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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…. 🙂

 

ESRI acquires Procedural – Master Planning & Urban Design just got easier?

ESRI acquires Procedural – Master Planning & Urban Design just got easier?

Yesterday at ESRI’s annual user conference in San Diego, Jack Dangermond announced the acquisition of Procedural, the maker of an “up and coming” piece of software called CityEngine that I’ve talked about quite a lot on this blog…

My reaction to this news is enthusiastic I already use ArcGIS in our Urban Design and Master Planning projects extensively.   I’ve been also looking at using CityEngine to speed up the process of master planning as well as other related urban projects.   Better integration with ArcGIS will be great for us.   I’m also looking forward to a more mature product at the next release with support for GeoTiffs at the top of my most wanted list.

From the moment I downloaded the trial of CityEngine (thanks to blog post in DigitalUrban) I saw that this program had huge potential on many levels for my industry.   The key to its usefulness, for me, is it’s ability (or potential ability) to deal with the macro to micro scale of planning.  For example I can get it to grow a region wide street network from obstacle maps and an existing network, but within that and dependent on your rule files I can zoom into building level and have a particular piece of street furniture outside a building.    The possibilities are endless, honestly, and the complexity of your model is only as complex as your rule files.    I can quite quickly make a convincing looking city for master planning purposes provided I put the time into the rule files that govern your model.

At it’s simplest level you can specify lot sizes very easily (provided your area is bounded by a road network).   This means that for some traditional ways of working (I’m talking AutoCAD plotting), has been dramatically reduced.   For a small company like the one I work for, where everyone has multiple jobs (I’m the CAD technician as well on master planning projects!) this is essential for us to remain competitive.

The future of certain urban based modelling, especially in master planning I see as two fold:

  1. Most of the drawing of urban areas will now be governed by text based rule files and drawn automatically using CityEngine methods.   Much of the time consuming processes involved in designing a new city will be reduced to a tiny amount of the project time.
  2. Design becomes more prominent in the process as time freed doing the manual work of plotting cities is replaced by CityEngine.   I think what we will see is design codes and planning standards used as templates to create rule files that can be changed very quickly.   When it comes to, for example, detailed studies for a master plan we as master planners will have much more time to actually design.   By that I mean instead of putting time into plotting in AutoCAD lots, plots and districts we will actually be able to design key buildings and other pieces of the urban fabric.
All in all this is a great piece of software not so much for it’s usability or stability (there needs to be some work done there in places!) but for what it represents which I believe is a complete change in the way we think about urban modelling especially in relation to the master planning industry.
Attending the ESRI UK Conference

Attending the ESRI UK Conference

Okay why a post about some weird acronym type company?  Well in the world of GIS (Geographic Information Systems/Science), ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) a software/consultancy company is a big player.

Yes they are a big corporate entity but in some ways they feel more like a movement, so when their yearly conference comes round I get excited.   Not content with just advertising their products to their customers it feels as if you’re at an event for the GIS industry as a whole.   Whatever issue you might have with ESRI’s software ArcGIS etc… you can’t fault the staff’s enthusiasm and professionalism (well that’s my experience anyway) especially at events like this.

Why the blog post this year? Well because I submitted a paper about using some software in our workflow called CityEngine and was asked to do a presentation on both days.   You can find out more about ESRI here and ESRI UK here, I would also recommend some Wikipedia research on GIS.
You may have come to this post because I mentioned you somewhere, if you want to add something more (links, information etc…) or correct something contact me or add a comment to the relevant post.

  1. ESRI UK Conference – Day 1
  2. ESRI UK Conference – Day 2
  3. ESRI UK Conference – My Presentations
  4. ESRI UK Conference – People I met
  5. ESRI UK Conference – Thoughts for the Future, suggestions for ESRI UK
  6. Back in London – not really related to the conference more musings of visiting our nation’s capital.

 

Quick Tip: Images into AutoCAD LT (2006)

Quick Tip: Images into AutoCAD LT (2006)

Word+AutoCAD = productivity?

Do you have a copy of AutoCAD LT (2006 or other) and  need to insert an image/photo into your layout or data view?  Do you not want to purchase a full version of AutoCAD?  Well you’re in luck as there is an easy way to do it!.

First you need the following :
  • AutoCAD LT (I have 2006 but this may work with other versions)
  • Microsoft Word (I have version 2007 but other versions or alternative office programs may well work)
  • A photo or image (jpg or otherwise) that you want to insert.
  • Some knowledge of Microsoft Windows…
Follow these steps to get images in your AutoCAD drawing:
  1. Open Word and preferably create a new blank document. 
  2. Insert or copy+paste (crtl+c then crtl+v) an image into the Word document.
  3. Select the newly pasted image in word and …
  4. Either 
    • right click –> Copy or 
    • Ctrl+C or 
    • Home Tab Click ‘Copy’
  5. Open or switch to AutoCAD LT and the data/layout view you want the image in and….
  6. Either
    • right-click –> Paste or
    • Crtl+V or
    • Edit Menu –> Paste
Simple, yes?   
As usual if this doesn’t work for you or there is a better work flow just add a comment to the bottom of this post!
ArcGIS : Using Query Builder to display certain features (multiple)

ArcGIS : Using Query Builder to display certain features (multiple)

The Power of SQL & Query Builder

I know this post covers something probably very obvious to many technical users of ArcGIS.   However some of us ArcGIS users are not necessarily aware of Query Builder and it’s uses.  So this advice is for people like us/them.

You may have noticed the “Definition Query” tab in your “Layer Properties” dialog box (right click on your layer and select ‘properties’). As ESRI says in the ArcGIS helpfile:

Query expressions are used in ArcGIS to select a subset of features and table records.

Clear as mud to those not familiar with standard SQL expressions!   Anyway why would you use? Or more importantly why would I use it?

Here was my problem, for a particular project I have imported into a Geodatabase an AutoCAD file that has many layers and a lot of features.  So I am displaying each former AutoCAD layer with different symbology but using the same feature class in the geodatabase each time (clear enough?).

How did I select you? You’re not there!

Using the Symbology tab in the Layer properties I can display only those features that I am interested in.   Now I can make some nice paper maps and the like!   The trouble is when I want to now edit that layer I keep on selecting for some reason the features that I haven’t assigned symbology to.   Very annoying and very frustrating.

So what the Query Builder allows me to do is select only the features that are in this case by layer name field (it’s from AutoCAD) to be used.   Now when I go to edit this layer only those features I have given symbology to are selectable.    Okay I apologise if this doesn’t make sense to you but then perhaps you haven’t had the same issue I have.

Anyway say you have three features types (formerly layers in AutoCAD) that you want display these are:

  • Primary Road
  • Secondary Road
  • Track
All you need to do is type (or construct) the following code into the Query Builder:

“Layer” IN(‘Primary Road’ , ‘Secondary Road’, ‘Local’ )

I’m not here to explain how it works as to be honest I’m not sure and its probable that you can do this another way.   However this works for me, if you have any suggestions as to a better code, I’m all ears so please add a comment after this post and I’ll amend the advice!

I looked for help on the ArcGIS forums beforing writing this post and used the following discussion thread:
Mulitple NOT expressions in query builder? 

Suggested Reads (I guess): Getting to Know ArcGIS Desktop: The Basics of ArcView, ArcEditor, and ArcInfo Updated for ArcGIS 9 (Getting to Know series) and SQL For Dummies

Game changers? Any suggestions?

Game changers? Any suggestions?

Does this do anything for you? Source: Wikipedia

Warning a more than slightly geeky post is about to happen! This list is not in any particular order… (warning most of the list below is linking to wiki)

  1. Commodre 64
  2. PC 1512
  3. Microsoft Windows 3.1
  4. Microsoft Word for Windows
  5. AutoCAD
  6. InkJet printers
  7. iPod 
  8. SketchUP
  9. Freedom of Information/OpenData
  10. GIS
  11. PlanningPortal and Planning Delivery Grant
  12. Kindle
  13. Twitter
The items on the list above all have something in common, yes they are technology related but that’s not necessarily it.   It is an incomplete list in many respects and depending on who you are and your interests you may wish to add and subtract from the list.

So what do they have in common?  As the title of this post suggests they are technologies, software and ideas that I consider to be ‘Game Changers‘ and by that I mean that these have changed how we do things or think about things completely.   I must stress this is a personal list and is based on my bias towards technology, but I think you’ll get the point.

The idea for this post really started with me thinking about how best to produce drawings and display boards in the office where I work.  In the past AutoCAD has been more than adequate, but now I have more choices than I know what to do with and I don’t necessarily have to choose AutoCAD!  The trouble is a lot of people’s mindsets are stuck a few years behind and if its always been done a particular way it’s difficult to change that mindset.  For example I could produce a display board entirely in AutoCAD or SketchUp or combine it with Photoshop and InDesign to get something really special.

So there you have it, a silly little idea for a blog post but one that I hope makes us re-evaluate the jobs we do now and look at things different;y.

Below is my reasonings for each item on the list, would you like to comment on any of them?  I would appreciate it!

Commodre 64 – Okay my family had the Commodore Pet and Vic20 before it, but this was what made computer ownership an integral part of the family environment.   Not just good at games it could Word Process as well!   (some might add ataris, amigas and bbc micro here too).
PC 1512 –  The first computer that looked like something we might have today in our household, with a pre windows DOS (I think MS not DR, but I could be wrong), it was mainly for business.   Working at home using a computer became a reality for us.  I first experienced Elite and pinball on this beauty as well as weird things
Microsoft Windows 3.1 – What can I say a graphical pseudo OS running that made using a PC easier for more people.  Gone was most of complexity of command line DOS and hello to world of icons, windows and desktops!  Game changing because Windows basically hasn’t changed an awful lot since then.  (I am aware of other graphical OS out there, but windows I have used throughout)
Microsoft Word for Windows – (more specifically 2.0)  Up until my first contact with Word I really had no use of anything else for I was to young.  But I’ve only ever used Word in Windows, I have been known to dabble in WordPerfect and OpenOffice but these have never come even close to the familiarity and ease of use I get from Word and all its incarnations.  Word processors allowed people to be free from typewriters and correct errors before they were printed.  Once you could do that the nature of how people worked changed, drafts could be perfected and seen by many more people for instance!
AutoCAD – My first dabble in the world of work was at an architects office where my mother worked, drawing boards and the smell of ammonia for the copier are what give me very vivid memories. Combine that with the ‘salty’ language of the resident architects and the smell of cigarettes and pipes (not from my mother on either account)!!  Here a computer was purchased and after school I got to play on it, it had AutoCAD (release 11 I think) and digitizer, there was also a plotter which used real pens to plot drawings!  Some didn’t see the writing on the wall, but the days of using razor to get rid of mistakes on your drawing were long gone as the result of AutoCAD.  My first job outside of university was using AutoCAD and every subsequent office I’ve been to has basically been at least 2 or 3 versions behind the latest release, which shows how useful AutoCAD can be.

InkJet printers – Printing at home anyone, and cheaply?  Enough said.
iPod – Not so much the device but the whole ecosystem.  The shockwaves of this product are still to this day upsetting the music industry who until Spotify came along were playing catchup to a technology and product which changed the business model entirely.   I see the iPod as having basically reduced recorded music to next to valueless in monetary terms.   Real money can be made by artists but this is from live performances, and advertising (tv/radio or to sell a newspaper).   With an electronic format why are artists not looking more at getting away from the traditional album format?  
SketchUP – 3D modelling software that is the easy to use, if you are even remotely CAD/computer literate this product is amazing and for most people free!   With its layout tool and easy export to many formats this is the way forward.   Forget AutoCAD, it is too expensive, difficult to train someone in and for the most part far too powerful for most uses.  SketchUp means anyone can make a 3D model that looks professional.

Freedom of Information/OpenData – The concept of being able to access government held information freely sounds so reasonable one wonders what we did before to discover what our elected officials and government got up to…   Forget the naysayers that dislike the amount of time which is wasted chasing up ‘stupid’ questions from the public, this has made people think about government differently.  As to OpenData well, as soon as someone figures out how to make use of the flood of data from government and make it usable things will be different.  Which brings us neatly to :
GIS – Geographic Information Systems, before this it was called a map.  Nowadays you can’t escape GIS, its everywhere and that’s why you don’t notice it.  Google/Yahoo Maps? = GIS, SatNav? = GIS, postman/courier? = GIS, rubbish/trash collection? = GIS, Planning Applications? = GIS.   Had enough yet?
PlanningPortal and Planning Delivery Grant –  A bit different this as it relates more to my profession.  The planning delivery grant in the England and Wales forced and encouraged Planning departments to get more efficient and go online by offering financial incentives to meet various Pendleton Point criteria.   Before this came in very few councils made it easy for the public to find the planning departments section of their website.   Pendleton made it a key requirement.  
Is that important to have a link on a council’s frontpage I hear you all ask?! Well yes considering that residents often need the planning department and are consulted by them as well.  Hiding your consultation documents and planning applications is hardly open and transparent is it?   Yes a paper register is kept that you can see if you visit the council offices, but who can take time off from work to do that?  Suffice to say I think the Planning delivery grant was one of the few government schemes that has increased participation of residents in the democratic process.  As to the Planning Portal, heaven forbid that us professionals are forced to stop spending money on printing and delivery of planning application documents!   
Kindle –  Yes, yes my blog post and radio debut due to a kindle blah blah…  Hang on a minute though, the Kindle like the iPod has challenged a long established industry of paper, bricks/mortar and publishers.  Yes other eReaders are available, but Amazon’s delivery method and their Kindle (hardware and software) is amazingly simple.  

Publishers must get a grip on this and innovate with the technology and not just sit there like the music industry did until it’s too late suing ‘John Smith’ for allowing his children to download music that they can listen to for free on radio…  

Oh sure there are deep meaningful conversations to be had about the nature of book reading, and the relationship between publisher, authors and the consumer.  But just remember technology and in particular the consumer adapts.   For instance I didn’t know this until recently but you can’t purchase legally any Harry Potter book for an ereader.  Why? Because of the fear of piracy?  Sorry but that ship has sailed if I want a copy of any Harry Potter book electronically I can get it now with the help of a search engine… result one lost sale for publisher and author.  I’m not advocating stealing (that’s what piracy is often) but there are ways to get good profits out of digital sales of books (not just film rights!).

Twitter – I’m not going to be a typical twitter advocate here,  after my initial scepticism and resistance I came late to Twitter.  Perhaps it was the constant twitter this, and twitter that from radio DJs (I’m looking at you BBC) but I hated the idea.  Why on earth would you share with the world your life’s smallest details??!  Who the hell cares if celebrity A is drinking with celebrity B.  

Oh and an endorsement from Stephen Fry a person I respect and admire greatly didn’t do it for me either, as far as I was concerned Twitter was for patting famous people on the back.

Then for some unknown reason I caved completely, I think I had searched for something to do with GIS and then realised a whole community for GIS users were on twitter. Damn it!  I joined up and have slowly realised that twitter is populated almost without exception with polite helpful people.  Of course this is a product of who I follow and what I’m interested in.   

The fact is that now news and information I would not have found otherwise comes to me.  Yes I still use Google and my main sites but for the most part I sit in front of Hootsuite (a twitter client) soaking it all up.  As to it being a game changer think of it this way:  

If you are in a small business advertising is a bloody nightmare and expensive too.  What if by being yourself you could talk to your potential customer base directly.   For the most part you only follow people who interest you, so my contacts are mostly GIS and planning related (as well as localgov).   This works in reverse so people will follow you and look at your links because they are interested in what you have to say.   This brings me to state the bleeding obvious “content is important” give people interesting articles or weblinks and they will trust you further and look more closely out for your ‘tweets’.

All I can say is try it out and get involved, you will see pretty quickly that twitter, far from being a social tool is a simple and potentially effective tool for communicating with prospective clients as well as gaining knowledge.

So that’s my list apologies for its length, but now I would really like your comments, anything I’ve missed out or that you agree/disagree with?  I won’t be offended, but I will be interested!


Photomodeler and creating a 3D model of a Historic building

Photomodeler and creating a 3D model of a Historic building

I’m not just a planner or a GIS man!   As part of my work at Garsdale Design Limited, I help in the assessment and survey of historic buildings (in conjunction with our Heritage Specialist).   One such building I am working on at the moment requires a nice measured and detailed drawing, as part of a planning application.

We’re using a piece of software called Photomodeler to build up an accurate 3D (and 2D if you really want) model of this lovely old farmhouse in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  The process invloves calibration of your chosen camera (preferably a good quality one), then the taking of a large amount of photos from at least two opposing angles of all parts of your building.  

Once imported into Photomodeler you need to mark the same point one each photo, and if you’ve done it correctly you will get yourself a pretty accurate model.   We also do a good amount of measuring to ensure that the model does indeed remain accurate…

We’ve used this method before and I have to say the software is excellent and relatively easy to use.   Creating a 3D model is also great fun and once finished is incredibly satisfying.    Photomodeler allows you to do accurate drawings without spending as much time on site (which can be a cost saving!).

We then export our model to a DXF format (3D or 2D), but you can export to kml and a variety of other formats (see screen capture to the left).    Photomodeler also allows for the photos to be projected onto your surfaces.

Anyway I really recommend that if you are interested you give it a go, Photomodeler isn’t just for buildings as their marketing will state! 

You can also view your new model in stereo view if you have those nifty 3D red/blue glasses…ooooo

Photomodeler Website is here
We bought our software and subsequent training from Photarc