG members informed of relevant standardisation issues, including through this websites, the FIG E-Newsletter and through relevant articles and conference papers;
  • Maintaining links with sister societies with regard to standards;
  • Considering whether various of FIG’s Commissions could contribute to practice guides describing ways to complete procedures and practices, containing good and less good examples;
  • Maintaining and building links with the ISO Central Secretariat. FIG has established a good profile with the Secretariat in Geneva.

FIG Commission representatives in the Standards Network

  • Commission 1: David Martin, email: martin@esrf.fr   

  • Commission 2: Steven Frank

  • Commission 3: Helen Murray

  • Commission 4: Andrew Leyzack

  • Commission 5: David Martin

  • Commission 6: Ivo Milev

  • Commission 7: Christiaan Lemmen

  • Commission 8: Isaac Boateng

  • Commission 9: Brian Waldy

  • Commission 10: Andrew Morley

  • ISO TC211: Larry Hothem

  • ISO TC172 SC6: Hans Heister


If you would like further information on any of the above, or are able to assist with the work of the Network, please contact David Martin, the Network Chair.

Information on the work of the International Organization for Standardization ISO can be found on their web site; other links are provided in the relevant places in the text above.

David Martin
FIG Network on Standards

Mr. David Martin
Alignment and Geodesy Group
6 rue Jules Horowitz
38043 Grenoble Cedex
Tel. + 33 4 76 88 22 45
Fax + 33 4 76 88 23 13
E-mail: martin@esrf.fr

Papers related to the Standards Network


Links to related pages

This page is maintained by the FIG Office. Last revised on 2015-01-08.