Geobusiness 2016…THE place to be

From xyHt magazine 30/5/2016 – Original Posted here

GeoBusiness 2016 – London

Wow! Just wow [ed. Translation to US-English “Wow!!”]. Last week I was at the UK ESRI annual conference with 3000+ people crammed into the tight QEII conference centre, this still didn’t prepare me for GeoBusiness this year. The same venue as last year but somehow they’ve crammed in a few more stands and it was BUSY!!

Here are some stats:

  • 200 exhibitors from 17 Countries
  • 24 conference presentations
  • 85 workshop sessions

….and this was over just 2 days!

From the moment I got there at 9am until I got thrown out at about 4:30pm, I didn’t stop, as soon as one conversation finished, another began…such a great mix of Chartered Survey, Chartered Geography, Geomatics, GIS, Engineering covering all areas of geospatial work, it was hard not to be impressed.

GeoBusiness 2016 was held May 24th-25th at the Business Designn Center - Islington, London

GeoBusiness 2016 was held May 24th-25th at the Business Design Center – Islington, London

Ordnance Survey

One of the first companies I met was my old friends, Ordnance Survey. The headline “The most accurate and up-to-date geographic data now available for the first time in new application suitable for BIM projects” blazened across the page in front of me.

For a while I’ve been in contact with Ordnance Survey and been told many times that there was no interest in 3D (even though I’d worked on some in my employ there)….so it was a bit of a shock to hear that OS had been working with Cadline behind the scenes to produce a great new tool for Infraworks, called OS Model Builder.

Using the OS Model Builder you can rapidly create 2D and 3D building or infrastructure models which are BIM ready.

Gary McDonald, OS Strategic Relationship Manager said: “OS listened to feedback from the building industry and the result is Model Builder, a leap forward in bringing our world-class data under one roof and removing previous license hassles. We are also aware that when you are dealing with multi-million pound projects and making important decisions, you don’t want the risk of relying on inferior and inaccurate geographic data. You want the best and most current picture to work from.”

Ordnance Survey of the UK booth

Ordnance Survey of the UK booth

Avenza Systems Inc.

Next up I meet with Avenza, a leading developer of cartographic software, such as MAPublisher and Geographic Imager tools for [Adobe] Photoshop. as we chat about how cartography is changing, I hear that their mobile app has had over 1 MILLION downloads…..let’s just think about that, there are either a lot of kids thinking that this is a cool game or there are people out there actually using maps, Avenza maps to be more precise.

Avenza says that unlike other map apps that provide one view of a location using GPS coordinates, Avenzas PDF maps app provides a meaningful interface to measure distances, drop placemarks and share personal recorded data in various formats for use on land, sea or air. PDF maps is an award winning all encompassing solution for the use, distribution and sale of digital versions of paper maps to mobile devices.

My personal opinion is that it is a great app to use when travelling abroad as the maps can be accesses and used offline, removing the worry on international trips of that “International roaming” charge!

In other news, I noted that Mapublisher 9.7 was also announced with WMS now available to be managed, geopackage format now supported and the help system has been moved online…..

Avenza have been extremely busy these last 12 months!

VUCITY

I’m walking away from the talk with Avenza and I can’t help but be drawn towards a HUGE interactive table, this thing has to be 60 inches if not bigger and the images on it are crisp…..it is even harder not to believe that the city which I am moving around is an 3D model….it is so cool, it has shadows, real time sun position, atmospheric density….and that is before I point out that this is accurate to 15cm over the 130 square kilometres of London, it is expanding at a rate of 5-8 square kilometres a MONTH!

VUCITY Demonstration

VUCITY Demonstration

Sandor Petroczi, Product Manager of Vertex Modelling said: “Using a combination of photogrammetry, high res  aerial imagery and a highly skilled workforce, we are able to create our 3D model of London that can be used by any entity involved in design and planning of the city. We do not use any automated processes and although this is more expensive and time consuming, it allows us to create highly usable models with a consistent level of accuracy across the dataset. The team is currently capturing Camden and Southwark while updating existing areas from the latest 2015 imagery. VUCITY is an ideal solution for visualising the entire dataset.”

I’ve got to admit that I am very impressed but part of me is a little unsure about their claim to be the “first ever interactive 3D model of London” purely because I’ve seen a few 3D interactive models of London, one from CartoConsult, a company based in Swindon and also Garsdale Design (yes the one I work for!) although our model wasn’t served as a webGL to be interactive, it still won and ESRI award and I would suggest that it is a little better than 15cm, more like 4-8cm.

 

3D Laser Mapping

Walking away from VUCITY feeling very confused, I feel my phone buzz and I check my Twitter….and it’s Charlie Whyman from 3D Laser Mapping, asking if I’d been to their stand and I’d been REALLY impressed if I had.

Not one to shy away from a challenge I rock up, ready to rubbish such claims…but firstly Charlie is a girl and secondly their kit is pretty cool. Now, I don’t want that previous statement to come across as sexist, what I mean by it is that you come across a lot of men when you talk survey kit…A LOT of men, so having spoken on the internet with Charlie a bit, I had already put an image in my head….but no, not hairy, not wearing a hard hat, not even a pair of wellies….

Charlie of 3D laser Mapping and the backpack mobile mapping system

Charlie of 3D laser Mapping and the backpack mobile mapping system

ANYHOW, on display was a backpack type laser scanning system named ROBIN. about 8-10kg in weight and mobile enough to wear for a couple of hours at a time. I’m told that the portable battery pack would last you 3hrs (but is expandable). So that I can get an idea of HOW portable it is, I ask my human guinea pig, Tim Hughes, to put it on and see how it feels. Apart from looking like an extra from the Ghostbuster movies, it is extremely comfy and also it has a field of view of 330° and an 18MP camera. Best of all?….It is designed for outdoor and INDOOR capture, yes INDOOR (why I’m saying that in capitals, I don’t know).

At this moment, the ROBIN is waiting for the SLAM upgrade, which should be happening a little later in the year.

Mark Hudson of Geoterra said “Geoterra is very excited about the launch of the new ROBIN multiplatform mapping system. It’s become evident that there’s a gap in the sector for this kind of product and we’re sure it’ll prove to be an extremely popular addition to the marketplace”

The ROBIN mobile mapping system

The ROBIN mobile mapping system

So, to understand how the accuracy of the SLAM unit works (for indoor mapping) I went over to GeoSLAM to see if they’d talk….about all I got was a surveyor telling me how clever this device is and that it records you start point to high accuracy (typically 3cm but 1cm has been reported), once your position (indoors) is known, it then uses your route (provided you complete a circuit) to fully map the internals…..I asked questions about how it knows scale, units of measure, speed etc but was quickly faced with a blank face and the term “Really clever algorithms” – me thinks it is the beginning of a GREAT article for a future issue!

GEOSlam

As I said above, having been wowed by the ROBIN system, I went over to GeoSLAM to find out more about how the SLAM works but what I didn’t say was they had a huge screen up behind themselves showing the rather clean and crisp scan they had made of the exhibition center. Any doubts I had were quickly extinguished the indoor detail looked really good, with a 100hz sensor  and capture of 43,200 points per second, I’m not surprised.

The model I was being showed was the ZEB-REVO, a handheld laser scanner which automatically revolves compared to ZEB1 which was, errr….”interesting” to use. An unrelated demo video of the ZEB-REVO in action can be watched here.

GeoSLAM's booth - their ZEB-REVO handheld scanner-mapping system was out and about on the exhibition floor on demo duty...

GeoSLAM’s booth – their ZEB-REVO handheld scanner-mapping system was out and about on the exhibition floor on demo duty…

Graham Hunter, Managing Director of GeoSLAM said “The ZEB-REVO fulfills a new niche in the market for ultra mobile indoor mapping solutions. Our early adopters have been thoroughly impressed with the ease of operation, vastly reduced  scan time and accuracy of the resultant point cloud, all from surveying just 1 closed loop. It won’t be long until the ZEB-REVO is the ‘go-to’ standard in the surveyor’s toolkit”

Severn Partnership

Just around th corner from GEOSlam, I bumped into a Ben McEwen from Seeable, also Severn Partnership. I couldn’t help be be drawn into talking about the VR Occulus Rift on the table….Severn Partnership are a survey company, they have some great pieces of kit, their main man, Rollo was showing me over their road kit (mounted on a truck) and it is impressive, they are all chartered surveyors and know their stuff, all except for Ben….there was all this amazing 3D vector buildings (also in VR) and Ben was telling me how easy it was. Here is the real story, Ben is from a GAMING background, he is used to modelling games and adding real physics using the unreal engine…no wonder the models looked so good but it goes to show that sometimes we are too hung up on the detail and the accuracy….when we are looking at a visualisation, how important is it that it is 1cm-5cm accurate when you can emulate real world physics?….Watch this space….

Severn Partnership's "Seeable" visualisation tools were demonstrated on a VR Occulus Rift headeset

Severn Partnership’s “Seeable” visualisation tools were demonstrated on a VR Occulus Rift headeset

Several mobile mapping systems were parked in an outdoor area. Severn Partnership's Rollo Rigby (left-center) brought along their mapping rig featuring a Leica Pegasus:Two

Several mobile mapping systems were parked in an outdoor area. Severn Partnership’s Rollo Rigby (left-center) brought along their mapping rig featuring a Leica Pegasus:Two

British Geological Survey

A couple of booths up from Severn Partnerships was the BGS, what I wasn’t expecting to see was a 3D mouse sat on the desk….why? BGS are now providing 3D geology data for almost all of the UK. How cool is that? Okay, so it is high level, you can obtain 1:10000 scale 3D data for a cost but for many cases, this is great news.

PointFUSE

I bumped into these guys while gawping at a video of some mesh (point cloud) data being converted in one simple step into a vector polygon, no tricks, no messing with triangles, just a point and click conversion. Although currently (here in the UK) we are only able to access to version 1.2, look out for version 2.0 which takes things to a whole new level!

Point Fuse demonstrated their applications for converting point clouds to vector data

Point Fuse demonstrated their applications for converting point clouds to vector data

Also…

There were so many other great companies there, Leica, Trimble, TopCon and others but I see that I am already running close to 2000 words. In my opinion, the big conversation was 3D, everyone was selling it (albeit in different formats) and also good old fashioned surveying but using the new tools to make it more accurate and useable than ever before.

What a great event, let’d do it again next year!!

Nick D

 

More Photos…

Korec Group brought their mobile mapping buggy sporting a Trimble MX2 system. Parked behind that is a van with a Trimble MX8

Korec Group brought their mobile mapping buggy sporting a Trimble MX2 system. Parked behind that is a van with a Trimble MX8

Topcon's Sirius fixed-wing UAS

Topcon’s Sirius fixed-wing UAS

Topson's Falcon 8 multi-rotor UAS

Topson’s Falcon 8 multi-rotor UAS

– See more at: http://www.xyht.com/spatial-itgis/geobusiness-2016-london/#sthash.zeIhAsXG.dpuf

GISWorx 2016

Previously posted in xyHt April 2016

For most, work is a 9 to 5 grind that slowly eats at your core until you retire, find you have nothing to do and get bored…Not if you work in the geospatial field though, everyday is a new adventure and this month took me to the UAE, to be specific, Dubai for the GISWORX 2016 conference which is hosted by GISTEC.

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Any thoughts of rocking up and spurting out some rubbish about topology and geometry were quickly quenched when I looked through the program of events which entailed subjects like ‘3D For Everyone’, ‘Geocortex Day’ and a rather awesome technical session on ‘3D GIS’ (held by myself) – full agenda here. In fact from the moment the plenary started, there was a theme, and that was how to use 3D integration.

Having been to many ESRI User Conferen

ces in the past, they mostly involve Story Maps, ArcGIS Online and getting you moneys worth from your ArcGIS Desktop, so this was a whole new world…as I walked around the stands I was talking with Dubai Municipality about “z mapping”, with Abu Dhabi Spatial Data Infrastructure on standards for heighted data and Barco on immersive envrionments, it was clear that I was amongst experts who already had control of their data and were ahead of the mainstream GIS which is current in the UK & US governments at present.

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Once of my favourite talks and a favourite by many who I spoke with was “Changing the system: Happiness first” by CEO of GISTEC, Mohamed Abuziad. The talk was primarily 10 minutes of the GISTEC team in photos, but in every photo they were happy, they were happy to be giving you a solution to your problem, they were happy to be doing GIS, they were happy to be helping their country…..if you ever get to see any of this talk, it will no doubt make you happy! It will also make you wonder why why look to the money hungry corporations which we have come to rely on.

Another clear winner was a talk by Geocortex which started with a great slide:

“Whoever thinks money doesn’t buy happiness, send it over to my bank account”

…this guy could sell the clothes off your back and you wouldn’t know it!

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The technical sessions had many hands on sessions which gave training on CityEngine, Story Maps and other areas of ESRI software…each one was exceptionally well taught with enough (trained) staff on hand to give guidance to those not quick enough to keep up. I had the privilidge of sitting in on my colleague, Elliot Hartleys workshop on CityEngine and GISTEC had not only supplied laptops for everyone, all preloaded with Windows 10 and CityEngine but also with some demo data – something unheard of here in a UK workshop (and the training was fantastic!)

While there, I was told by a few of the delegates I met that it was a little quieter than some years and even though it was an ESRI conference, there was little obvious presence of ESRI (except that everyone was using their software). I personally didn’t feel it and being so busy taking in all the information it felt like a great mix of people, with just enough room to stop and chat when needed.

It isn’t hard to see why the spatial infrastructure and methods for delivery are so advanced, just looking around Dubai (during the free day I had), you could see development occurring all around. There were (potentially) as many construction sites as there were built structures all meticulously planned and each one a work of art in its own right.

 

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One thing I was glad that I saw, was seeing some of the clever “wind towers” (which were the theme of the EGI awards) – These are towers, designed to face the prevailing wind and allow air to flow through the building. This not only creates an airflow but also helps the heat escape making for a more habitable structure.

To wrap up, would I go again? Yes! Was it worth it? Definitely! A great showcase of dynamic urban planning and development which I would recommend to anyone in the geospatial field, if only to be inspired.

 

Nick D