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Friday, 27 February 2015

This Week in GIS

Presenter on Dominican Republic GIS (GeoRabble #6 Melbourne)
This week we will examine some key discussions of GIS or applications of GIS which I encountered this week

GeoRabble #6

Cramped in a dungeon style room in a bar, GeoRabble #6 is a hub of discussion, networking and exchange of GIS knowledge. Whether you are user, developer or owner of geospatial business, GeoRabble is a place to rabble about our love - GIS ! We had multiple presentations (no Sales Pitch!) in two hours - crisis leadership, Bushfire management, open data in Victoria, evolving Melbourne, UAVs and Application of GIS in  Dominican Republic. All speakers covered a great deal of material, the challenges and success of the GIS applications. For this blog post, we focus on two:

Dominican Republic

After listening to many presentations, 100% of the presentation were purely focusing on Melbourne and Victoria (nothing wrong but we need to expand our minds). I wanted to hear something international and we had one! The speaker is senior consultant and signed up for Australian Aid Volunteers program (a Australian federal program of sending professional and technical volunteers to developing program.

When she saw the opportunity, she met the language and technical requirements needed for the volunteer. She was posted to one year in Dominican Republic for GIS implementation in Emergency Management. Dominican Republic is subjected to multiple hurricanes, tropical storms and earthquakes (let's remind ourselves of Haitian earthquake in 2010).

Her assignment was to coordinate and establish a multi-agency geospatial team for disaster management (EIGEO). It was built under the recommendation from United Nations. The purpose of EIGEO is to gather, store and produce information for Emergency Commission (Dominican Republic)

First challenges she faced:
  • Difficulty in obtaining GIS data or outdated GIS data
  • No trained GIS staff
  • Uncoordinated GIS activities and lack of sharing of data among government agencies
  • Politicized environment which acts as an impediment for data sharing
  • Work culture which is very different to Australia
Process of setting up EIGEO:
  • Creation of National Information Systems for Disaster Management
    • Built on Open GIS tools
    • Identify and follow-up on dataset gathering
    • Building a system
  • Activation and response during Emergency
    • Create a GIS crisis team
    • Developing protocols in emergency response
    • Training in QGIS, radar interpretation and other geospatial aspects
  • Collection and organizing the data
    • Identifying gaps in the datasets
    • Spatial analysis such as hydrological analysis (since hurricanes and tropical storms do affect the Republic)
  • Seeking support from international organization
The biggest challenge identified:
  • Sustainability of the project. The concern is whether EIGEO and the project itself will continue in light of cutbacks of Australian aid budget

Changing Melbourne

The final presenter is a GIS analyst within urban planning company. His presentation was pulling publicly available 1945 imagery of Melbourne and overlaying with current imagery using Mapbox (his personal initiative). Basically, we got the chance to see the huge changes between post-war and current Mellbourne. The link is here.

Some quick overview changes we saw:
  • Significant American military presence in Melbourne in 1945. Today, most areas has been converted to industrial or residential areas
  • Former farm and orchard areas in Melbourne fringes have been converted to massive housing estates and Melbourne International Airport (Tullamarine)
Read more here.

Assetic User Conference

Assetic Board during the Conference




 Saroo Brierly

My company organize biennial conferences to bring our clients and partners to discuss and learn where our software is heading too. Although the focus is heavily on asset management and how the software are capable of solving your needs, GIS is not ignored in anyway. Part of the conference itinerary was an inspirational speech by Saroo Brierley.


Some of us has watched the brief story of Saroo. He was invited to our conference to present his story - the quest to see his long-lost family back in India. More importantly, the way he found his family was through memory maps and Google Earth. Hence, mapping(!) is so critical in removing the burden in his shoulder- where is his family.
Saroo and how Google Earth helped in his family search

He got lost in a train to Calcutta (Kolkata) and he was adopted temporarily in orphanage. He was subsequently adopted by Tasmanian family and offering him the love and the family he lost. As he grew older, he had a burning desire to find his family. Using his photographic memory of landmarks of his suburb and his train journey, he began to search in atlases where his family resides. As time proceeded, Google Earth began to help him though internet (up to 2011) was very slow. With advent of broadband internet, he began to ramp up his efforts in tracing exactly where the village was.

Finally, one morning, he received a big surprise. He has nailed his area in Google Earth and found the name of the town. He contacted the FB administrator of town to verify the name of his birth area. After receiving correction, he organized flight to India. He arrived in his town, struggled a bit to find his old home and he wasn't sure whether he was in the right town. Finally, after talking to locals, he found his old home and met his mother for the first time in 20+ years! It was an emotional story for the audience who were listening

Location Analytics

A senior ESRI Business Manager spoke at the conference the importance on leveraging location in areas of asset management. ESRI has a vision of enterprise collaboration and encouraging data sharing within the clients.

She stressed that location is very important aspect in our lives. More so, the next 5 billion internet users may no longer use desktop PC to access internet. Hence, the organizations like councils and ESRI need to build scaleable apps to accommodate the new need and approach to internet.

She mentioned in Australia up to 67% of the population use smartphone, nearly 15 million internet users and each Australian (those who access internet) use up to 3 devices to access internet. Plus, commercialisation of IT meant our home internet experience will brought across to our work places. Hence, we need scaleable apps
ESRI presenter on ArcGIS online and integration with predictive conditions of roads

She stressed once more than spatial data is critical for organizations and government functions. Maps are vital for our progress and no longer under pure GIS/geography domain. She also demonstrated how ArcGIS Online helped the local government to visualize the road conditions in the next 10 years.

This concludes my report today

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Surveying Question? I forgot....

This post is not about learning or understanding something new. However, this short post is warning to my friends (or readers) who are studying architecture, civil engineers, urban planners and environmental engineer. All of you would undertake one or two short courses on GIS and surveying.

Sample survey plan from New Zealand (not related to client site)

Recently a friend of mine asked me two separate questions on surveying. First, he was asking about backsight and foresight (leveling). I have distanced away from surveying for past three years. Basically, he was asking to clarify Rise and Fall Method. I did quick internet search and mentioned to my friend there are some important principles.

Rise and Fall Method is one of the ways to transfer heights from one fixed point to multiple points. This process is called leveling. A surveyor start out at fixed permanent datum (height) and carrying the heights along a distance (of selected points). It is important procedure in construction works.

To learn more about Rise and Fall method, read here

If you read the article above, the important principles in this method are:

  • the difference between the sum of the rises and the sum of the falls, and
  • the difference between the first and the final R.L. or vice versa.
The second matter of surveying got bit complicated. My friend had to compile a survey request and scout out a suitable quotation. A feature survey for a future development site. First question I got asked is what is feature survey? Personally I was unsure what is it all about and I thought it included cadastral boundaries. I quickly checked with my professional surveyor contact what exactly is feature survey. There were three types of feature surveys (from purely locating things to complete boundary determination). He recommended to me that it is best my friend to discuss directly with a surveying firm,

I assisted my friend in writing a simple survey request for quotation which included dimensions and other engineering features to be identified. Now, my friend got some quotes and we leave it here which surveying firm will be chosen.

The points here:
  1. If you are town planner, architecture, civil engineer or environmental scientists, never, never forget what you learnt in surveying and GIS. It will haunt in your career
  2. Especially when it comes to surveying, if you are unsure about definitions, it is best to direct your client/affected friend to the surveying firm. Surveying covers legal matter and hence, as a GIS professional, you just need to exercise caution when advising.