Spatial Blog App now available

Like the blog?….always want to be kept up to date and be notified of new posts?

There is now an Android app available and you can download here

As well as getting the super awesome Spatial blog on your android device, you can also store your favourite posts to read offline. How cool is that?

Unfortunately, the only downside is that I am forced to charge a minimum fee of around 50p (£0.50) to cover the cost of publication and joining the Google Developer Community (Yes, they charge you!!)

Have fun and let me know how you get on with it!


Using 3D Web Mapping to Model Offshore Archaeology

Ever since I started working in the renewables industry on offshore wind farms over 8yrs ago and had to analyse shipwrecks, I thought about how much more interactive and informative shipwreck analysis would be in 3D. There are many companies out there at the moment who produce the most amazing visualisations, where is the ability to move along a fixed track to view a 2.5D wreck but there is no ability to relate it to anything, no context and normally the cost is extremely high when the data captured is normally geospatial and used within a GIS such as QGIS, ArcGIS or Fledemaus.

Here is an example of the amazing model of the James Eagen Layne created by Fourth Element and the model of the Markgraf Shipwreck by Scapa Flow Wrecks

Please don’t get me wrong, I admire these models and they provide detail and information that would be almost impossible to render in a GIS web map without some serious development and a lot of modelling but technology has progressed. Five years ago I would have said that creating an offshore 3D web map was the thing of dreams, whereas today it is a few clicks of the mouse. Using ESRI software, I was able to combine both terrain and bathymetry, adjust for tide datum differences, import a 3D model and then add links and images to the web map (called a ‘scene’).

The most exciting thing we found in developing this, was the cost and time in implementing such a solution. With the ability to consume data from Sketchup, ESRI 3D Models and even Google Earth models, we can reduce the time which a scene takes to build from weeks to mere hours, the most time consuming part is adding the links & getting the colours nice!! Have a look below at what we created:

[iframe src=”; width=”836″ height=”470″ frameborder=”0″ style=”border: 1px solid whitesmoke” webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe><p><a href=””>Wreck of the James Eagen Layne</a> from <a href=”″>Garsdale Design Limited</a> on <a href=””>CloudCities</a&gt;. ]

The model can be navigated in a similar manner to Google Earth, the model should also be interactive, with the ability to click on areas of the wreck with information returned on the right of the screen. If you look at the bottom left there are a set of icons which I will explain.

Overview of the buttons

Camera Button


The camera button, highlighted in green, provides access to the scene bookmarks, click on any of these and the scene will move to the view relating to the text. It will also alter the layers shown to provide the best view (according to the creator)

Animation button

The animation button, highlighted green above, animates the scene by cycling through the bookmarks

Layers buttonThe layers button allows access to the information relayed on the scene. By default, the tidal water is turned off and only one model is shown.

Light Simulation

The light simulation button provides ability to cast shadow and simulate specific times of day. Although not really relevant for an underwater feature, it provides a method for viewing internal features better.

Mobile User Bonus Feature!

For those of you using a mobile device, you will notice one further button:

Cardboard button

Yes, the scene is fully 3D and the viewer fully supports Google Cardboard, so go ahead and have a go!

Future development

This is just the beginning, as you can see this viewer is extremely lightweight and responsive Moving forward, we (Garsdale Design Ltd) are looking to adding further information such as nearby wrecks, more detailed bathymetry, objects which may cause risk such as anchorages and vessel movement in the area. The potential is immense and where this is geographic (hit the map button on the right) you can relate this to a real world location….in future versions we are looking to implementing Admiralty charts and bathymetry maps to view side by side with the site.


I am not an archaeologist or diver! – Data is sourced from open data sources (Inspire, EA Lidar, Wikipedia) with the exception of the model(s) which were built by myself from images and multibeam data. Photos were obtained from Promare, on the Liberty 70 project – Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0, This data is not to be used for navigation or diving.

For further information or to ask how Garsdale Design can assist you, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Pokémon Go leads the AR Revolution

Originally posted on xyHt Magazine 12/7/2016


Six months ago when I claimed that augmented reality was the future of GIS and geospatial services and it was met with a few sniggers. This week has seen the arrival of Pokémon Go, one of the most popular games hit the mobile phone market….and yes, it is augmented reality and yes, it is geospatial. It could well be the turning point for many geospatial companies.


What is Pokémon Go?

In case you have been hidden in a cave fro the last 25yrs, Pokémon is a game that first appeared on the Nintendo Gameboy (circa 1995) in which players openly walk around the world and capture mystical creatures (in a white and red ball) which they then train to fight (other creatures) in battle arenas called “gyms”. If their creature (called a Pokémon but there are hundreds of breeds) wins their battle, then they earn a badge. The aim is to collect all the badges. Simple right?

Since the mid 90’s there have been 18 manga books, 19 films and about 17 games….yes, this thing is HUGE. Pokémon Go is the new generation and it was inevitable that it would become a geocaching game.

“Geocaching /ˈˌkæʃɪŋ/ is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, anywhere in the world.” – Wikipedia

Pokemon Encounter

Why Pokémonn Go is perfect for AR

Lets look at the concept of the game again, the user walks around the globe looking for Pokémon to capture and then train…..if this isn’t the definition of geocaching then I will eat my shorts (thanks Bart). Though any thoughts that this game was designed as a geocache promotion are quickly quelled when you realise that the first geocache was made around the millennium (by Dave Ulmer, Oregon).

For years we have struggled to get our children interested in mapping and geography not realising that this was sat under our nose the whole time! I ironically, it is all due to an Aprils Fools Day joke in 2014 in which it was claimed that Google had developed an augmented reality app…..Niantic saw that this could be a reality and worked with Google, the rest is history.

How does it work?

After logging into the app for the first time, the player creates their avatar. The player can choose the avatar’s style, hair, skin, and eye color, and can choose from a limited number of outfits. Once the avatar is created, it is displayed at the player’s current location along with a map of the player’s immediate surroundings. Features on the map may include a number of landmarks where Pokémon may be and Pokémon gyms (places where you battle your Pokémon).

As players travel the real world, the avatar moves along the game’s map. Different Pokémon live in different areas of the world; for example, water-type Pokémon are generally found near water. When a player encounters a Pokémon, they may view it either in augmented reality mode or with a pre-rendered background. AR mode uses the camera and gyroscope on the player’s mobile device to display an image of a Pokémon as though it were in the real world. Players can also take pictures, using an in-game camera, of the Pokémon that they encounter both with and without the AR mode activated.

There is a fantastic article on how Google chose the locations for the Pokémon/geocaches here (by Mashable) whereby it explains how safety was the primary concern. Caches were chosen based on open places that had some significance so that players wouldn’t be chasing a Pikachu (a type of Pokémon) across a train track.

Pokemon Batlle

Why will it change geo things?

Already there is a wave of companies looking at how they can use marketing to get a piece of the pie, see this & this, it is evident that people are aware that this is, excuse the pun, a game changer. It really isn’t hard to see that this is going to be popular….so this might well be the turning point for geospatial, AR & VR. If people are comfortable using AR through this game then they will start expecting it for their mapping, bringing back apps like LAYAR which augmented real world information.

AR on Mobile

The applications are immense and exciting for the geospatial industry, the ability to overlay real world issues and information to what the user sees through the camera would be the definitive mapping system. Even if the accuracy isn’t that amazing (mobile GPS – think about it) there is the potential to use clever imagery and presentation to overcome most issues. Imagine sending the worst member of your team to site, with an AR map you could be 90% sure that they would be able to find the correct building over using a 2D map, or think about how easy it could be to identify potential points of weakness or contamination around a site by just looking through your device, all set by someone sat at a desk on the other side of the world.

Of course this is speculation but consider the rise of VR which is now around us, soon we will all be fully immersed watching TV, playing games and riding roller coasters, 3D GIS has seen a rise over the last few years too, with many geospatial providers offering 3D add-ons or 3D alternatives. Furthermore the conferences were rife with talk and demonstration of 3D and VR. Of course all this innovation is led by CEOs and Project Managers who have seen their kid playing with some game and asking that all important question….

“Why can’t our company do that?”

You’d be a fool to think that this is all going to just disappear, the future of geospatial is now, we are seeing the evolution occur in front of our eyes – Just like the late Roger Tomlinson evolved the paper map to digital GIS in the 60’s, we are seeing 2D moving to 3D real world. I am all for it, it will bring new challenges, better accuracy and more interaction with the user…..though I draw the line at Pokemon Go myself.


How to Grayscale ArcGIS Pro Vector Symbology

Most of the time, ESRI software is great, it does [mostly] what you ask it and as long as you aren’t doing anything too crazy it behaves. We all know that it has it’s ‘unique-ness’ about it, after using it for a few years you start to ask “why don’t they do this….” or “How comes I can’t do that…..”. Well, a lot of this is being addressed in ArcGIS Pro, already it has answered the question as to why we needed 3 different GIS software (ArcGIS Desktop, ArcScene & ArcGlobe) by bundling it all up into one package. Now (with 1.3) we are starting to see other features which we always wanted in ArcGIS Desktop coming into ArcGIS Pro, case in point, converting symbology to grayscale.

Today, I discovered while creating a basemap, that ESRI have implemented a couple of neat little touches, firstly RGB VALUES ON HOVER.

Hovering the mouse provides RGB values
Hovering the mouse provides RGB values

Although this isn’t ground breaking, it is a nice little touch which, for us cartophiles and OCD cartographers, provides a quick and easy bit of feedback.

The other discovery was having the option to grayscale the symbology. The new ArcGIS Pro can be a little tricky to get your head around, so it is understandibly not obvious but I went to change the RGB values on a piece of road and found another option: GRAYSCALE

Grayscale dropdown
Grayscale dropdown

Selecting “Grayscale” takes you to this menu:

Grayscale removes colour while retaining it's presence.
Grayscale removes colour while retaining it’s presence.


Okay, so this isn’t groundbreaking BUT having played with photoshop a little, I’ve found that the RGB value which is automatically given is almost a perfect match for what you get if you desaturate the colour.

What does all this mean? It means that you can easily and confidently convert your vector symbology to grayscale without guesswork! Creating alternative grayscale maps should now be a lot easier! Now, the question is, will this ever make it to ArcGIS Desktop?!


Do your work right and you can be smart too

Originally published in xyHt

Ever since I saw the word phrase “smart city”, I have cringed. Not because of the term but what it alludes to. To me it says that we (geospatial experts) haven’t done our work right….let me explain

From Wikipedia:

“A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets”

Now, my understanding, as a person who uses a GIS on a daily basis, was that a GIS was used to overlay and integrate multiple layers of information to gain insight and manage a project more efficiently….so, in reality, these two aren’t too dissimilar. In fact, when you look into it further, the [smart] platform is pretty much a GIS which links to live data and data which is structured to be interlinked [each data is linked to all the other data]…oh, of course, there is some form of asset management, usually in the form of a CMS [Content Management System].

Smart_City_GraphI guess my point is that I’m frustrated that many of us, geospatial experts, aren’t being “smart” with our data and hands up, at times I can be one of you. I download a load of data, put it in my geodatabase and don’t think twice about it until someone asks for it.

Here is a great example – I was working on site analysis of wind farms and pretty much the job involved loading in all the environmental constraints, physical and topographical constraints, overlaying them and finding gaps. The way it has been done for generations. Except I woke up one day and thought, “why am I doing this?”….and I looked at the data I was using and started to build a model (in ESRI modelbuilder) and what the model did was take all the files, spatial joined them (merging them with their attributes in tact) and then doing a few tasks to turn the gaps in the data into polygons. I then made a centroid from the polygons and THEN did another spatial join on the data using the nearby setting.

What I ended up with was a fully automated way to find the best sites for a wind farm and also report back (in spreadsheet) what the nearest constraints were. Over time I found there were other data I could build into it, like land use, Land Registry land type (freehold/leasehold) and even some analysis to provide slope, average sun, aspect. Yes, 3 years ago I was working “smart”….unfortunately too smart for the company as this new-fangled technology wasn’t as good as having somebody rummage through by hand to find the best locations (even though the best sites were the ones the computer picked!).

Let’s have a look at the principle behind this :

Knowing that we were trying to find areas suitable for wind farms, the area needs to be unbuilt land, have not within 250m of  a building, it shouldn’t be closer than 40km from an airport (though it could be), it shouldn’t be on anywhere too steep or next to an existing wind farm. Obviously it shouldn’t be in any of the environmentally sensitive areas.

Most of the data is open data –

Environmental constraints: Natural England

Wind farms: The Crown Estate and Restats

Land Registry land type: Land Registry

Land Use (rough):

Topography (buildings, terrain): Ordnance Survey vectormap, Strategi & Open Map

And (curiously enough) farms, restaurants, business parks and other points of interest were taken from my SatNav (extracted as a csv)

The model would then look a little like this:


But there are other ways to be smart

The former method uses a spatial join technique whereby features which lie in the same location are combined into a large dataset which can be interrogated. Another technique is to join tables of related information to enhance the data about location, this is quite commonly used in demographics but can be used anywhere.

A great example of this would be the neighbourhood statistics websites whereby they provide information about your locality…let’s have a look at how this can be done with openly available data:

If we download the Super Output Areas (average population approx 1000) from National Statistics, we can then join most of their data based on Super Output Area [SOA] ID

Output area types
By joining the area code to the area code in the table we can extract informative data

As you can see, this can be used to create much more informative data, some software vendors might even call it “enriched” data and it is extremely easy to do.

….and then you realise that you can THEN spatially join this data to buildings, political boundaries, offices and all other types of data to extract SMART data about the locations.

My challenge to you today is to “enrich” the next data you use, if only for your own satisfaction, add some demographic data to it, add some wikipedia data to it, spatially join it with the INSPIRE Land Registry polygons (while you can)….go on, do it……that sense of satisfaction, THAT is why you do GIS.


Nick D


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:

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.


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.


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!


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.





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