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…

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