Nikolas Smilovsky

Bad Elf, LLC GIS & Mapping Solutions

Photo of Nikolas Smilovsky

Education: Ph.D. focus on Behavioral Geography and Environmental Perception (Grand Canyon University) M.S. in Geographic Information Systems (Arizona State University), B.A. in History (University of Florida) 

The following profile was compiled by Brendan Vander Weil (Texas State University) for the Encoding Geography initiative. To learn more, visit:

Please describe your job, employer, and the primary tasks you perform in your position.  

I work for a technology company that primarily produces integrated global navigation satellite system (GNSS) solutions for organizations around the world. Bad Elf, LLC is a leader in the global positioning market, being one of the first companies to productize GPS devices that plug into smart devices, a new type of technology referred to as the “bring your own device” market.  As the Director of Geospatial Solutions, I specifically work with customers that have field data collection needs. I help put together best practice training sessions and solutions for their organization based on specific needs. Working with various stakeholders, I ensure success whether that is profitability, time savings, or other more altruistic goals.  

What geographic knowledge, such as terminology and concepts, is important and useful to know in your line of work?  

Having a general understanding of geographic concepts is important, because all of my customers, clients, and partners are involved with something geospatial. It is also important to understand the technology associated with geography. For example, understanding geographic information systems (GIS), computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) software, light detection and ranging (LiDAR) hardware, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aka drones have more applicability for Bad Elf. Additionally, understanding the science and math aka geodesy, underneath the geographic concept is paramount.  

What procedural geographic knowledge, such as spatial analysis using GIS or collecting spatial data, is important for you to know?  

Being able to leverage Bad Elf data collection devices to populate geodata repositories is what we do daily. One of my roles is to support customers that have goals of collecting high fidelity field data. This data is often used in analysis and or geographic inquiry. For example, I work with universities, government agencies, national laboratories, engineering firms, environmental consultants, land surveyors, biologists, planners, arborists, and architects who all do some type of procedural geographic tasks.   

Can you provide an example of a project where you apply geography and computer science to analyze and solve problems related to important issues? 

While I don’t often directly deal with solving important end-game issues, I do help the people that are breaking industry chains and are doing significant research/application. In a sense, I get to support the efforts intrinsically through my support. What is also extremely important to me, is that I get to help a wide plethora of people do better geography. Every day I get to help a different industry, organization, or even country tackle their specific geospatial conundrums.   

What types of geographic questions do you ask and think about in your work? 

I deal with every type of individual, organization, or entity that completes geospatial field data collection. The amount of technology and science that we work with and integrate is expansive. If you don’t have good geospatial data, you won’t complete good work. Thus, I ensure my customers can collect amazing, authoritative data so that they can perform their downstream tasks more efficiently and confidently. I may not get all the glory for completing these projects, but that is not important. What is important is being able to collect good data!  

What types of data did you acquire to support your work?  

Our GPS devices natively collect latitudinal, longitudinal, and elevational values, along with geodetic metadata associated with the acquisition of the spatial coordinates. Additionally, our devices are integrated into utility locators, which detect underground systems of infrastructure; laser rangefinders that help collect offset locations like tree heights; and most drones/LiDAR systems which collect remotely sense data like aerial imagery, point clouds, radiation, and non-visible light spectrums, and temperature.  

What types of knowledge and skills, both geographic and general, do you use to evaluate, process, and analyze the data you gather for your work? 

Mostly GIS software packages like Esri ArcGIS Pro or Q-GIS are used to evaluate the data procured by the Bad Elf devices. Additionally CAD programs like AutoCAD Civil 3D and BIM programs like Revit are used for modeling purposes. Additionally, we use computer programing languages like Python to manipulate the data.  

How do you communicate the results of your work? Do you have a recent product or publication to share with us as an example?  

We mostly make quantitative maps and spreadsheets showing our data and how they compare to other datasets. Our clients use hundreds of different methods and applications to complete this process. A perfect example of a customer using Bad Elf, Esri, Go Pro Cameras, tablets, and e-bikes to collect utility data is this case study from the town of Cave Creek, Ariz. 

How do you view your work in relation to civic engagement and issues that you care about?  

I engage daily with both the private and public sectors of our society so that they can better complete the tasks they set out to do. I eat, sleep, and dream geospatial. Every day that I get to engage in helping people do better spatial tasks is a great day.  

How does your career align with your values and aspirations in life now and back when you were a student?  

I feel very blessed because my employer and my values align extremely well. Aligning well with your organization is extremely important for your happiness and growth, but also for the organization to be successful. My father always said, “Nik you will eat a lot in your life, so enjoy your food. You will also sleep a lot, so enjoy your bed. Lastly you will work the most, so make sure you love your job!”  

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. 2031418, 2031407, and 2031380 (Collaborative Research: Encoding Geography – Scaling up an RPP to achieve inclusive geocomputational education). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation