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Highlights from the EsriUK Scotland Conference 2018 #EsriUKSC

Highlights from the EsriUK Scotland Conference 2018 #EsriUKSC

Well I always intending on writing up about the EsriUK Scotland conference held in Perth this year.  I’ve said before it’s been a great conference in a great town and this year was no exception.  The speakers were all great with some notable highlights being (this is not an exhaustive list but ones that have stuck in my mind):

EsriUK: The live traffic count demo using a camera from a mobile phone roaming Perth and some machine learning algorithms ‘hats off’ for this amazing live demo on conference wifi.   Shows how all our devices can be connected to scarily powerful cloud services to perform analysis for good… or evil. 

like Siri or Alexa but from EsriUK and for planning applications…

There was also an interesting proof of concept demo from EsriUK (called ada I think) which walked people through a planning application type scenario.

RSPB Scotland and drone use..

RSPB Scotland:  They talked about “Saving nature with drones” and actually a really inspiring use of drone technology for producing up to date high resolution terrain and imagery for habitat management.  Also great uses for bird counts too!   They produced a best practice for using drones guide which probably everyone should read which is here (not sure this is final official version but only one I could find online): Drones for GIS (PDF) Did you also know they have an opendata site? No neither did I!

Powerful and effective communication techniques from Esri StoryMaps…

South Lanarkshire Council: This presentation on “Protecting the quality of the air that we breathe” stood out for me because the presentation hosted by 3 presenters from 3 departments showed what GIS should be about.  That’s joining of information and providing a powerful communication analysis and tool.  Here was a great use of storymap to communicate serious ideas to a wide audience, here’s what can happen when departments talk and work together.  I recommend you look at their storymap here.

That’s a few users…

EsriUK Education: Back to EsriUK again but here on their ‘Education Session’ I have a renewed interest due to being an new School Governor at my local primary school.  Now I’m always of two minds about private large organisations providing free stuff to schools/education.  I can hear the criticism of the open source movement loud and clear that a large company is perhaps abusing it’s position to increase it’s market share…. I know there are free (in money terms at least) programs teachers can use, I know a cloud solution (Esri is giving ArcGIS Online accounts away for free to schools) isn’t ‘true’ GIS in that it won’t teach the intricacies and science that’s required for a better understanding of the power of GIS and associated technologies.  However I know that teachers and schools also don’t have the time and resources to manage installations, perhaps a managed solution from Esri is actually the best solution.  Afterall those who are truly interested will seek out other tools to achieve what they need.  Who among us started their journey into GIS with Esri technology and now use other software and tools to do better?  I bet many of us.  Shocking I know but sometimes all they want IS a map…

So that’s my small write up of the EsriUK Scotland conference, a smaller more intimate and frankly more comfortable conference than the larger EsriUK one in London they do in May…  Perth is a lovely location and I hope they keep it there.

Finally I need to talk about the inspiring keynote from one of the Esri cartographic legends called John Nelson…. well no, I’m saving that for the next blog post as it deserves some nice maps that I made which he inspired me to make.

3D Scenes in Esri StoryMaps

3D Scenes in Esri StoryMaps

Esro’s StoryMap is a powerful communication, after-all if people can’t read about your project in an engaging format what’s the point?

Okay this is a quick post so I don’t forget how this all works!   I’ve been looking at StoryMaps for clients and in particular how to work in some custom 3D scenes.   

Some StoryMaps work easily with 3D, basically Cascade, where others you have to ‘coax’.   Basically the trick for getting storymaps templates like MapSeries to work require you to know about the how you can specify a weblink to a webscene that not only instructs it to display minimal user interface but also you can specify a ‘slide’ (what I’d call a bookmark).

Basically when you create a StoryMap (such as the MapSeries) choose a weblink instead of a map (as that only allows you a 2D map).

A powerful tool, once you know how it all works…

And then add either/or/both the following “&ui=min” for minimal user interface and “#1” for the slide number.  That would look like this : https://gd3d.maps.arcgis.com/home/webscene/viewer.html?webscene=b2ee85b778974ebd98f7403f4e5145d1&ui=min#2  in the web page link dialogue box put in the weblink for the scene you want to use for example : https://gd3d.maps.arcgis.com/home/webscene/viewer.html?webscene=b2ee85b778974ebd98f7403f4e5145d1

The resulting StoryMap would like this (Sorry its a quick example of very little content!):

I used these Esri official blog posts to help piece it together:

What’s new in the CityEngine 2018.1 Official release?

What’s new in the CityEngine 2018.1 Official release?

Well they sprung this one on us a little by surprise and just before a new update to ArcGIS Online too!  Following on from the beta CityEngine 2018.1 has been release with some significant additions and fixes.

Headline features are for me the revised drawing tools, boundary/fencing rules in ESRI.lib, and proper terrain support in the form of TPK exports. Oh, and initial support for terrain export for Unreal Engine…

The draw tools now make CityEngine a viable place you can start to do more ground work, this fits nicely in with being able to update feature layers hosted in ArcGIS Online (which incidentally has better support of large layers this release) .

They’ve finally added to the ESRI.lib directory, I’ve written about this before.  It’s hard to write generic rule files that make a majority of users happy (unless you’re a certain David Wasserman doing Compete Streets), but you can’t go wrong sticking with some of the basics people want, vegetation to start with and now boundary treatment!

A new addition to ESRI.lib, fences!

Finally the new support of exported terrains as TPKs allows us CityEngine users to modify terrain and export those changes to ArcGIS Online.  This is fantastic and I think now all we need is a comparable swipe tool (like in the old CityEngine Web Viewer) and we’ll feel complete!

not my image it’s Esri’s ‘borrowed’ from here….

Finally it looks like they’ve added some preliminary support, their words “Added preliminary terrain export.”, which suggest it’s very much in beta!  Great news for anyone wanting to hit the ground running using Unreal Engine, I’ve yet to test this out so who knows whether it works, fingers-crossed.

I’ll have to agree with Taisha here, this release has

exciting improvements that not only set a great precedent for things to come, but are sure to make you love CityEngine even more

Taisha Waeny – CityEngine 2018.1 Release Highlights

Great job Esri CityEngine team, you’re showing us a direction of travel for planners and urban designers here 🙂

One final note Garsdale Design’s exclusive CityEngine training is being updated to reflect this new release.   Did you know we were the first to offer CityEngine training and consultancy worldwide, and are official EsriUK CityEngine trainers? Visit my company’s website for more details and methods to contact us!

Edinburgh Earth Observatory (EEO) Seminars – Geodesign and Smarter Planning

Edinburgh Earth Observatory (EEO) Seminars – Geodesign and Smarter Planning

I was massively surprised and honoured (look at the last speakers) to be asked to speak at the Edinburgh Earth Observatory and AGI-Scotlands seminar series programme for 2018-2019 on the 1st of February 2019.   I’m known for my CityEngine work and so my theme will be around geodesign, planning, and procedural modelling.

As usual with these events they want a title and abstract way ahead of the event which I’ve done.  Now I have the fear.   I read a tweet recently that sums this up (but can’t find it now) something about wanting the confidence of the person who wrote the title and abstract months ago…. except I wrote mine last week…

Anyway here’s the title and abstract, please do sign-up and come say hi if you can.   I try and make my presentations and seminars accessible, I’m not a big fan of technical terms of the sake of it so don’t be worried about the buzzwords!

Geodesign and Smarter Planning

Wake up! The built environment professional worlds are colliding, and we cannot sit in our narrow professional cells anymore. Concepts such as 3D Geodesign, BIM, and software tools like Esri CityEngine show us a collaborative future of fast scenario modelling with integrated testing, analysis and visualisation, all while collaborating online with teams of experts around the world.

With rapid advancements in software and hardware, we are able to do more in less time. Our clients will be happier, we will be happier and hopefully the planet will be better for it too.

In this seminar I will explain my professional journey and how it is indicative of wider changes and challenges in the built environment industries. I will discuss the emerging geodesign discipline as well as BIM and the dizzying array of standards to keep all this data moving smoothly. In my view the entertainment industry’s work (gaming and movies), should also be seen as part of our all our professional futures.

Where:  Old Library, Institute of Geography , University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP.
When: Friday 1st Feb 2019, 4.30pm
More Information available here



“The Thornsbank” (beta) Craftsman Style Rule for CityEngine & ArcGISPro

“The Thornsbank” (beta) Craftsman Style Rule for CityEngine & ArcGISPro

The interest

This all started a while back with an interest in American houses, specifically the ‘Craftsman’ style homes which you could buy from places like Sears of all places…. As an Englishman I’m not fully versed on all North American architecture but this idea of picking elements of a house from a catalogue seemed like something I should look at doing in Esri CityEngine.

Rabbit Holes

This is not the CityEngine model I was aiming for….

So that’s what I did.  In classic CityEngine professional style my first attempts got very very complicated as I added more detail (you’ve seen the nice renders of these for a while now on this blog and even the banner here, I really really like them).  The second attempt I produced an all singing all dancing rule file to create thousands of different ‘Craftsman’ style house typologies.  The trouble is, without a big PC and a good understanding of CityEngine these were only going to be usable by those of us who sort of know CityEngine in a professional capacity.  This is always a problem I have with CityEngine much like Alice I often go deep down a rabbit hole and get lost in the wondrous and slightly crazy detail (it’s not a bad thing just a bit distracting!).

Third time lucky?

Yes you can adjust the path to meet the steps….

The end result on my third attempt is something very much simpler and easier to understand and something that can be wrapped as a Rule Package.   As a Rule Package it can also be used in ArcGISPro too.   I’ve initially conceived of this rule file as primarily use on auto-generated Lots in Esri CityEngine (those are created from centre lines of roads forming blocks), but I can make it work on points and footprints too (just not on the first release).   In CityEngine you have the nice ability to use the handles feature to interact with the model without having to muck around with the attributes in the inspector.  Here I am finding it quite tricky, which attributes are important to have as ‘handles’?  If you do everything the model becomes cluttered, so I am going with a ‘less is more’ approach to see how it works.

Okay enough already! When is it released, and how much will it cost?!  

I’ve got a beta trial coming for this which I hope some lucky few will help me iron out the kinks.  Then I’ll look at selling it, my thinking is Rule Packages get sold cheaply (less than £50 probably) but if you want the source code naturally you have to pay more, and it’s this price I’m struggling with.  perhaps others can suggest an approach?

If you want to be part of the beta leave a comment below, or register on our new web forums (not just CityEngine but all 3D stuff) and head on over to the Thornsbank specific forum page.

I end this post with some additional screenshots of the rule working in ArcGISPro and a CityEngine WebScene.

The first BCS 3D Cartography Award and 3D SIG Meetup 2018

The first BCS 3D Cartography Award and 3D SIG Meetup 2018

Well it had to happen eventually, we’ve got our first British Cartographic Society 3D Special Interest Group (or 3DGBCS) meetup coming at the end of March, hosted at the Ordnance Survey offices.   Nicholas Duggan has been leading this and will have finalised the details shortly, be sure to keep an eye out for it on social media as well as here.

Now on to more news: we’ve had tremendous support in setting up the 3D Group and we want too extend this.  As such we have setup an award specifically for 3D cartography of any sort from any industry or profession.  This bit is important really as the term 3D can be all encompassing and we didn’t want to limit who entered, you don’t even need to be a member of the BCS.   In our work we’ve seen representations of the world in 3D from many industries just look at the entertainment industry for a wide range of 3D technologies and let’s be honest mapping/cartographic techniques.   In urban planning and architecture 3D representations of the world around us provide important context for proposals.  With smart cities a 3D basemap is considered integral to the bringing all this city data together.

3D Cartography Award 2018

The first annual 3D Cartography Award Sponsored by GD3D® the 3D geospatial brand from Garsdale Design, is a new exciting award open to everyone in any industry creating interesting, informative, exciting 3D cartography (real or imagined) using any technique and/or medium!

Currently we find 3D representations all around us, whether it is a web map, a survey plan, a planning visualisation, or even a computer game. This can come in many forms from a simple isometric drawing through to full haptic virtual reality.

We don’t care what industry you are in or what software you use, whether you are a surveyor, cartographer, GIS user, artist, engineer, data scientist, or other, we just want to see your amazing 3D representations and hope the entries will challenge everyone’s perception of what 3D cartography is!

There are many interpretations of what 3D cartography is, so we don’t want to limit entries. We propose an award for an overall winner based on communication of the intended message, legibility, simplicity, visual impact, and composition. There will also be commended awards for those we see as having merit in particular areas, science, statistics, visualisation, urban, natural environment, fictional, and other.

Entries will be considered by a panel of judges, appointed by the GD3D® team at Garsdale Design and the BCS Awards Committee. The panel will include a range of people from different areas of expertise in the 3D data industry. The panel will judge the quality and design of the map in relation to the purpose for which the map was produced.
The winning entry will be announced at the BCS-SoC Conference in September 2018. The award comprises a crystal trophy to be retained by the winner and a certificate. The winning entry will be put forward for the BCS Award. Those commended will receive a certificate.

All entries will be exhibited at the BCS-SoC Conference and the winners will be published in The Cartographic Journal and on the BCS website following the Awards Ceremony.

We don’t want to limit the entries but as guidance below is an example list of entry types. This list is not exhaustive, and the judging panel will consider other formats as appropriate:

  • Web map
  • 3D print
  • Game executable
  • VR formats compatible with HoloLens, HTC Vive, Apple & Android
  • GIS format
  • PDF
  • Paper
  • Mobile Application (Android or iPhone)

The entry form is available here.

Procedural modelling the UK high-street

Procedural modelling the UK high-street

Some of our latest CityEngine work is looking at the high street and in particular here at home the UK high street.   Commercial buildings in a typical UK town are a mixed bag of traditional older buildings with some often badly maintained concrete buildings and the odd brick built modern monster designed and built in the 1980s.  More recent buildings like glass a lot …  We’ve been creating rules to describe building frontages, not all are pretty but that’s kind of the point! 

This set is early work for a project that we’re helping on for the Transport Systems Catapult based in Milton Keynes who are helping out the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) creating simulated virtual environments to test out way-finding technologies.  Stay tuned for some more outputs! 

City 3D GIS Building Renders

City 3D GIS Building Renders

Further to my CityEngine Quick Render post I thought I’d put through some of our GD3D buildings (sourced from CyberCity3D and processed for use on the ArcGIS platform sold via ArcGIS Marketplace) through the same process.  I think they look quite nice!   My next task will be to start showing more than pretty renders of buildings, I hope to add some metrics in and the do more nice imagery.

All this rendering of 3D models whilst not new to me is something I do very rarely, other people can do better but as with everything it is nice having some skills ‘in-house’!