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This is a post that has been in ‘draft’ for sometime, hopefully you have already read Nicholas Duggan’s write-up for GISWORX in xyHt, as well as Garsdale Design’s short blog.

Hopefully you know by now that I am quite found of the annual GISWORX conference hosted by GISTEC in Dubai’s prestigious Al Bustan Rotana hotel.  A gathering for 700+ GIS professionals from around the Middle East region is a fantastic place to learn and network with other GIS professionals.

don’t be fooled by the glitz of an app

What’s really striking about this conference is it’s ability to showcase a huge variety of public and private geospatial work from across the region and industry.   The UAE’s geospatial credentials are ‘second-to-none’ with each government department encouraged and funded to think digitally and innovatively.   Of course this means an app for everything, but don’t be fooled by the glitz of an app, because behind these is a complicated infrastructure driving back office systems and public engagement.  Anyone who has been to the UAE (and in particular Dubai and Abu Dhabi) will know that the sheer speed of development is dizzying and this means government needs to manage data carefully and quickly.3dThis year was the first time GISWORX had a special track devoted to 3DGIS called ‘3D for Everyone’, largely I’m proud to say due to the influence of Garsdale Design and our amazing friendship with GISTEC.  You may not have noticed but 3D technologies are undergoing somewhat of a renaissance with mobile and desktop hardware ever more capable combining with new web viewing technologies like WebGL.  This means massive 3D urban models can be streamed to anyone with an internet connection.  

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This has huge implications for GIS and planning departments.  The public expect mapping online, they also now expect their 3D visualisations to be game like and smooth.  Fortunately we can do this now.  My dear friend Kiran Kumar from GISTEC demo’d an amazing 3D streaming map on the Esri platform (ArcGIS Server + Portal) of Dubai, a couple of clicks later and this is an informative storymap for everyone to view.

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My involvement in the EGI awards committee again this year meant that I got to see some of the details about various departments and private organisation’s GIS work up close.  I can tell you that what people are doing in the Middle East in regards to GIS is world-class stuff.  The awardees all had strong entries and proved their capabilities for implementing large GIS based projects which had benefits across their organisations.


I was pleasantly surprised to be asked to host the awards ceremony too.  The EGI awards evening was lively and gave the Garsdale Design team (Nicholas Duggan, Kevin Wade and myself) a chance to socialise with data providers, GIS professionals, and decision makers.  

Garsdale Design’s workshops were well received I again conducted a CityEngine introduction ‘hands-on’ workshop and Nicholas Duggan presented on using ArcGISPro for wind farm development analysis (very cool!).  We also co-hosted the ‘3D for Everyone’ session with GISTEC, where I also presented a session on 3D 3D solutions for the world and a small session on Esri CityEngine entitled ‘Models and applications for the city of tomorrow’, which also gave some insight into the next release of CityEngine (2016!!).


At our booth we talked with many organisations struggling to understand what the new 3D software and hardware developments meant for them in regards to their work.   Much of the concern is based on a mis-conception that 3D is new and ‘just’ for visualisation.  Of course our answer was, 3D isn’t new, there are well established use cases for 3DGIS across many industries and that 3D visualisation is not a trivial component, in fact visualisation for many projects is a quick way of communicating information to people.

One other key conversation on many people’s lips this year was the drop in oil prices, which has far reaching implications across the region.  However whilst the consensus was that this year would be harder than most, there was still money to be spent on innovative projects especially in the geospatial sector.

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So as you can tell we had an enjoyable conference in Dubai, GISTEC did another amazing job hosting this again.  I look forward to next year! I’ll leave you with one final thought, of all the conferences we have been to, GISWORX has the best conference food out of all of them.  No dry sandwiches here, proper buffet hotel food cooked to perfection. Well done Al Bustan Rotana, Dubai!