GUEST POST : BRINGING SPATIAL DECISION MAKING TO THE MASSES (EsriUC 2015)

Quick note from GeoPlanIT’s Elliot Hartley: Ruskin Hartley (yes my brother) attended this years Esri User Conference in San Diego on behalf of Garsdale Design Limited, I asked if he could write a couple of guest blog posts for us, this is his first.

esriUC2015_ruskin

Geography is everywhere.  Of course, being a geographer I would say that. But for many people geography means a list of state capitals and perhaps the atlas published by the National Geographic.  I’ve just come back from the 2015 Esri user conference in San Diego and saw first hand that this is changing quickly. While much of the discussion was about new software and tools, the most exciting change is the way these tools are deployed.

Just as Google maps has transformed the way we navigate our world (when was the last time you used a paper map?!), spatial decision support tools are transforming the way we understand the world around us and how we make collective decisions. GIS – geographic information systems – is the tool enabling this transformation.

GIS is not a new technology. It’s at least 40 years old in its modern incarnation and I’ve been using it for about half this time. Having just spent a few days at the Esri user conference, it is clear that the power of GIS as a decision support tool is on the verge of being brought into the heart of the public domain. It’s exciting and has the potential to transform the way we live, work, and govern.

A number of trends are converging to make this possible.

  • Data is being collected in real time and near real-time. Our GPS enabled smart phones are at the front line of this data collection revolution. They are being rapidly joined by an army of drones, and matched up with unprecedented satellite images being updated on a daily basis.
  • Data is shared and available 24/7 on the cloud rather than being hoarded on hard drivesFrom the latest Landsat image, to a live twitter feed, to projections of sea-level rise, we all have access to curated and constantly updated datasets.  Served up through a geoportal, you can quickly find what you’re looking for and know that you’re accessing current data.
  • Powerful GIS analysis and publishing tools are available online. I no longer need a UNIX workstation,  thousands of dollars of software, and an expensive plotter to conduct and share an analysis.  Using ArcGIS online, or one of the other freely available online tools, I can quickly publish and share work.

Bring these three threads together and real-time analysis is available to anyone. In the classic production cycle, experts would take weeks to conduct a static analysis that was shared with the decision makers as a printed map. There was no way quick or easy way to interact with the results. Most of your time was spent preparing the data, rather than conducing the analysis. In the end, the decision maker had to accept what the map said – or risk another lengthy cycle to change things up. It was the classic top-down approach.

Now, I can throw the data up a on a web-site — pulling data feeds from many different places — and give the users simple ways to explore and visualize the data. They can dig in and draw their own conclusions. Or I can walk them through a story map to help them understand what is going on.

This will fundamentally remake the way decisions are made. The environmental review process for development and land use projects can become interactive. Companies can understand spatial trends in real time. In essence, decision making will become democratized as everyone has access to relevant data and analysis.

Does this mean GIS professionals will whither away? Far from it! Rather than just being the folks you go to to make a map, they’ll be at the core of how we collaborate and make shared decisions. Sounds like fun to me!

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GeoDesign Workflows at Philadelphia University

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Matthias and I were living the CityEngine Philadelphia Demo

If you follow either myself or Matthias on twitter you may have seen that we were ‘living it up’ in the great city of Philadelphia last week.   Home to the Liberty Bell and all sorts of reminders as to where my native land went wrong and some of its big mistakes….  

Lego Liberty Bell... it's Lego what can I say?
Lego Liberty Bell… it’s Lego what can I say?

Having said that the city seems a wonderful place and it helped our experience staying in the historic core of Philadelphia where all the good restaurants and bars are.  The food was wonderful and the people were friendly.

Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market, we will never forget you…

Enough of the travel guide!  We were there to help and support the work of students on their design charrette on Philadelphia University’s GeoDesign Masters Program.  The M.S. in GeoDesign was the first of its kind in the USA, and come to think of it probably the world. You can read more about Geodesign elsewhere but for all practical purposes it’s about collaborative workflows and coordinated iterative processes across disciplines.   It’s heavily influenced by new technologies like Esri CityEngine and has a strong supporter from Esri as well as a string of notable academics.

The GeoDesign students were working on a concentrated collaborative design project called a charrette.  This was focused on the Navy Yard, a birthplace to the USA’s Navy and where some notable battleships like the New Jersey were built.

Philadelphia Navy Yard
Philadelphia Navy Yard, not just about boats….

Garsdale Design (Matthias and I) were there to provide additional support, troubleshooting and advice on CityEngine and Geodesign workflows.  We had already provided remote assistance to elements of the course around technical aspects of CityEngine, so we were familiar with the students and the program.

As with all projects academic or ‘real-world’ collaboration in a team is critical.  In such a small amount of time the students had to focus on a design goal on chosen study areas, and come up with workflows and analytical processes to measure metrics to help them design.   They were designing using software like ArcGIS, SiteOps, AutoCAD and CityEngine and merging it into one cohesive process.   Towards the end of the week the students had focused in on achievable goals and worked out workflows that were easily repeatable and produced metrics that would help inform there design choices.   I won’t go in to detail what these all were as it is there project and is best heard directly from them when the are ready.

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Philadelphia GeoDesign Central

One clear thing came out of this charrette for me was that most software (especially CityEngine) works best with focused tasks and simplified processes.  For example when you first work with CityEngine the tendency is to think it can do many things, which it can.  But trying to combine all those tasks into one is often a mistake, keep the workflows as simple as possible is much better for everyone.

What next for Philadelphia University’s GeoDesign program and Garsdale Design?  Hopefully more collaboration on Geodesign and at least one more visit back to that wonderful city of Philadelphia.

PhilaU Ram soft toy
I got one of these each for my daughters… t’s given me nightmares
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This will change everything. (FibreGarden to dig)

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Just a quick post to say something exciting happened whilst I was away at GISWORX last week, DigitalDales (trading/operating as FibreGarden) has started to dig in the ducting that will carry the community Fibre network.   This will be great for Garsdale Design as well as residents up Garsdale and Dentdale who will when completed have a word class fibre optic broadband network.   This will change everything around here.

To find out more read David’s blog, those in this area will probably have met David and you will see him driving up and down each dale trying to organise wayleaves and sort out network routes.  His blog posts are regular and a really good read, if you’re a rural fibre broadband supporter you must read it.

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GISWORX2015 Conference, Dubai

 

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Nicely produced conference material

Last week Garsdale Design (that is myself and Matthias) attended, exhibited as well as conducted a workshop at the Middle East’s premier annual Esri GIS conference called GISWORX held in Dubai.   This is hosted and run by GISTEC an Esri Distributor. Those who follow me know I’ve been before, in fact I was the guest speaker the first time around (The Power of Play).

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GISWORX2013 Guest Speaker…. Elliot

If you want to see Matthias in a suit click on to read more… :)

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Love Handles – Part One

In celebration of the new release of CityEngine 2015 (click here for release notes) and the announcement of a new feature set called ‘handles’ we’ve produced this AnimatedGIF (next time I might just do a video).

(It's a 8MB animated GIF so be patient those on a slow connection)
(It’s a 8MB animated GIF so be patient those on a slow connection)

Comments on this post should really only be suggestions as to what these two are saying I think.

This is directly from the Tutorial 18 Handles 2015 that you can download by clicking here.

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What’s new in CityEngine 2015.0?

CE2015 Splash Screen

It’s that time of year when a new release of CityEngine becomes available (okay we think it maybe the 9th of April)!  Yes we would love more bug fixes and features added, but they’re a small development team so we shall forgive them (this time…).  

As usual the Changelogs are publicly available here.

CGA Changelog

2015.0
CGAC 1.5
new functions:

changes to existing features:

  • split operations:
    • missing sizes are not allowed any longer. For instance, split(x) { A } does not compile anymore. The correct equivalent is split(x) { ~1: A }.
    • functions in size expression do not need extra parantheses anymore.
  • @Hidden annotation: changed propagation across imports. A hidden import hides all its imports recursively.
  • uid shape attribute deprecated. Use the getTreeKey function instead.

bugfixes:

  • Fixed a bug in the cgb decoder which failed to read compiled cga files with a large number of attributes/rules/splits.
  • Vertexmerger: fixed a bug which prevented hole vertices to be merged with vertices of other faces.
  • float() function: made string-to-float conversion independent of locale.
  • split operations: intensified internal mesh cleanup to reduce memory load, fixed a bug which led to undesired vertex-merges.
  • roofHip operation: avoid duplicate vertices.
  • offset, roofGable and roofHip operations: made offset / roof construction more stable on polygons with co-linear vertices and fixed a memory explosion bug.
  • cleanupGeometry operation: fixed bug which led to illegal material assignements (“filled holes rendering bug”) on edge cleanup for geometries with per-face-materials.
  • Fixed undefined behaviour if the same name was used for a scalar attr and a map attr.
  • CGA compiler: Parameteric rules and functions with a large number of parameters do not hang the compiler / CityEngine anymore.

 

Python Changelog

Status Commands
new get/setExportDatasetRelationships in FGDBExportModelSettings
new get/setExportFeatures in FGDBExportModelSettings
changed get/setAddObjectAttributes renamed to get/setExportObjectAttributes in FGDBExportModelSettings
new Several new methods in FGDBImportSettings
new setFloat in ImageExportTerrainSettings
new additional argument animate for View3D.restoreBookmark and View3D.setCameraPerspective
note Selection behaviour change in UI changes behaviour of ce.selection(), ce.setSelection() in cases where shape has a model. To get the shape from a selection with shape and model, usece.getObjectsFrom(ce.selection, ce.isShape)[0] instead of ce.selection()[0]
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Procedural Landscapes: Tuscany

Believe it or not, but this whole scenery was created procedurally. In e-on software’s VUE.

Villa_In_Tuscany

This image is the result of an 8 week online (yes, late evenings and weekends!) 3D Workshop I just recently completed (my second already) on CGSociety.

Everything is procedural: The terrain model, the vegetation (each plant plus the distribution), the volumetric clouds and haze. Even the main attraction: The almost too well hidden villa.
The villa is a procedurally generated model coming from CityEngine, which was manually placed.

Rendering this single image took about 26 hours on my quite fast hex-core machine. Minimal post work was done in PhotoShop.

I’m ready for some holiday in that villa now!

 

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