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).
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…. 🙂
Moving your GIS to 3D is a daunting task. Not only are there all the vertical issues to take into account, but also a whole new world of jargon, which can, at times, be quite overwhelming. In this post you’ll find a few of the data formats that are most commonly used.
Also called: multipoints, lidar, multibeam, singlebeam, xyz data, laserscan
No, these aren’t an awesome punctuation weather dictator, and unless you are using some Kenneth Field colour ramp, you are unlikely to see a rainbow. Point clouds are point data that are vertically enabled (commonly called “z- enabled”).
Typically, when using point clouds within GIS, one would be referring to lidar, multibeam or xyz data whereby there may be multiple points sitting on the same vertical as well as horizontal plane.
Within 2D GIS, point clouds are used as a “heighted raster” where each cell would have the value of the height. The value of using this form of data within a 3D GIS is that the data can be geographically represented in a 3D space so that the information can be viewed rapidly and alongside other risks and issues.
In the geospatial world, a mesh refers to a 3D image overlay. They’re similar to a TIN; you will have commonly seen these within Google Earth, those buildings that have the uncanny valley effect: they are just a little bit wobbly and the trees appear to be all fused together, but it gives a really nice 3D effect (from a distance). That is a mesh.Within the geo-3D world there are meshes, and there are meshes. I know, we like to keep everyone on their toes, but in reality it is the CAD guys you need to be sore at. Within the CAD world, a “mesh” is a triangulated model, the kind you find in Google SketchUp or you’d print at your local 3D print shop (see Multipatch, below). In the GIS world, we refer to this as a “model.”
Normally these meshes are derived from point clouds, or they can be generated from georeferenced imagery in software like Pix4D.
Popular in gaming, meshes are starting to appear in GIS thanks to software like Google Earth and Cesium.
This form of data takes the standard 2D topographic data and then “extrudes” it vertically, making it appear like a solid 3D object. This technique is popular for generating mass buildings or creating 3D background information for visualisation. The method is popular due to it being so easy to achieve with the 2D data, which is already used within the software. The only further requirement is a height (to extrude the footprint/data to).Also called: Extruded footprints, heighted footprints
Although this data doesn’t incorporate vast amount of detail, such as windows, roofs, and chimneys on buildings, for example, it does provide a much more accurate visibility analysis and 3D skyline analysis.
The UK’s national mapping agency, the Ordnance Survey, provides its definitive (1:1250) data product, OS Mastermap, in this format and so do some of Open Streetmap as well as GeoInformation Group.
The multipatch, according to Esri, was developed by them in 1997. While I let many learned people fight over that statement, the most popular example of a multipatch is the 3D Buildings found in Google Earth (an example is at the very top of this article) or the kmz models which are generated from Google SketchUp. They are a type of geometry consisting of planar three-dimensional rings and triangles, used in combination to model objects that occupy a discrete area or volume in three-dimensional space. Unlike the “polygon Z,” the multipatch can be complex and have multiple smaller parts to make the whole so are frequently used for representing trees, buildings and street furniture.Also known as: model, mesh
Due to breakthroughs in quadtree, octree and other rendering techniques, the multipatch has gained popularity as massive models comprising of entire cities can be created and presented through the web.
Last week I attended and presented on behalf of Garsdale Design at the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) 3D cities event in a foggy Milton Keynes. This was a “one day opportunity to collaboratively identify challenges and showcase solutions” and “gain insight into virtual/synthetic testing for transport”.
TSC have been having a conversation with us about modelling 3D urban environments using procedural technologies found in Esri CityEngine and integrating those models in Unity. I have to be honest though, I was initially concerned about focusing on this negative idea of ‘barriers’ as all we see is opportunities here at Garsdale Design! However, here was a gathering of people from a variety of industries who understood what it meant to actually make 3D city models and use them in commercial contexts.
The session had some key aims, firstly to understand what a variety of people were doing to create 3D cities, secondly to discuss some the hurdles or barriers of city creation (and publication) and lastly to have ‘round-table’ discussions to identify some of these barriers and how we might overcome them. Have a look at who came and presented and you can see we had some very interesting presentations!
Transport Systems Catapult : TSC current projects
Future Cities Catapult : Use of environments for smart cities
Satellite Applications Catapult : Satellite
Mantle: Creation of game ready content from GIS data
ESRI : 3D GIS
Leica Geo Systems : Technology behind 3d Lidar Environments
MK Surveys : Creation of 3d Lidar Environments
Garsdale Design : The Art & Science of 3d Cities
UCL : Intelligent positioning within 3d environments
Rust Ltd : Creation of AAA quality game environments
Imsim : Autonomous vehicle fleet management
The event started with an overview of who they were and what Transport Systems Catapult were working on and with. Catapults as I see them are there to fill the void where companies like ourselves can’t explore or experiment with technologies. With the best will in the world Garsdale Design hasn’t got unlimited resources to ‘play’ with all the exciting new technologies coming through!
Following on from GISWORX, another of my favourite geospatial conferences was the EsriUK Annual Conference at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster. The venue was packed with probably over 2500 attendees. Of course all the interesting sessions were packed with professionals trying to learn as much as they can about what people are doing in our industry.
It was a successful day for Garsdale Design, some of our older 3D work was shown in the opening plenary. We then had our 3D visualisation work, completed using OS MasterMap and CyberCity3D data shown at the TfL’s presentation on the London Marathon road closures.
Did I also mention we won an award for our 3D visualisation and 3DGIS work on a variety of projects for clients? Well now you know!