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British Cartographic Society 3D Group first (informal) meet up

British Cartographic Society 3D Group first (informal) meet up

Well it finally happened!   The the very first informal meeting of the 3D Group a Special Interest Group of the British Cartographic Society took place after the Esri UK annual conference.

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.

Next steps

We plan to have an official 3D Group meeting at the British Cartographic Society’s and Society of Cartographers Annual Conference in Durham on the 5th to 7th of September.  What day this will be we don’t know yet.   We’d also like to hold a couple of meetups in places other than the usual suspects so north and south.  If you have an idea on where to hold these drop us a line.

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.

 

 

EsriUK Annual Conference 2017

EsriUK Annual Conference 2017

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.  

Plenary

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….

Shameless plug for our new GD3D® brand….

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.

Closing Plenary

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’.

Summary

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…. 🙂

 

CityEngine, Unity and HTCVive : finally useful & accessible Virtual Reality?

CityEngine, Unity and HTCVive : finally useful & accessible Virtual Reality?

Walking around a 3D model of Birmingham which includes 3D buildings and symbology generated using CityEngine

I recently purchased an HTC Vive for some ‘out of hours’ Research and Development.   What strikes me is how quickly you can take 2D GIS data, turn it into 3D and walk around it in a Virtual Reality environment for testing out scenarios for urban planning or even visualising underlying data (think smart cities).  

like with maps and statistics you can lie with 3D visualisations

Like with most things it doesn’t have to be complicated, you need the right workflows and data but much of this is understanding requirements and matching your workflows to suit a particular need.   When dealing with GIS data you need to have an understanding of accuracy, projections and provenance of data as well, because like with maps and statistics you can lie/mislead with 3D visualisations.

Smooth terrains and 3D GIS buildings ready for your Unity developed game or tool!

This is quite incredible that we can go through multiple urban design scenarios in a day (modelling in CityEngine) analysing this data using Esri’s 3D Analyst extension (in ArcGISPro of course!) and then walking around the scenario in a fully immersive environment!   Yes most of the visuals need some polish but this kind of setup we could only dream of a couple of years ago.

3D GIS data integrated with CityEngine models in a game engine environment (Unity) how cool is this?!

We have the tools, we have the data it’s just a question of joining it all up.  If you need some guidance or help come talk to us at Garsdale Design because we’ve had the time to work on the workflows and datasets.

Dragons8mycat welcome!

Dragons8mycat welcome!

Nicholas Duggan and Elliot Hartley post Threeharescafe
Nick and Elliot post Threehares cafe

NEWS : GARSDALE DESIGN WELCOMES NICHOLAS DUGGAN TO THE TEAM AS OUR PRINCIPAL GEOSPATIAL SPECIALIST

My company Garsdale Design Limited just hired Nicholas Duggan (known as dragons8mycat in the social media world) he starts on Monday the 11th of January as our Principal Geospatial Analyst.  I’ve known him for a while and have even bumped into him on occasion at conferences (we are based in Cumbria and I don’t get out much).

Importantly we needed someone who was not afraid to experiment.  

His CV is impressive and we know he is technically very competent, it’s in part why we hired him.   To be honest though, it was his helpful nature on social media and his interests that are clearly in more than just the job in front of him, that really interested us.  What we needed was someone used to working on a variety of differing projects and able to use different software as appropriate.  Importantly we needed someone who was not afraid to experiment.  

consultancy you see is a wonderfully messy business

Consultancy you see is a wonderfully messy business, today I’m working on a major CityEngine 3D project (yes we do more than just training!), tomorrow I could be helping with some domestic architecture and next week I’m probably helping acquire satellite imagery and GIS data for a potential resort development in the Middle East.  We need more than just a focused specialist to help us.  

CityEngine tower analysis
Analysis of CityEngine models is important.

Nick has stated on twitter on a number of occasions that he has ‘room in his heart’ (okay he didn’t say that exactly) for opensource and proprietary software. Yes Garsdale Design is an Esri Silver Partner (and very proud of it too!) but our clients are varied and their requirements and budgets differ wildly so we have to be flexible.

here is a growing sense of urgency to prove that their investment in 3D is more than just a bunch of pretty pictures

Being able to create 3D urban models is one thing, to actual analyse what you’ve created is quite another.  Whilst our CityEngine clients love 3D and have focused on visualisation there is a growing sense of urgency to prove that their investment in 3D is more than just a bunch of pretty pictures.  3D isn’t trivial it has real-world uses beyond the gimmicky.

This year my focus, or should I say, our focus is twofold in the 3D space:

  • Developing more useful 3D analysis workflows
  • Testing out 3D hosting platforms for our CityEngine created models.

As you can see Nick will play an important role for us this year.   What next for this blog GeoPlanIT?  Well Nick will contribute to it but that doesn’t mean he will abandon xyHt or his own blog ‘The Spatial Blog‘.

Welcome to the team Nick, 2016 is going to be interesting.

Review: Cartographers Toolkit – Colors, Typography, Patterns

Review: Cartographers Toolkit – Colors, Typography, Patterns

I don’t often write reviews but I’m thinking of doing it more often, that way at least there’s a break from CityEngine and ArcGIS talk!

Increasingly I am finding myself struggling to make maps, there are so many options and so many tools out there it’s difficult to know where to start.   I realised I needed the basics, I needed a reference book with workable examples and things like fonts and hex colour codes, then I saw this book…

Do you make maps? Do you use a GIS package and spend too much time creating symbology for your maps? If the answer is yes then this book is for you! It’s a great reference for making good looking and legible maps. Need a colour scheme that works? The author has included hex, rgb an cmyk codes with her large sample of coordinated palettes.

Need inspiration for choosing the right font? This book gives example maps and text in a variety of fonts (free and fee fonts). The last section is a good selection of inspirational maps under the heading ‘composition patterns’. Each mapping style has a good set of example maps as well as guidance text on usage and how to achieve these styles.

This is not like her first book “GIS Cartography” which was far more in-depth and quite a heavy read. Cartographers Toolkit is one you want to have on or near your desk whilst setting up mapping styles.

One last thing to note, this book does not rely on knowledge of a specific piece of software (ArcGIS, MapInfo etc..).

You can follow the author Gretchen on Twitter (http://twitter.com/PetersonGIS) or read her blog at http://www.gretchenpeterson.com

I have posted this review in part on Amazon UK as well.

You purchase the book here : Cartographer’s Toolkit

Summary: It’s a toolkit for people who make maps, didn’t you read the title?!
Why? Stuck for insipration? Need a code set of hexcodes for your symbology?
Rating: 4/5 whilst most of the guidance is universal it is a bit american centric (in terms of advice on styles etc..)

Where is The Royal Burgh of Tain? Google Maps vs Bing

Where is The Royal Burgh of Tain? Google Maps vs Bing

Update : the title was changed to remove the word fight as web mapping is not worth fighting about… 
A little post on the dangers of relying on your favourite web mapping sites too much.  I’ve just come from a nice holiday in the Highlands of Scotland and we were staying near a place called The Royal Burgh of Tain.   As you can see Google Maps (my web mapping of choice) doesn’t have it…. Bing does though.

Tain is only here according to Google 
The town of Tain is here on Bing but not labelled on Google…. uh oh

Not really much to say other than the residents of Tain might be a bit annoyed … at least tourists can find Glenmorangie Distillery, phew!

ESRI UK Conference – Day 1

ESRI UK Conference – Day 1

UPDATED: Various errors (spelling, grammar etc..) have been changed since the original was posted


Julie Pearce presented an interesting piece on GIS use at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (it trips off the tongue doesn’t it?).   It is good to see how people are overcoming inconsistent and disparate data sets from a variety of sources/agencies.   The over-riding impression I got was that although complicated in implementation the concept is very simple.   I too wasn’t surprised by the level of farmer involvement and enthusiasm for the technology.  After all farmers are businessmen and women first and foremost!   They want, like all of us, systems that are simple, easy-to-use and cost effective.   I would have thought the main ‘fly-in-ointment’ here is a lack of provision of true (not just silly 1meg) rural broadband.   Another agency that should be lobbying government to properly fund a national fibre optic broadband network (forget urban vs rural it is a national issue!)?

Rowan Douglas from Willis Research Network tried to convince us that the insurance industry wasn’t evil!  After listening to him I’m almost inclined to agree.   It’s all about managing risk and then how society as a whole and through the wonders of insurance companies pays for things, when nature or other events interrupt our lives.   When it’s put like that you realise at the same time, that he’s correct and that somehow it doesn’t quite tie in with why our insurance companies put up our premiums without explanation.   Is their industry in need of an image makeover, I wonder?  Probably.

However his presentation did include a lot about analysis, modelling and trying to predict the impacts of disasters on people and the economy.   Some great stuff going on which I’m sure adds to the sum of human knowledge about how to cope better with ‘events’.

After that there was some really good thinking going on in the Army with a presentation from Major Andrew Williams of the Joint Aeronautical and Geospatial Organisation (JAGO).   Joined up thinking and connecting people to easy-to-use and interpret systems.  So all tiers of the Army and partners can be working from the same page.   Again it is a simple idea but difficult to implement in detail.  Portable and ruggedized servers for in the field use, using limited bandwidths.   I wondered if is there something the rural broadband campaigners can learn from here?

The ESRI UK people did what they do best with working presentations on the Crown Estate, GIS for a Low Carbon Economy (I’ll come back to this on day 2) and ArcGIS.com with the RSPB and map sharing.    Good demos I especially enjoyed the Low Carbon one as I can see this type of analysis being ever more important.

The Capability Track after lunch was a bit blurry for me as this was when I had my 10 minute presentation.  I would like to have gone to the technology track as well and learned about ArcGIS 10.1.   But listening to my fellow presenters I learned a lot and was most impressed with their presentations.  Anyway here is what I remembered please leave comments if you have anything to add or point out where I have missed something or got it wrong:

  • South Yorkshire Police – DI Gary Williams presented how they were “delivering more for less”.   Obviously, nearly everything that the police does can be located spatially.   Making it easy-to-use was imperative for them and hence the web based interface that was developed.   Now officers are able to have more information about where they are and why there are there.   Some detailed calculations of cost savings were also done as well.   It is odd to see how much a crime actually costs across the board including victim costs, but there you are.   Personally, I just want the Police to get on with it and not worry all the time about cost.   I want them to spend time doing their job correctly and not rushing through to save money, but maybe I’m in a minority…
  • Birmingham City Council – Presented by Stu Lester “Corporate Data reuse and Benefits”, okay I’m sure he doesn’t just want me to remember the Terry Gilliam stills from Monty Python right?  Fortunately I remember other things to about how bringing various data silos together can have tremendous benefits.   It’s important in a council the size of Birmingham too.   I talked to him more at the event as well and he’s got a lot of good ideas I just hope he can maintain that level of drive and enthusiasm!
  • Garsdale Design Limited (my presentation) – “The 10 Minute City” (video available here) about the potential of tools like CityEngine from Procedural to help us with master planning. I hope the video went down well click here to the article about my presentations.
  • RBSI – “Scene and Not Word”, another presentation from the insurance industry, surprisingly a lot of what they do to assess risk, claims etc may not have required a GIS system!   Fortunately they did choose GIS, and wow, do they have an awful lot of information about where we live and work!   Again most of us might not like the insurance industry until you need to claim from them (hopefully successfully).   Their GIS seems to hold lots of information and helps quickly and efficiently assess risk.   The automation of some of the processes of insuring properties can only make the job easier.   Although now all I can think of is “the computer says no” lady from Little Britain…
  • Wales and West Utilities – Talked about how from a standing start they managed to get up and running within timescales a GIS management system for their new company and network purchased off of the National Grid.  Honestly, wow! To start with no offices and rented IT, I think their achievements are pretty amazing.   Especially considering the legacy systems they will have inherited (pipes and systems).   What was encouraging was seeing how they weren’t just doing the bare minimum but looking at using the knowledge of where all their repair teams were to properly and effectively allocate them to the right place if an emergency came in.    The passing of data seemed very important to them too.   

Following on from the Capability and Technology Track we all came back to see Michael Palin who was late (I hope he wasn’t lost) so Walking with Wounded presentation came first.   I like that ESRI does this by getting someone in that is not to GIS industry focused for some inspirational presentations.   A very good and moving presentation you can find out more by visiting there site.   Next year its Everest!

Walking with the Wounded –

Then the star of the show Michael Palin came on for an ‘informal chat‘ with Richard Waite (ESRI UK Managing Director) this was good and everything you expect from Mr Palin who is now the President of the Royal Geographical Society.    However I wish he had come on first as Walking with the Wounded was a really tough act to follow.

Proof that he did make it: 

Michael Palin – silly walk = a little disappointed

There was an evening meal and awards ceremony, it was nice to talk to people informally and our table was pretty lively, I think we finished the wine….

Before the wine…