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Monday, 25 August 2014

IMIA Asia Pacific Conference: Part 2c

Mobile & Web Solutions with Open Source

Open Source Integration in Spatial Solutions
The next presenter hailed from India and he presented solutions basing on open source. In this conference, there is a strong emphasis on free datasets and open source solutions to build mapping products. His company has developed an interactive globe (a physical globe like viewed on a mobile device). It is home to over 50 000 Points of Interests, multilingual and meshed with multiple datastets. Secondly, he also developed interactive world atlas which is built on raster and vector maps. The user can draw, write, add points and print your own maps. Some of his developed applications are built on primarily on open source data and open source solutions (e.g. leaflet.js). The core of his presentation focused on 3 factors to be considered on open source material and utilization for projects:
  1. Cost: Though open source is deemed free, it is actually far from the truth. This is because of licence issue, customisation cost and server fees. However, the cost would be marginal in comparison to proprietary solutions 
  2. Customization : The user has a product end in his or her mind but open source may not able to fulfill
  3. Support : Some open source solutions do offer paid support. However, majority of open source solutions support come through community based forums.

ESRI Advances further...

ArcGIS real-time capabilities for disaster management
ESRI presenters from Australia are always on the go to show how ESRI is always ahead of the GIS curve. No doubt this has been demonstrated this year. The presenter talked about Real-Time GIS and how ArcGIS is incorporating and adapting to this type of data. Real time GIS data is continuous stream of events flowing from various sensors. Smart technologies are widespread and each of them are sensors (geo-enabled). This includes tweets, sms and other form alerts that occur during disaster time. ArcGIS Geo Event working hand-in-hand with ArcGIS Server able to capture, analyse and visualize spatial distribution of real-Time GIS data. From here, the data is transmitted through applications or through connectors (e.g.alerts on fire). ArcGIS Online was used in demonstration as the visualization tool of real-time GIS Data

Queensland furthers Open Spatial Data Revolution

Queensland Globe: Gateway to Free Spatial Data
In my posting last year on the conference, Queensland government was in its early stages of implementation of open data policy. This included the spatial data from state government and it is transmitted to the public via Queensland Globe. Quick brief on Queensland Globe:
  • Google Earth is the platform where the data is hosted publicly
  • It's Free
  • Training is not essential to use it. However, videos are in the website to show the users on how to move around Queensland Globe. A novice user can access the data through Google Earth platform
  • Up to 357 layers (as of August 2014) are freely available
The push needed for the implementation of Queensland Globe (April 2013) came from:
  • Flood mapping (As Queensland was wracked with floods recently and the disaster relief appeal
  • Huge demand for timely, authoritative mapping
  • Overwhelming positive response from government, business and citizens on data access
The final plan is all state government data (spatial data ) to be free for public downloads. This meant a new Globe Framework needs to be implemented for the bigger data release. There are couple types of globes for spatial data. Queensland Globe offers foundation and base maps and Category Globes have 17 themed maps. Different globes (e.g. Coal Seam Gas, land valuation) are released in stages. In April 2014, statistical data (census blocks) from Australian Bureau of Statistics were integrated into the globes. To ensure continuity, New South Wales Globe (Free data site for neighbouring state) is integrated in the Queensland multiple globe framework.

In future, historical imagery, geology, Building Information Models (BIM) and paid searches would be added in next globes. Queensland government is trying to entrench the open data policy into law. This will in turn obligates state government agencies to release data freely. The push to transform this policy into a law is to establish business confidence and encourage investment and innovation in the state.

Another initiative as part of open data policy of the state is QTopo. It is open topographic data site and users can explore Queensland topography in virtual manner. It is also web based browser application and 100% of Queensland territory is covered with topographic maps (with scale up to 1:18,084). Users can print their own topographic maps using recommended map sheets or customized areas (and zoom levels)

Transforming Spatial Business

Business Transformation is relatable to Explorer's journey
The final presentation of the day (Monday) had an interesting approach. He was from HEMA Maps, a leader in 4WD expedition publishing, related to his business transformation with his regular travels in outback Australia. Part of his business transformation, he recaptured the purpose of his business (HEMA) - helping navigators to explore. Any expeditions to Outback Australia may have some issues on the way and hence, the explorer needs to revisit his plans and reset the trip. Likewise the presenter iterated that spatial businesses be prepared to revisit their business plan. HEMA has started off and still is a family business. When initially it started, HEMA's target market was in the offline environment. There was no internet a fair while ago. However, with the digital age dominating modern times, HEMA needs to adjust to environment and be ahead of the curve. This is to ensure steady revenue flow. 

Another crucial part of the business is how to engage the customers of HEMA. This would include social media where HEMA social media admin interacts with customers experience in Outback Australia. However, any business must not be viewed as being pushy towards customers as this may chase existing customers. HEMA emphasizes the importance to engage with their own team. This includes cartographers, drivers etc. The positive environment is needed so that team remains intact and deliver better.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

IMIA Asia Pacific Conference: Part 2b


New South Wales Trade & Investment - the agency who advice geological and mining matters to government, corporations and mining sectors - want to develop a tool for the public to know the mining activity of the state. They approached Spatial Vision, one of the leading GIS companies in Melbourne to develop a Cloud Based application called Common Ground to convey mining information. Previously, the information of mining was largely confined to industry professionals market. Common Ground is making the mining information widely accessible and built on authoritative datasets. It would be map based using CartoDB. Below here is workflow process (the product is not complete yet)

Full Credits: Hiroki Gota (Spatial Vision) 2014

GIS in Public Transportation

Translink Queensland Works
 Disclaimer: This part of the article remains under construction                                   
Next presentation was focusing on how GIS assist state subsidized public transportation for their students. The presenter has his own consultancy firm, Jan Simpson Consulting. He was contracted some time ago to work with Translink Queensland. This state organization manages all public transport systems (i.e. buses, trains, ferries) for the whole state of Queensland. One of the key programs organized by Translink is Student Travel Assistance Scheme (STAS). 

STAS provides subsidized transport to school children. It costs the state approximately $150-160 million annually to fund this program. It serves 2321 state schools or 500 000 students across the state. In order to qualify for STAS program, a student must:
Primary school : He or she must be more than or equal to 3.2km from the nearest state school to his or her residence
Secondary school : He  or she must be more than or equal to 4.8 km from the nearest state school to his or her residence

Hence, his project would revolve around GIS (as it is geographical problem) and he needs to develop a system for a non-technical audience to operate it in a fast manner. IT involved a big collaboration work between the government, public and developers

One of the main criteria for STAS eligibility is the shortest distance. For this instance, shortest distance refers the shortest trafficable route from student residence to the school access point. Restrictions were added into the GIS program where private roads (e.g. gated communities), four wheel drive tracks, non- constructed roads, one way roads, ferries and busways were excluded in the calculations. The system will calculate nearest school to student residence and takes into account of all restrictions incorporated in GIS. The results are stored in the GIS and DBMS. The challenge was to compute shortest distance between 2.4 million address points and schools. This resulted 20 million calculations and if were to be done continuously, it would have consumed 22 days of work (non-stop)

Over time, he devised three level classifications for STAS program: Are you in the STAS area (based on distance criterion), are you out of STAS area or in the marginal area? This helps the STAS staff to deduce whether potential students are eligible for the program quickly.

He integrated his system with Global GBM for Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) and developed in tandem with GBM a web-based interface for the STAS staff.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

IMIA Asia Pacific Conference: Part 2a

Power of Location

Conference information
The whole conference revolved around the theme: Power of Location. Majority of the speakers presenting the conference came from Australia with handful came from India, New Zealand and United States (representing IMIA Global and Americas). To kickstart the presentation, the Chief of Staff of USGS (National Geospatial Technical Operations Center) updated the delegates on latest activities of USGS.

United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Chief of Staff of USGS Topo presents USGS works
The signature  USGS product is the 7 1/2 min topographic maps. Every American user associates these maps with USGS. USGS very much remain in the business of producing these maps. In this digital age, USGS topographic maps have went electronic and are available for free for download and able to integrate with GPS devices easily. USGS produced 70-80 maps every day and in future, there will be push for users to build their own custom maps using USGS datasets on the website. In an era of constraint funding, USGS collaborated with federal, state and local government agencies to leverage funding to access new datasets. 

USGS is home to Centre of Excellence for Geospatial Information Science which works with universities and conducts significant research on mapping elements. It is also the manager of National Atlas, the online atlas of United States.A recent study shown that areas such as flood risk, agriculture precision, geologic resource assessment, hazard mitigation and infrastructure management are top beneficiaries of USGS data. 

Since 1994, USGS has started to incorporate Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) as part of dataset update. The VGI program was suspended on and off basis until 2010, where a full scale revival on VGI matter was initiated. USGS do award its VGI collectors with historical survey instruments as recognition of significant contributions. To ensure dataset accuracy, USGS  has a validation program to monitor the quality of VGI.

In terms of funding, the current funding is half of 1990 levels. USGS is able to do much of its operations with technological efficiency. Concept do more with less prevails. However, funding sequestration of 2013has put hold on LIDAR program to improve elevation dataset quality.

Geospatial Overworld

HERE Representative speaking on Overworld

The second Presentation was the race for the Geospatial Overworld and presented by Nokia HERE Business Development Chief. Firstly, we need to define what is Overworld. It is a term comes from computer games environment. It is top down visual perspective of the fictional environment within the game that precisely maps and describe its geospatial construction. This includes levels, terrain, boundaries, buildings, foliage, recruits, characters and associated interactions. Now, let's define Geospatial Overworld or Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI). It presents a precise virtual representation of our real world, hopefully would be complete in 3D format and the information is updated in real time.

The foundation of SDI is built on high quality maps produced by geospatial professionals. The biggest investors ins SDI are ESRI (ArcGIS Online), Google (Google Map Engine) and Nokia (HERE). It is estimated USD 1 BILLION is invested to build the HERE Platform (Geospatial Overworld). The main buyers of Overworld data (not in order) are:

  1. Utilities
  2. Transport & Logistics
  3. Education
  4. Public Safety
  5. Natural Resources
  6. Health
  7. Financial Services
  8. Government
  9. Defense
  10. Property
  11. Media
Now focusing HERE Platform (SDI), the presenter focused on data cloud infrastructure where the Overworld is running on. It is built on multiple data centres across the world with highly scalable technologies. Next, we need to understand the building blocks of SDI Model:
  • Index: Capture a reference index of the real world
  • Platform: Essential for location services. Computing the right answer on the fly anywhere
  • Experience: Rich, interactive consumer experience for driving, mobility and enterprise.
SDI is delivered through Application Program Interface (API) and Software Development Kits (SDKs). One of the goals of SDI is hosting 3D Models on its platform. HERE, like Google, embarked huge street camera data capturing mission with a difference. They use LIDAR to capture the structure of every feature with high accuracy.

In today's world, it is fact the transition from 2D to 3D and vice versa is not seamless. However, in future, maps would fuse analytics and interactivity. Data would be fully visualized in 3D format with spatial attributes and integrating with user expectation. To bring a step further, internal building plans would be digitized and loaded into SDI. We are seeing this in various overworld platforms where user can zoom to airport, commercial centre or university to building layout and attributes.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

IMIA Asia Pacific Conference: Part 1

Map Hack Day

This is my third time attending the International Map Industry Association (IMIA) conference since 2010. Those who have been following the blog  would have noted I have written about the conference a year ago. The conference experience is getting better each time.

As an associate member of IMIA, I decided to attend the Strategic Planning Meeting of IMIA on 16th August. Here I got the chance to witness a comprehensive plan to extend the reach of IMIA in the Asia Pacific Region and increase member benefits. It was a short two hour session to cover many matters.

On 17th August, IMIA Conference officially opened up with MapHack Day - first of its kind for this conference. The aim of this session is to get students and professionals to utilize open source data and non-mainstream GIS (free one) to produce a story map. Roughly 30 people rocked up on early Sunday morning (10.00 a.m.) for the whole day session. It was hosted and coordinated by one of the leading GIS companies in Melbourne - Spatial Vision. From 10.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m., we had briefing by Spatial Vision staff on how to use CartoDB (non-mainstream online GIS) and where to source free GIS datasets.

After splitting into groups, my group brainstorm the topic, sourced datasets and restructure the excel data. The youtube video above explains my group's project and the workflow from conception to completion.


  1. Being Flexible: Our group had intention to focus on creating two layers - one showing ethnicity and one showing linguistic distribution. However, we realized it can distract the user from the core of the map. We adjusted our goals to ensure we can finish the project within time frame. 
  2. Being Structured: Our key strength in our group is splitting in two groups. Two of us focused on GIS datasets and other two focused on Excel data of attributes. By splitting right from start, our workload was smoothly spread out and we progressed quickly. Me and my team mate also learned QGIS in the process to deliver the datasets in neat format. In Excel data, the whole team eventually got involved one way or another as number crunching got complicated
In other aspects, all of us successfully pooled our skills together to make the product successful: IT skills, Excel formulas, QGIS expertise and coordination skills. Map Hack Day was successful:
  1. Coordinated by successful Spatial Vision team who are familiar with CartoDB 
  2. Great platform for students to network and work with potential employers
  3. Build relationship between disparate conference delegates
  4. Opportunity to practice your presentation and marketing skills.