The Circle of Trust

Many years ago I graduated as a civil engineer and started working in technical software supporting civil engineering organizations. Over the course of that journey I worked with a lot of engineers and surveyors from a lot of large civil engineering organizations. The surveyors were always a little bit different to the engineers in every organization that I encountered. They liked to think of themselves as grounded in the real world, whilst they saw engineers as being pre-occupied with a theoretical world that didn't exist in reality.

I was discussing this difference with a surveyor one afternoon and he had a great quote that I still remember some 25 years later. He said that engineers will calculate out a list of required coordinates accurate down to the millimetre and think it actually exists. Whereas he said as a surveyor he would drive a stake into the ground and he would guarantee that the coordinate you are after is within a radius of 5cm of that stake (2 inches if you are reading this in the US)  - The Circle of Trust.


The art and science of surveying is all about reducing errors and not propagating those errors throughout the traverse. We start with the engineer's drawings being on a 2D sheet of paper and having to be laid out on the earth's curved surface. The surveyor typically starts from a known datum point - a point that has been fixed with a known error - then the surveyor traverses his survey coming back to either the same of another known datum point to close out the survey and distribute the error across the traverse and come up with an accuracy for each point in the survey. The surveyor lays out a survey and each point that is laid out has a known accuracy that can be stated with a mathematical certainty.

A surveyor doesn't just put a stake into the ground - he puts puts it into the ground and gives you a measure of its accuracy. He knows that errors are inherent in everything he does in the real world.

The Circle of Trust for Asset Information?

Now lets contrast this with the information we store about assets in our asset management systems. We have a range of attributes about the asset that may or may not be complete. But what is missing is that measure of accuracy - what do we have in this data that should give us any confidence that this is actually what is out in the field today? What assurance do I have that I'll be able to locate this equipment and that it is the same equipment today that I have in my database? That's right - there is nothing in the database to give us confidence in the data.

Errors are inherent in everything we do. Data without measurable confidence is data that users cannot, and generally don't trust. And when data is not trusted, people work around systems rather than with them and benefits to the organization are compromised.

ORDITAL's Circle of Trust

ORDITAL is helping companies develop that Circle of Trust for their assets by ensuring the data in your asset management system matches what is in the field and that you have verifiable proof of WHEN the data in your asset management system was correct and WHERE the asset was when it was in that state.

ORDITAL delivers mobile apps that can be used, even in hazardous areas, to simply and effectively establish and catalogue a large archive of high resolution classified equipment photographs. ORDITAL's data extraction and post processing process turns that large archive into information of measurable quality that can be used to update your asset management system and keep your physical and digital assets in sync.

A name plate photo of an asset that was taken on 2nd July, 2015 at 2:09PM and showing where it was taken. Detail Views would also show the data that was extracted from the photo to be uploaded into the asset management system.

Having Confidence in Data

With the ORDITAL database as a companion to your asset management system users can click on a link for the asset in your asset management system to see classified high resolution photos of the equipment, the data that has been extracted from those photos, when those photos were taken, and where they were taken. So rather than just showing your users asset information, ORDITAL is able to show the user where the data came from and how relevant it is. 

Errors are inherent in everything we do. If the photo was taken 1 month ago any possible errors are a lot smaller than one taken 5 years ago. And if there is no photo to refer back to and nobody can tell you when it was last verified then this data would be well outside the Circle of Trust. Showing your users verifiable proof as to WHEN and WHERE it was verified as accurate ensures your asset information remains within the Circle of Trust.

Stephen Crampton