You may have seen that I was out in the United Arab Emirates a couple of weeks back. I was there for two reasons, one to conduct a CityEngine training session for a number of GISTEC clients (we do this training here in the UK either with EsriUK or at our offices in Sedbergh as well as worldwide). As always training often turns to bespoke advice and discussions around workflows and use cases.
Basically, most things that a client asks for with 3D GIS can be done, you just to have a clear idea of what you want (oh and a budget!), technology (hardware and software) has progressed so much recently that most clients are now spoilt for choice.
Want a smart city? Well you may need a 3D basemap. Do you have any sensor data? If so what’s the quality? The answer invariably to all these questions and more is “it depends”. That’s why on the 20th of September I went to help present at our friends and partners GISTEC 3D GIS workshop/seminar event in the Roda Al Bustan in Dubai.
As a new format for GISTEC we were all excited and apprehensive to see how invited guests and clients would respond. We shouldn’t have been nervous as the response was overwhelmingly positive. The sessions allowed people to find out what was possible with particular aspects of the Esri platform and where they could join up some of those dots. My discussion table didn’t just talking about CityEngine. We talked about data acquisition (from UAVs for example, in fact I used demo data from the UAV table), about smart cities and story maps. The day was designed to find out more about everyone’s workflows and problems as well as informing and discussing potential solutions.
The format was informal and less about a sales pitch and more about discussion (no one likes presentations which basically say ‘buy me’). We had divided the session up into tables and each table had a theme to talk about (mine was Geodesign and Urban Planning of course!). The table’s moderators also used flipcharts and post-it notes to engage with the attendees and come up with problems and solutions around each table’s theme. This meant that at the end of the day each table had gained insight into some of the issues surrounding 3D GIS (in for example designing cities) but also discussed potential solutions and workflows (as well as software) to help. These flipcharts and notes would then be shared with the attendees as well (not just the table group but everyone).
Each table’s theme discussion was led by an expert in their field and as you can see we had some amazing people:
Smart Cities and IoT Solutions – Smart City and IoT
Andrew Rippon – NXN
Getting 3D-GIS Data from 3D-CAD – BIM to GIS
Nandakumar Menon – GISTEC
Data Capturing and 3D Data Preparation from Drone – Working with Drones Giuseppe Catania – b-link
Texturing Your Landscape and Building VR Solution – VR Solutions
Dileep Verma – Cirqus
Building Different 3D Applications – Working with Story Maps
The largest group of attendees had come to hear about smart cities and the ‘Internet of Things’ from Andrew Rippon of NXN (formerly Nexgen group) from what I heard (and saw a little of) this was a well received talk and discussion on some issues and challenges as well as the amazing solutions NXN are implementing for smart city projects.
The day ended with a quick panel summary of each tables discussions and a question and answer session. Questions about workflows and interest in what was possible seemed to be the main concerns. All in all I really enjoyed the day with GISTEC and the attendees I think I may have learnt more off of them then they did of me!
Well I’ve been a bit busy as of late working on some exciting 3D projects and attending some really interesting conferences! One day I’ll get around to writing about them. 🙂 There is so much going on in the 3D GIS space that it can feel a bit too much. Fortunately that’s where our expertise lies, making sense of it all and helping clients.
I’ve made some time though to talk a little bit about the new CityEngine 2017.1 Beta that I’ve just installed. But before I continue this is a sneak peek at a beta release some or all features I talk about maybe removed at the last minute, don’t plan your future projects based on this blog. What I would say is yet again, if you are thinking of working in 3D and the Esri platform, CityEngine is worth a look, especially for planners.
The team in Zurich seem to be hell bent on adding new features quickly now especially for the Urban Planners among us! I wanted to show you a very cool new feature/toolset called viewsheds. This gives you live (see animated GIFS below) views of viewshed domes or corridors in the CityEngine viewport, giving you an indication of what you would see from particular vantage points. You can change the colour for each area too (colour visible by all, colour visible by one, colour not visible by any) and place multiple viewsheds.
There are some usual bug fixes and a few new rule functions I can see coming up (I may write about these later), and there is a facility to import and synchronise feature layers hosted in ArcGIS Online! This brings some potentially exciting opportunities and workflows but as a new feature I think as usual this should be used with caution, but the direction of travel here is interesting.
While you’re here it would be good to know what you think of CityEngine and/or it’s direction into Geodesign and planning. Add a comment to continue/start the discussion (all comments reviewed/moderated).
I’ve not done this before but I think this is an interesting PhD topic for someone and of course there is a 3D city angle!
University College London and the Ordnance Survey are currently inviting applications for a 3-year PhD studentship in “Creating Dynamic3D City Models for Smarter Cities” which will examine the creation of multiple 3D models from a single data source (through generalisation/abstraction). The PhD will be supervised by Dr Claire Ellul (UCL) and by Jeremy Morley (Ordnance Survey). The closing date is the 28th July.
Okay so this came sooner than I thought it would and just in time for the Esri UC in San Diego next week!
If you are a CityEngine user this is a very good release with key improvements that will make our lives easier when working on projects. If you’re thinking about working with CityEngine for the first time this is a good release to come in on, and you can come to us for one-to-one training to get you started!
CityEngine 2017.0 has now been released and you can download it from your ‘My Esri‘ area, alternately you can grab a 30-day free trial here.
Both Nicholas Duggan and myself are co-conveners of the group and whilst we both work together he is based in Southampton, Hampshire and I am based in Sedbergh, Cumbria. We often meet in the middle at conferences and the EsriUK conference happened to coincide with the formation of the 3D group.
I have to be honest there wasn’t too many people in attendance but that didn’t matter this was a social thing rather than a serious meeting. It was good to see some familiar faces though. We stood outside the St Stephen’s Tavern in Westminster (a couple of minutes walk from the EsriUK AC venue) and chatted about all things 3D and map related.
Nick and myself reiterated our commitment to further the world of 3D mapping and helping others with some of the challenges it presents. We see the group as open to anyone (from anywhere) with an interest in 3D mapping whether that is scientific or artistic, professional or entertainment our feeling is that we need to start learning from each others professions and industry’s.
Here’s a quick example of what I mean by learning from each other’s industry’s…. When I started visualising our GIS data in 3D there were questions on how best to represent the non-physical world which have a location to them. For example demographics of households or income levels. Methods of representing this in 2D are fairly well established but I felt ability to view data in 3D somehow changed things. For one thing the end user can views this data from multiple weird angles I would never have chosen! I’m not saying 3D visualisation is a new thing, but it was new to me at the time. Then I remembered someone had already done this but not as part of some professional GIS system or scientific mapping. No, I remembered the game SimCity had been doing this for a while…
White buildings with coloured bars in 3D, a gaming company had come up with a very effective technique of visualising all sorts of data in a 3D environment over a city scale. Ok not a brilliant example but I hope you get my point…
There are many traditional ‘professional’ companies running headlong into Mixed, Augmented, Virtual Reality, and gaming technologies all struggling with the same issues, data sizes, data visualisations, z-fighting, textures and more. Now more than ever we need professions to come together and help each other. We shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel.
We’re also looking for more people to be involved! You don’t have to be a member of the BCS (although it would be nice), so get in touch with us. We are hoping to set up a online forum somewhere as well, but until then Nick (@dragons8mycat) and I (@elliothartley) are on twitter and will try and use the hashtag #3DGBCS
A little bit about the 3D Group :
The 3D Group (3DG) is for anybody interested in the exciting world of 3D GIS and cartography. Real or fictional, proprietary or open, science or arts, we aim to promote discussion on the challenges and opportunities that new technologies (hardware and software) are bringing. We’re hoping to attract more than just GIS professionals, programmers, and cartographers to this group. The broad subject of 3D intertwines with several industries, we also want to bring in entertainment industry professionals, architectural visualisation specialists and more. Professional tools and technologies are blurring the boundaries between the worlds of entertainment, architecture, planning, GIS and cartography. Let’s learn from each other and provide help to those who are eager to learn. If you work with 3D software or technologies join us. We aim to hold 3D events at least a couple of times a year, provide training days and we welcome discussions online via social media through the hashtag on twitter of #3DGBCS. The Co-Conveners of the 3D Group are Elliot Hartley and Nicholas Duggan.
Last Tuesday (16th of May 2017) was the much-anticipated yearly geospatial event from Esri UK. Their Annual Conference has gone from strength to strength and the venue has been at capacity for the last two years now.
I love the EsriUK conference and being based in Cumbria having an event where I can get to see all the people we work with in one location is fantastic (although I quite enjoyed EsriUK’s Perth event too!). It used to be I went for the presentations I now go to have meetings and keep the personal connections I’ve developed through social media going.
The opening plenary was interesting and focused (quite rightly) on the significant achievements Esri have made in developing their platform. I cannot comprehend how complex the process is of developing a cloud presence and slowly (it feels slow to me at least in regards to stability & memory issues) developing the new ArcGISPro application whilst still maintaining the existing and well used product suite of ArcMap, ArcGlobe, and ArcScene. I guess that’s what they use our licence and maintenance fees for!
What I noticed this time was what I have been saying for a while and told people about back in 2009 (when I started using CityEngine): Esri needs to be invested deeply in 3D to compete in the new and merging industries of ‘smart cities’ and ‘BIM’. All their competitors are there and coming for the GIS users too. Fortunately is Esri doing this now.
EsriUK’s live demo this year was walking around with a GeoSlam device getting a laser scan of the venue, to fly around and measure in ArcGISPro. Unfortunately I felt this demo was a little limited in scope this year. We’ve worked with point clouds in ArcGISPro and whilst good there are still some issues so perhaps that’s why it was not as ‘wow!’ for me.
Looking at all their applications, it is truly crazy how many 3D capable products Esri have developed. Yet amongst all these amazing tools, all too often, I am still meeting people who wonder what they’re going to do with these 3D technologies….
The obvious answer is ‘well first you need 3D data’, and that’s what Garsdale Design’s new project, our GD3D brand, is all about. Acquiring 3D is still like acquiring satellite data in the early days, difficult and expensive, however I will write more on this soon because it doesn’t have to be.
Post plenary there was plenty of people to talk too, but I did manage to get to see a few presentations:
Mapping London’s 2050 Infrastructure Growth
Dr Larissa R Suzuki gave a great presentation into the challenges Transport for London were facing managing development and maintenance of their infrastructure. The mapping systems they are implementing to identify what activity is taking place in the same location (think development and road works etc..) at the same time are fantastically useful. Let’s hope this kind of technology use gets adopted nationally not just per authority.
A journey through the airport
The Manchester Airport Group have a place in my heart, as I am a big fan of Manchester Airport to be honest. Small-ish airport in the scheme of things owned by local authorities but punching well above its weight in terms of the region it serves and the places you can fly to. I can get a train direct from Oxenholme straight to Manchester Airport and be in Dubai or major hubs in the USA really quickly. Their talk by Vickie Withnell was very interesting, showing us a 3D animation of the next phase of expansion of Manchester Airport basically 4D or construction management. As one commentator on the Esri AC app put it a “video’ gantt chart”. Obviously being able to manage data through time and integrate your process with the planning and consultation elements of their business has paid dividends. Vickie should have received a stand ovation for saying that their planning application for a new arrivals terminal at Stansted only took 13 weeks (supposed target processing time for major planning applications), top it all off they only had one objection. Any planner (private or public) in the room I am sure was immediately feeling completely in awe.
SWEET, simplicity and GeoDesign
Charles Kennelly CTO of EsriUK was in top form clearly presenting one of his technology passions ‘geodesign’. The application he demo’d was called ‘SWEET’ and his message was very simple really. Sometimes making tools that are simple to use for defined purposes really do make sense. The web application he demo showed off how you could program rules in to editing tools that automatically clipped polygons and stopped you editing outside areas. Basically, taking away that process us GIS professionals always have to do when receiving someone else’s data which is cleaning up and fixing geometries (like slithers). In the demo web application you could plot away and be sure that the data you create was clean and clipped to your areas properly.
The Customer Success Awards were back again (we won one last year hurrah!) and what a great series of entries, I am glad they keeping this going. It is always nice to be recognised for hardwork and clearly the winners and nominees have been working hard!.
Daniel Raven-Ellison a self-confessed ‘Guerilla Geographer’ (don’t cringe) gave a very impassioned presentation focusing on his campaign to make London a National Park City . Always the cynic living in Northern England I feel uncomfortable giving London more designations and status. But he did give a compelling argument but perhaps instead of a National Park City a focus on making all cities green and vibrant as he wants to make London would be better? Whatever your opinion he is a very passionate and good speaker with important things to say about our cities and environment. I think we ignore him at our peril.
The future look at the platform was interesting the Esri inc team were represented with Chris Andrews and EsriUK by Charles Kennelly the platform is scaling well and 3D is a big part of this.
Charles also treated us to an experimental map where the cartography was enhanced or augmented with sounds. So moving the mouse over particular elements of a map gave a different noise. I think this kind of approach will be ever more important when augmented and mixed reality technologies become main stream. Not everything in GIS should be visual was my ‘take away’.
As usual I have skimmed over details at a ramble for this blog post. As a company we had a great day talking about our new GD3D® brand and our data service for the Esri platform. It strikes me that people still are sitting in silos of data though, hesitating to be the first to break out and hindered by restrictive licencing and pricing. I guess that is often the nature of professions.
Personally, I met lots of new and interesting people, so thank you if you talked to me and sorry if I don’t remember your name next we meet, it’s not personal! I’m just not very good at remembering faces.
We gave out lots of badges and stickers which made travelling home lighter and easier too. Coming up next for us, my colleague Nicholas Duggan will be attending the Geobusiness conference in London. I have now booked my flights to San Diego for this year’s Esri UC I’ll be attending some 3D sessions there but am also eager to meet up and chat with anyone interested in 3D building data for the Esri platform and of course Esri CityEngine training and services.
Our presentation on Big Data!
I’ll be doing another post on our presentation at the Esri UK Annual Conference entitled “Big data! Offshore to onshore: Streaming 3D cities and point clouds” shortly…. 🙂
People want and expect their 3D modelled urban environments to be very high quality. Unfortunately, whilst most of us here work with 3D. We know that without significant investment of time and money we are not going to achieve such polish easily.
A great big thank you to Ryan Johnston for inviting us and being such a great host! We greatly enjoyed the event.
Small areas with a lot of detail or large areas with a little detail? Despite digital 3D urban models being seen everywhere from games, to movies, planning/architectural visualisations, and applications like Google Earth. Creating 3D urban models with a geospatial element is not as easy as some might think. The industry is always trying to answer the question with things like meshes, point clouds and gamification but is it working?
Firstly, a detailed understanding of what is meant by a 3D model is required. levels of detail (LOD) and accuracy need to be assessed against levels of effort as well as the equipment and method of capture available, with the end user being always in mind. The ability to bring geographic datasets together with fictional datasets poses serious questions (legal, technical and ethical) for those in the 3D urban modelling business as the line between a scientific decisions blurs with the artistic and aesthetic choices we make.