Sometimes in CityEngine it can be hard to figure out what’s going on. Whether that’s understanding scope (CityEnginers understand this can get complicated) or just simple metrics.
I’ll often use a combination of ‘print’ and ‘report’ to give me a better understanding of my code at any given point. What I also do is use bright colours (which have simple RGB/hex colour codes) to indicate whether a part of the code has been reached. once I’ve confirmed it works I continue the code.
Recently I’ve been working on some code where an understanding of the orientation of an model is important, not just as a world orientation but also relative to the initial shapes scope. As is the case with most of my work in CityEngine I start to wonder, how would I go about making something more visual for me? Thus I decided to spend some (okay probably too much!) time creating a procedural protractor. This allows you to switch between displaying an angle relative to the shapes scope, or the world.
I’ve used the Handle features in CityEngine to make interacting with the attributes associated with this rule simple. I’m starting to use ‘handles’ in CityEngine to expose attributes for users in a friendlier way.
To sum up for me I’ve found that programming language in Esri CityEngine called Computer Generated Architecture (CGA) is easier to pick up than traditionally programming languages because it is a visual one and by that I mean you create geometries.
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…. 🙂
It’s that time of year when Esri start to roll out test releases of CityEngine yay! Now that CityEngine 2017.0 has switched to a Beta release I can do some limited screenshots and discuss what’s coming in the new release.
it’s never been a better time to jump onboard the CityEngine
This is a big release and it’s never been a better time to jump onboard the CityEngine, procedural urban modelling, and geodesign train! A refreshed interface, new scenario functions and an upgraded Dashboard for all your model metrics, to name a few improvements and additions. For those who already use CityEngine on a daily basis, did I mention the new measurement tools, often rumoured to be ‘in development’ but now are actually here?!
It feels like they are actually now making a tool for urban planning professionals rather than the media industry.
Overall, this already as an early release is stable enough for me to do work. The Esri R&D Zurich gang (and some in Redlands I guess) have done a really really great job of polishing this up and introducing long awaited features.
It feels like they are actually now making a tool for urban planning professionals rather than the media industry. At Garsdale Design we’re a big advocate of this Esri tool, its great for bringing all that 2D and 3D together. Helping you to make a cohesive analytical designs and iterating quickly through urban planning scenarios. Did I mention we offer comprehensive training for CityEngine at our offices here in Cumbria or ‘on site’ at client offices and even at EsriUK’s offices at their headquarters? (apologies for the shameless plug but hey we have to pay the bills!)
Here is a couple of screenshots, there will be more to come but I can’ share with you everything all at once.
In case you didn’t know from our blog Esri CityEngine can handle many types of 3D, not just city data! Here we are using the cool capabilities (additional layer control and bookmarks amongst other things) of CloudCities to control the geology layers.
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.
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.
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.
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 drives. From 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!
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.