Beating the recession
Two bajan entrepreneurs focused on turning data into info
Geomatic engineering! What is that?
Is it even practised in Barbados?
While engineering is varied, and perhaps ranks among the most popular career choices for many young men and women across the island, not often will you hear about geomatic engineering.
However, Barbadians Ryan Brathwaite and Romell Grosvenor are involved in this rapidly developing discipline. They are the founding directors of Grosvenor Brathwaite Geomatics Engineering Services (GB GeoEngineering) that focuses on the collection and analysis of data relating to the earth.
Brathwaite explained geomatics engineering as the applied science relating to the collection, analysis and interpretation of all geospatial data. He said it was more than the ordinary land surveying.
“By geospatial data we mean all data relating to the earth’s surface. This data is acquired by using traditional land surveying or more contemporary techniques such as GPS and GNSS (global navigation satellite systems) to collect data about the earth’s surface,” explained Brathwaite, adding that the data could be either cadastral or engineering.
“Cadastral data is data relating to land boundaries [and] engineering data is relating to construction and setting out large-scale structures. So surveyors work in a vast range of industries. We could be found in construction, oil and gas, utilities and even information technology because a lot of the software that we use have to be developed by information technology specialist,” added Brathwaite.
The duo readily admitted that they might have taken a bold step into an area that was very much unfamiliar with the local and regional markets. They say, however, they are confident they will be able to make a difference.
“I think the economic climate in Barbados has adversely affected everyone. We basically had a baptism of fire because we are young entrepreneurs and it wasn’t easy forming our business in the heart of the recession. Construction is down, so we don’t have that wide pool of construction projects to say we want to get involved in,” said Brathwaite.
Despite this however, he said they were still trying to diversify their services and get their feet wet in other areas in order to survive during the current economic downturn. One of those areas is crime mapping.
“What crime mapping does is that it gathers both qualitative and quantitative geomatic information related to how crime is being committed in specific areas. So we would gather crime statistics for specific areas and then we can analyze this information in geographic space . . . and inform the police of the specific area that the crime may be taking place and how they can mitigate and tackle this crime in the future,” he said.
Adding that their mantra was “turning data into information”, Brathwaite said one of the projects they were currently seeking investment for was to start mapping the underground cave network in Barbados.
“What that would allow developers to do is to know what is going on beneath the surface of the earth at the point of construction. So a scenario like the Arch Cot cave in would not happen again. That is one way we can use the information to aid in national development. Once that information becomes available to let’s say Central Government or developers, they can use this advantageously to ensure there is not a duplication of work and that buildings and structures and the persons occupying those structures are not at risk in the future,” explained Brathwaite.
It was after graduating from the University of the West Indies, where they acquired their Bachelor’s degrees, and realizing their strengths in the discipline, that they decided to come together and form a company. GB GeoEngineering was born in October, 2013.
Grosvenor said after the company was formed they were approached by the Caribbean Municipal And Utility Services (CMUS), which then employed their services.
The engineer told Barbados TODAY the area of geomatic engineering was not as popular as other disciplines such as mechanical engineering, civil engineering, and architecture because with those ones they could see and touch structures.
“With geomatics engineering we deal mainly with the collection and analysis of information; so it is not something that you can touch and see and spark immediate interest to say, ‘I would love to get into this field’,” said Grosvenor.
He said they chose not to “dive in fully” into the land boundaries aspect of the discipline at this time because that area was saturated. That, he said, was coupled with the state of the economy.
“So what we have done is that we have targeted other areas that may be new to Barbados, those areas being geographical information system (GIS) and 3D modelling,” said Grosvenor.
“We decide to bring this technology to Barbados and also the wider Caribbean to give organizations in Barbados and the Caribbean the opportunity to grasp the advantages that comes with geographical information system. With our service with GIS, an organization may be able to collect, overlay, display and analyze this data to yield certain results about the geographical environment which they do everyday business,” he added.
Brathwaite and Grosvenor work with two other employees, one administrative assistant and a technical assistant.
Grosvenor said the Canadian and United States markets were very accepting of 3D services, drawing reference to the use of Google Earth. He said they were trying to push similar services in the region.
“Mainly we are trying to push these services to the real estate and tourism industry . . . . We anticipate some success but at the moment things are a bit on the slow side.”
At the moment they are working on securing engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) arrangements as well as acquire relevant certification in occupational health and safety and asset integrity management.
“This will allow us to bid for projects in the Caribbean and Latin America as well. These qualifications will allow us to have the requisite expertise to capitalize on projects, especially in the Barbados market. These certifications are not common in this part of the world; so we would have to travel to the United States to get these qualifications,” said Brathwaite, adding that it would be expensive but it was absolutely necessary.
“Another aspect that we want to go into in the medium to long term is to establish a legal department that will support our land surveying. We want to offer all land related solutions under one roof. Basically any issue relating to land we want to cater to our clients needs,” added Brathwaite.
He said with the current economic climate they have to remain focused, diligent and determine.
“We just have to hang in there. We keep sending out proposals and we do the necessary research to develop our skills set to ensure that we remain current with what is happening in the world; and, hopefully, when we ride out this recession we will be right there getting those projects and really developing our skills as profession,” added Brathwaite.