Dealing with Vertical Datum….the Mariners Way

Before 3D GIS we were able to measure miles below the sea and miles beyond our own atmosphere to a great level of accuracy, so how did we do it?

There are a few methods for working between vertical coordinate systems but the one I want to discuss is possibly the simplest, not always the MOST accurate but good enough for many of todays simple 3D applications. It is one I was taught by a master mariner and offshore surveyor that is still used widely in the offshore industry today, commonly called measurement by Tidal survey opposed to Geodetic datum used onshore.

The method works by calculating the differences between Mean Sea Level (MSL), Tide gauge or local vertical vertical coordinate system as they are all related and constantly measured for both consistency and accuracy.

What is a tide gauge?

If you have ever been to the beach and seen a big ruler attached to the wall, this is a rudimentary tidal gauge.

Rudimentary tide gauge found on the beach

Tidal gauges are used to measure the tides (obvs) and MSL. By observing the sea over long periods of time we can not only get an accurate measure of datum but also make predictions.

How does a tide gauge dictate datum?

For decades, the only way to express topographic or bathymetric elevation was to relate it to the seas’ level. Geodesists  believed that the sea was in balance with the earth’s gravity. MSL is the mathematical mean of hourly water elevations observed over a described 19-year cycle, by measuring over this specific period the highs and lows caused by gravitational effects can be averaged.

Tidal heights & chart datum_A4

If you are reading this, I am assuming you already know a little about datum and geoids, therefore I’ll just say that this sea level creates an equipotential surface (geoid) which is commonly used to define WGS84.

Local coordinate systems are commonly based on local tide gauges, take for example the Ordnance Surveys’ Newlyn vertical datum. This is based on tide gauge measurements taken at the [Newlyn]  observation centre in Cornwall.

A seemingly ordinary lighthouse….until you spot the GPS antenna….this is the OS Newlyn tidal observatory.

To keep this more accurate for mariners, there are many tide gauges located all around the UK, as this makes for a more accurate vertical reference. You may have heard of the term “Chart Datum”, this refers to the datum (recorded at the Lowest Astronomical Tide (LAT) see image above) for the tide gauge which is referenced in the navigational chart.

tidal gauges UK
The UK tide gauge network courtesy of BODC 

Working between datum

With tide gauges all around the world, there is also a plethora of data. Places like NOAA & NOC provide accurate calculations to work between these gauges.

Datum differences UK
Screenshot from the National Oceanographic Centre website (

So, if you have your data in Newlyn, you can quite easily recalculate all your data to another datum. This can be done for most, if not all tidal datum and then converted to geodetic datum.

PSMSML is a great website for working out the differences, see this screenshot of the Liverpool data:

Screenshot of Liverpool references from the PSMSL website


Please keep in mind that this method of working with vertical data will work as a BASIC method of working between vertical coordinate systems. Keep in mind what accuracy your data currently has and also the accuracy of the conversion method (note above image that you may need to convert between 1994 MSL and 2016 MSL).

Ocean Business 2017

Originally posted on xyHt 17/4/2017

Last week, April 4th – 6th, one of the largest gatherings for the offshore industry took place, Ocean Business, in Southampton, UK. The bi-annual event is a large deal for the maritime industry. When I say large, I actually mean huge; there are over 350 exhibitors from 26 countries and 166 training and demonstration workshops in just those three days!

What is amazing about Ocean Business is that the whole maritime industry is represented. Of course there are the surveyors, the geologists, and the equipment hire companies, but also there are representatives from the GIS, CAD and engineering sectors all sitting side by side.

At the last event talk was about the latest Reson multibeam device. Whereas before conversation would have been around capturing scour and wreck details, this year was talk of analysing pipelines for cracks or whether bolts were where they should be. It was hard at times to remember that I was at an offshore event as the technology has developed so quickly.

Of course, in two years, technology has shrunk. With the onshore industry, this is not overly exciting but offshore this is BIG news. Take, for example, the Planet Ocean micro AUV, developed with the National Oceanographic Centrre. This micro-UAV is only 50cm long and shaped like the traditional “torpedo”. Being fully autonomous allows it to capture data in ways never previously considered.

Big improvements to Doppler Velocity Log (DVL) technology was demonstrated by most of the equipment exhibitors like Sonardyne, Nortek and Kongsberg. If you don’t know what a DVL is, it how you get location when you are underwater and have no GPS/GNSS. The systems on show were capable of capturing the location at better than 0.01m at depths up to 6000m. Just think that over and relate that to your super cool iPhone!

The data providers and geospatial companies who were present were murmering about BIM and how it is going to start to become an issue. How does BIM integrate with the information captured and provided offshore? Can the maritime industry build a common spatial data infrastructure?

One company I met that were really making strides on this was OceanWise. Dr Mike Osborne, a respected hydrographer, has taken it upon himself to get the maritime industry thinking about these issues and working towards a solution. OceanWise provides nautical geospatial data but also trains the offshore and onshore industries in the use of GIS for nautical charting, including maritime standards. Mike  has set up maritime spatial data infrastructure groups across the world with 33 countries already involved, something which is unheard of in the onshore industries. Mike has agreed to be interviewed by xyHt, so look out for that in a later issue!

My final comment is about how much Lego was on display. I mean, do these guys have nothing better to do with their time? As much as there was UAVs, transponders, ROVs and new vessels, there were Lego survey vessels and tech remodelled in Lego. Maybe it is because I wasn’t allowed to take one home that I am so curious about it.



Click on an image below to see the larger version


Vertical transformations in GIS

You know those moments where you are sat in a pub, the office or at a friends house and you say something, then suddenly wonder why you haven’t thought of it before?….I had that very issue in the Brew Dog pub near Spitalfields in London, UK a couple of weeks ago. You see, I was discussing the use of web mapping in 3D and writing a specification for the data being hosted and then it came out….

“I wonder if 3D GIS systems use 3D transformations”…...

Before I even finished the sentence I was starting to get palpitations at the thought of throwing all my hard work over the last few months away. Okay, so maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. I do take into consideration the vertical transformation when working between data and am a bit of a tide datum nerd, though the question was now out there….

3D GIS…a quick reminder

First, let me address the “3D GIS” elephant in the room. Is there such a thing? My current stance is yes. Having used many different GIS over the last few years, I would say that many would tell you that they are, but they would almost all be wrong. Take for example CesiumJS, it is a fantastic 3D webgl viewer but can you edit the data on screen? Can you transform data between coordinate systems? (The answer you are looking for is no) Other systems which I have discounted are QGIS, MapInfo, CADCorp, Google Earth, ArcScene, GRASS, OpenGIS and also AutoCAD Map¹, purely due to them not having the capability of showing multiple coordinate system 3D data on a globe. Yes, I understand that you can pre-process the data so that it is all in the same coordinate system and then process the datum so that it is all consistent, but NOT on the fly.

There is only one “3D GIS” at the moment, the much overlooked ESRI ArcGIS Pro.


Compared to the 3D capabilities of the other GIS, asking it to handle vertical transformations on the globe as well as the most up to date horizontal transformations would be a bit of an ask, but you know what?…..It is pretty good…..

Disclaimer time, I am currently running the Beta version of ArcGIS Pro 1.4, though I am told it shouldn’t matter, also I have been talking with a few of the developers on functionality but this is a 3D GIS which is out on the shelves now and works. For the OCD spatial nerd, it ticks the boxes, I can use the provided international transformations or I can create my own, though more importantly, I can work with my survey (lidar) data alongside my topographic data, which is alongside my hydrographic data- so I can easily QA the data and share the results quickly.

For the n00bs, why do you need vertical transformations?

Simply put, a horizontal datum is a reference system for specifying positions on the Earth’s surface, so that the coordinate system is of uniform measure, likewise, a vertical datum is a reference to the height of the surface. All simple at the moment….a datum is based on an ellipsoid/spheroid (these geo people can’t decide what shape round they want to call it, so interchange all the time) Each ellipsoid is the best approximation of the Earths surface at any point on the Earth, you may have seen “Clarke 1866, GRS80 or WGS84” in the coordinate information of your data


So you can start to see, just transforming your 3D data from one coordinate system to another isn’t quite so simple as the 2D Helmert you’ve been using. Relax, I’m not going to now go into a geoids and equipotential surfaces (unless you want me to) I am merely pointing out that we need vertical transformations in out lives, otherwise, when you transform your beautiful 3D village model from WGS84 to British National Grid, you will be wondering why it is floating in the air.

This might not matter much to the casual 3D GIS dabbler, as most of the work may be small and the effects won’t be large enough to be noticeable, though when it gets to city size, you will certainly start seeing issues with the buildings at the periphery not sitting right (when you edit the centre to sit right).

In summary

Since joining Garsdale Design in January, I have been doing a LOT of 3D GIS and putting my geodetic knowledge to ensuring things are correct. In the last 6 months I have been having to use ArcGIS Pro more and more, partly due to functionality and partly due to data formats which clients use. My opinion is that this software is becoming the one stop shop for 3D GIS and it is capable of supporting the whole project lifecycle of the project….it could turn out to be the BIM solution that everyone has overlooked. More importantly though, is that ESRI have done their homework and are supporting vertical datum transformations….okay, there are a few missing here and there BUT the list is growing and they are putting these vertical transformations into the geoprocessing tools of ArcGIS Desktop too.

Screenshot of (a small portion of) the vertical transformation list

If you know of another 3D GIS, please let me know, as I’d be eager to try it. Please feel free to either contact me direct or through comment below.

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!


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… 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!


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.


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


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:

QGIS 2.14 v ArcGIS 10.4

Posted in xyht magazine 21st March 2016
This post almost didn’t happen, for over 7yrs I’ve been comparing GIS software in the hope that someone would be reading and take it upon themselves to fix a few of the issues which we all run into on a daily basis. With the new releases someone told me something and it almost stopped it all from happening…..


“ESRI is the Apple Inc and QGIS is the Google…”


As painful as it is to hear, it’s true. Even though I’ve been a hardcore user of QGIS for over 5yrs, I find myself falling back into using the ArcMap tools just to save myself rummaging through lists of plugins and I especially like that I can just drag and drop my data into the data frame and it just works.

As powerful as ArcMap/Arcscene/ArcGIS Pro/ArcGlobe/ArcGIS Explorer/ArcServer/Arc*add your own term here* is, it feels old and a little clunky, like using Windows XP. For a decade it has had the same comfy interface, the same basic functions and the same symbology. This is by no means a bad thing but the cartographic capabilities of QGIS are far superior and let’s not mention the true 64bit processing…

This year, there is a new contender from ESRI which I feel I need to discuss, ArcGIS Pro 1.2. Although it is in beta,  it is already proving itself a worthy successor to ArcMap. Unfortunately, until it is out of beta, I won’t be testing it as I feel it is unfair to compare an unfinished software/

Before we get to the crux of things, I’d just like to add that there have been no major interface changes to either software and I am GIS neutral. I just want a GIS that works and is reliable, I have no bias as to one or the other.


Let battle ommence
Let battle ommence

So what is new in QGIS 2.14?

The most talked about is the inclusion of a 2.5D renderer (covered in earlier blogs) but what you may not have noticed are the subtle changes, changes to the processing, caching, labelling and legend. Here is a full list which links to the QGIS changelog


What’s new in ArcMap 10.4?

There are quite a few new raster types available for the software, some of which I have to admit that I had never heard of but interesting to see that you can now export topology errors in the ArcMap Basic license. For those wondering why I haven’t listed all the changes, please remember that this is a comparison of the basic GIS software.


Data Management toolbox

New tools


Tool Changes
Add Rasters To Mosaic Dataset Two new parameters added:
Alter Mosaic Dataset Schema The raster_type_names parameter has 12 new options:
Analyze Control Points The out_overlap_table parameter is now Optional.
Apply Block Adjustment New parameter added: DEM.
Compute Control Points Three new parameters added:

  • area_of_interest
  • distribution
  • density
Compute Tie Points Two new parameters added:

  • distribution
  • density
Copy Raster Two new parameters added:

  • transform
  • format
Create Database Connection The database_platform parameter has a new option: DAMENG.
Create Database User When the tool is run against a geodatabase in Oracle or PostgreSQL, it now creates shared log file tables for the user. With the log file tables already created, the database administrator can remove privileges to create tables from the user, if needed, without negatively affecting the user’s ability to create large selection sets, edit data, or reconcile versioned data.
Create Enterprise Geodatabase When you run the tool on an Oracle 12c database, the sde user is granted privileges required to import data using Oracle Data Pump. This allows you to complete your Oracle Data Pump export and import workflows without having to separately grant these privileges.
Create Feature Class The geometry_type parameter has a new option: MULTIPATCH.
Create LAS Dataset New parameter added: create_las_prj.
Create Map Tile Package New parameter added: extent.
Create Mosaic Dataset The product_definition parameter has nine new options:
Create Pansharpened Raster Dataset The sensor parameter has seven new options:
Detect Feature Changes New parameter added: compare_line_direction.
Export Topology Errors You can now run this tool with an ArcGIS for Desktop Basic license.
Feature Compare The ignore_options parameter has a new option: IGNORE_FIELDALIAS.
Generate Tile Cache Tiling Scheme The tile_format parameter has a new option: LERC.
Project New parameter added: vertical.
Register Raster The transformation_type parameter has a new option: POLYSIMILARITY.
Synchronize Mosaic Dataset New parameter added: estimate_statistics.
Table Compare The ignore_options parameter has a new option: IGNORE_FIELDALIAS.
Warp The transformation_type parameter has a new option: POLYSIMILARITY.
Warp From File The transformation_type parameter has a new option: POLYSIMILARITY.

Editing toolbox

New tools

Multidimension toolbox

New tools

Python and ArcPy

ArcGIS 10.4 has been upgraded to include Python 2.7.10. Additional third-party libraries including SciPy, pandas, Sympy, and nose have been included, and existing third-party libraries including NumPy and matplotlib have been upgraded to more current releases.

The GetPackageInfo function has been added to return a dictionary about packages.


The topology edit tool now supports additional commands and keyboard shortcuts for selecting and moving nodes and edges.

  • Press the N key to select topology nodes.
  • Press the E key to select topology edges.
  • Move and Move To commands are now available on the topology edit tool context menu.

Parcel Editing

Parcel merge

The parcel Merge dialog box now has additional options for managing parent parcels. Parent parcels can be deleted, flagged as historic, or remain as current, active parcels.

Parcel division

When dividing parcels into equal areas, the number of parts on the Parcel Division dialog box can be set to 1. Set the number of equal area parts to 1 when a deed calls for a specific area to be divided from the parcel, leaving a remainder parcel.

Mean points

Performance improvements have been made to the Mean Points tool. Furthermore, the tool now always stays active and can be used repeatedly without the need to specify a tolerance.

Least-squares adjustment

Collinear line sequences in the same plan are straightened during adjustment postprocessing if they lie within the specifiedStraighten Collinear Line Sequences tolerances. These tolerances are available on the Adjust Coordinates dialog box.


Geodatabases and databases

  • A new advanced option—All records for Tables—has been added to the Create Replica wizard. Checking this option allows you to designate the inclusion of all data from all tables in your replica. In earlier releases, you had to set the option to include data for each table individually.
  • Beginning with ArcGIS 10.4, you must set an additional option (Return Output Parameters As ResultSet) when youconfigure the ODBC driver to connect to Teradata.
  • ArcGIS now supports connections to Dameng databases. You can connect to view and analyze data in ArcMap. You can also publish map and feature services to ArcGIS for Server.
  • If you use SAP HANA 1.0 SPS10, you can now use ArcGIS to load data that contains z and m values and you can view and analyze existing data that contains z and m values.

LAS Dataset

  • There is a new scrollable LAS point profile view. Using the mouse/keyboard keys the area-of-interest profile window will move or rotate and update immediately in the profile window.
  • Location of the cursor in point profile window is displayed in ArcMap inside the profile area-of-interest.
  • Elevation is now displayed and updated when moving cursor around in point profile window


There have been five improvements for raster types.

  • The SPOT-7 raster type is now supported.
  • The UAV/UAS raster type is now supported.
  • The WorldView-3 raster type now supports the SWIR bands.
  • Support netCDF and HDF data stored as irregularly spaced arrays is now supported.
  • There have also been improvements within Chinese raster types.

There are several improvements with raster geoprocessing.

The Georeferencing toolbar now has three new first-order transformations available: Only rotation and shift, Only shift and scale, Only rotation and scale.




A lot has changed since I last ran this, I no longer have the 8 core 32GB RAM “beast” anymore for starters. I expect that times will be changed but by how much?

For those who want the spec of the machine I am using: System Spec

Although it is more home computer spec, I am reliably told that this is should be more than adequate for running ArcMap & QGIS.




1. Load Time

As this is a comparison of the 2 new updates, rather that witter on about my personal views, I thought it better to provide some test results. To make the test equal, the method I use was to start up the software being tested, leave it for 10 minutes (to ensure all elements have loaded) and the add ALL 2010 AIS from a folder in the root – C:GIS. If you wish to test the data yourself, it can be downloaded from here. The timer was started from the moment that the data is added to the data frame (through the add data button). The timer is stopped when all data has finished loaded, indicated in ArcGIS by the globe in the bottom right not spinning and in QGIS by watching the windows processes & seeing when the CPU demand dropped to zero again.

For those who wish to go further down the rabbit hole, I categorised the data for both QGIS and ArcGIS and saved the styles. The AIS was categorised using standard deviation (n0) with 8 categories. Data was loaded directly from the qml/lyr.

The time given is the average of the 5 runs which were made.


ArcGIS 10.2  =     27.27 seconds

ArcGIS 10.3  =     38.5 seconds

ArcGIS 10.4  =    24.04 seconds

QGIS 2.6 =     9.103 seconds

QGIS 2.8 =     8.201 seconds

QGIS 2.14 =   5.08 seconds

On average QGIS was 20 seconds faster to load the data, furthermore, there was a slight speed increase for QGIS from 2.8 to the newer 2.14


2. Testing – Analysis

What use is your software if you spend your days waiting for it to finish a process? The amount of time I must have lost due to running processes is immense, so what if I could save some time? Because of this, I run a  a viewshed test. I put a single point down, Then, using standard settings (and OS Terrain50), I run a viewshed (ensuring the output raster resolutions are identical)

ArcGIS 10.2 =         42 minutes

ArcGIS 10.3 =         4 failed attempts & gave up*

ArcGIS 10.4 =         12m 55s

QGIS 2.6 =         58 minutes

QGIS 2.8 =     1hr 16min

QGIS 2.14 =   26.86s

It looks like either this machine is far superior to the old desktop OR both software has made significant improvements in its calculation algorithms. To confirm, both outputs were identical and can be obtained through the link at the end of the article.

*To eradicate any issues with the data input or user error, the ArcGIS 10.2 map was saved and then opened in 10.3, the exact same parameters were used with no success.

5. Testing – Map Export

I seem to lose days exporting PDF files from GIS, so for me, this test is one of the most relevant, so that I can compare the amount of time consumed by the simple “PDF Export”.

For this test, the same EFH shapefiles used previously were loaded, no styles applied, then the bathymetric contours (also from the Marine Cadastre website) and the ESRI world countries shapefile. I then opened the layout/composer & set the orientation to landscape & the size to A3. Scale was set to 1:50000,000 then centered on the EFH data.

Once loaded and left to settle of 10mins, I set the PDF export to 500dpi and then made sure that both the QGIS & ArcGIS settings were the same* (no layers, no georeferencing etc). This is the average times for 5 runs.

The results were as follows:

ArcGIS 10.2 =         3mins 18s – File size 795MB

ArcGIS 10.3 =        3mins 30s – File size 903MB

ArcGIS 10.4 =      7.04s – File size 1.9MB

QGIS 2.6 =         37.4s – File size 72MB

QGIS 2.8 =         35.5s – File size 69MB

QGIS 2.14 =      10.3s – File size 18.16MB

*Just to be clear, ArcGIS and QGIS were run separately

6. Stability

This is a new category, as a few comments I have had asked how many crashes I have had whilst testing. I am please to say on this occasion NONE.

6. Niggles

As I worked through, I must say that both software were pretty much as expected, nothing has really changed. The ONLY thing I would pick up on is that QGIS needs to add layers to their browser. When looking for data, QML & SLD are not visible in their relative folders.
The winner is....
The winner is….

7. Conclusion

As well as comparing the times above, I also run through both software by opening a list of tools which are used within the office on a regular basis to ensure that the software is safe to be used.

As stated previously, it would be unfair to compare the tools as some tools are unique or paid for plugins. Needless to say, I found no issues in my testing.

In this comparison, I think that, although ArcGIS 10.3 has released a HUGE number of new tools and updates, they are, in large for specialists. These tools are unlikely to get used on a regular basis like you & I.

QGIS has shown some muscle and has, in this testing, shown itsef much faster. Furthermore one of my “niggles” from the last article has been dealt with, the shadows for points and fonts. Although there are only a handful of updates & new features, the tools (for me) are more likely to be used.

Again, as before, there is no clear winner as they are both great systems and suited to different professionals in different way. For basic use or an introduction to the world of GIS, you wouldn’t go wrong whichever you choose.

Mapillary Raises $8 Million Series A to Democratize Maps by Connecting the World's Photos

Technology has made the farthest corners of the planet more accessible than ever before. We can video call loved ones on the other side of the world; and we can view photos of foreign landmarks at the click of a button. At Mapillary, we are taking this accessibility to the next level by letting anyone and everyone create their own street­level maps.

We’re connecting millions of photos taken by thousands of users around the world, allowing users to create maps of previously uncharted territories in an instant, and giving people the ability to map the places they care about.

With more than 50 million photos, we have mapped more than 1.2 million kilometers in more than 170 countries to date. Through our app (available on iOS and Android), anyone can contribute photos from their smartphones, GoPros and other action cameras. Furthermore, our open­sourced technology lets anyone use existing images on Mapillary — and the data that we extract from them.

Today, we’re announcing $8 million in Series A funding from Atomico, Sequoia, LDV Capital, and PlayFair to help us map the world beyond where cars can go. We not only plan to fill in the blanks on existing maps, but to create our own complete representation of the earth to benefit governments, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and curious explorers alike.

“Mapillary is reinventing the way we map and navigate our world,” said Niklas Zennström, CEO and Founding Partner at Atomico. “Their ambition is to transform the way we plan our cities, develop transport networks and understand other parts of the globe. We’re proud to invest in the next phase of their growth and look forward to working alongside Jan Erik and his team as they advance their technology and scale the business.”

The 3D visualization of famed monuments like La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and hard­to­access locations like Pyongyang, North Korea opens up the possibility for crowdsourced virtual reality. The immersive virtual world is not just a tool for geographic data collection, but for a cultural shift that puts the documentation of unfamiliar land in the hands of the people who walk it. While the world collects the data, we’re working to make it valuable. Google’s Street View pictures aid the occasional navigator, but Mapillary’s collection is a tool for more serious decisions. Mapillary’s partnership with Esri — the world leader in Geographic Information System (GIS) software, web GIS and geodatabase management applications — enables governments and businesses to see their cities evolve in real time through our ArcGIS platform. Because our maps are updated as soon as photos are uploaded, cities gain insight into infrastructural problems like public transportation and road conditions instantly, allowing them to fix issues efficiently.

Through partnerships with nonprofits, we are using our technology to improve infrastructure in developing nations. In collaboration with the World Bank, local university students and community members are mapping Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in an effort to combat the devastating flooding that the rapidly growing metropolis experiences during its rainy season. The Red Cross has been using Mapillary for their Missing Maps project, which aims to chart underserved areas from Haiti to Uganda.

From suburban backyards to the ice shelves of Antarctica, Mapillary allows people to immerse themselves in places both familiar and unknown through stunning imagery. As we continue to grow, so will our capacity to make the world virtually accessible for users — and physically accessible for those who put our data to good use.




About Mapillary

Mapillary is a community­based mapping photo app where anyone in the world can capture, share and explore photos that document the world in real time. From hiking trails to remote villages, Mapillary goes beyond where cars can go. Mapillary is able to provide versatile, instant data for any group that depends on geographic intelligence: nonprofits, cities, governments, and companies.

The Geotest….some interesting stats

Over 300 people have taken the test I set on the internet so far, for those who have taken it, I thought you might like to see some statistics on it.

So far over 300 of you amazing geofolk have had a go at my fun Geotest…and I collated some interesting results, don’t worry, there will be no naming and shaming (though someone DID call themselves GEOGOD??!!), what is interesting though is the skill level(s) and knowledge of those taking the test. Read on…

Question 1

All of the above Measurement of the Earth Representation of the Earth
Geodetics is the the study of what? 47% 40% 13%

Question 2

Gary Sherman Jack Dangermond Nicholas Duggan Roger Tomlinson
Who is the Father of GIS? 9% 21% 10% 60%

Question 3

Allocating a data with a reference in physical space Allocating a data within a sphere Allocating a geographic barrier to the data Gridding a dataset
What is “Georeferencing” 91% 4% 2% 3%

Question 4

Name 3 GIS software (Pick 3 below) 8% 1% 91%

Question 5

Metadata Metafile
What is the name for “data about data” which normally accompanies geospatial data? 95% 5%

Question 6

Best practice when using text on maps is to use fonts with serifs 73% 27%

Question 7

A line which gives indication of distance A list of data & symbols for reference of the user
What is a “legend” 1% 99%

Question 8

Does a maps scale change when the paper size is changed? 53% 47%

Question 9

Height Length Width
When dealing with datum, what is “z”? 97% 1% 2%

Question 10

Distance weighted analysis Time based analysis
What is “temporal analysis”? 1% 99%

Statistics…we all love statistics

On average the test was taken twice, the first score being 7/10 and the second being 9/10

Over a FIFTH of people think Jack Dangermond is the Father of GIS

The most common name for people taking the test a second time was F*CK

Over 40% of people need to re-read their geodetic books

Over a quarter of people aren’t bothered about serifs

The average score over the current 300 users is 79.9%


I’ve really had fun answering your questions and seeing your scores. THERE WILL BE ANOTHER TEST!!


Nick D