Monthly Archives: November 2009

Identify, Engage and Innovate

Reading today’s Spatial Business News  (NO 368 (Vol 15, Issue 24) 27 November 2009; www.positionmag.com.au) an interesting article caught my eye regarding the closed door approach to the spatial industry by the NSW government. An annual spatial summit held in NSW, it was surprising to read that the private sector was held out from attending let alone exhibiting at the summit.

Engagement with the private sector and the building of public/private partnerships is one of the most important undertakings that a leading spatial government department can encourage. Taken from examples all over the world, most prominently the Ordnance Survey’s Partnership programs (http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/partnerships/) and Australia’s own SLIP Dev elopers Program, led by Landgate (https://www2.landgate.wa.gov.au/slip/portal/focus/partners.html), partnerships are necessary to identify new product offerings and how they relate to current issues, be innovative and foster close working relationships to leverage expertise where needed.

The issue with the NSW Spatial Summit seems to be that any number of new initiatives “could” have been discussed as well as other issues that are prevalent throughout agencies in areas such as data capture, maintenance, dissemination and integration. Call me a fool but one would think that just hearing about these issues could allow for the private sector to engage with the public to sort it out. I look forward to reading the summit proceedings when they are published although when that happens is anyone’s guess.

Engagement and fostering a healthy public/private relationships is included in any number of articles and discussions papers and is one of my main tasks working for a leading land agency in Australia. Just have a look through the ANZLIC (Australian New Zealand Spatial Information Council) about-us page (http://www.anzlic.org.au/about_partners.html) and it is detailed with information on how partnerships are necessary to drive the industry. SIBA (Spatial Industries Business Association: http://www.spatialbusiness.org/) is also a prominent body who partner and represent a large number of organizations and foster close working relationships across the public and private sectors. We could even go into the areas of the CRC-SI (http://www.crcsi.com.au/) and the Gov 2.0 Taskforce but I could be here for ages.

So the question remains, why in this day and age would state government agencies be closed minded on moving this industry into the future? The NSW Spatial Summit organizers claim (according to the news press) that it was the first time that local and state government agencies had an opportunity to talk to one another. If this is the case then it seems that something is fishy in NSW where no one has had a chance to discuss issues between departments. Perhaps we all need to take a closer look at the WALIS framework in WA (http://www.walis.wa.gov.au/) and where the recent WALIS Forum  saw the private sector in a dedicated stream discussing new innovative offerings which was very well received by the audience.

The lessons here is that government cannot pretend to know everything and they certainly can’t maintain this guise of having to do everything 100% of the time. Identify the issues, engage and innovate and we can all move forward into the future confident that the spatial sector will lead on the front foot.

Changing the Spatial Game

It is fair to say that in the last 5 years there has been an explosion of new technologies in the spatial world that has changed the way we do business, interact with the community and explain our profession. I cannot count how many times I have heard in a presentation that thanks to Google Earth we can now easily state what we do in the spatial world.

Google has shown us that the game can change quite quickly and the evidence is found in all the innovative uses of the Google Maps API. We are now at a point that the media and community expect (even demand), that Google Maps/Earth data is current and trusted whereas we know as professionals it is not so easily the case. This leads me to another point in that have we “dumbed” down our own profession by relying on Google too much? Indeed a topic for another time.

Now back to new technologies. I have recently been privy to an exciting emerging technology that recently launched and will no doubt change the way aerial imagery is captured and delivered, providing up to date photos of your local area. NearMap (www.nearmap.com) is a start up company coming out of Perth, Western Australia that has started to fly the major capitals around Australia and provide monthly aerial imagery at 7.5cm or greater pixel resolution for free to the public.

Wow, free aerial imagery that I can use at any time I hear you say. Well it does seem the case that NearMap will revolutionise the way aerial imagery is delivered and who can use it although what we do with all this imagery is yet to be answered.

I for example, have used the NearMap imagery to make a point regarding road usage as a citizen to my local council. This free, monthly imagery has strengthened my case to build speed reducing infrastructure in my neighbourhood. Yet as a business, the usage of monthly imagery (at a cost) could increase my resource spend to ensure that I get a return on investment by building downstream applications that do ‘something’ with the imagery. Is this an investment that businesses are willing to put resources into? Is a visual time series enough of an investment?

Certainly the advantages of up to date photography and the development of new technologies that automate the creation of feature datasets will ease the uptake of this new photography offering. Not a Google killer yet but the question is how soon will the private sector jump on this and complete the value chain so that information is backed up by near real time imagery?

Another disruptive technology that has been brought to our shores is by a company called Earth Mine (http://www.earthmine.com). Along the same lines as Google’s street view or Australia’s own Virtual Observer (http://www.virtualobserver.com.au), Earth Mine can capture street level photography at high resolution with the advantages of each pixel being registered to its correct place in the world. This innovative technology allows for mapping in real 3D through the street level photography. By extending the street view imagery, markups (that is the creation on new vector layers on the image) can be overlaid allowing for planning, asset management and even new augmented reality overlays where community participation in changes might even be achieved.

Another new application that could bring the previous technologies together is
Wikitude (http://www.wikitude.org/). This is an example of where the merging of technologies is creating a new market space. Quite exciting to geo-tag and add content into an application that could possibly feed off the up to date data being captured by NearMap and Earth Mine. Imagine, adding GeoRSS feeds into an augmented reality space to highlight specials of the month for a business or information on tourist attractions so as to not disturb the natural environment?

These game changing offerings are a small sample of technologies being develop that will enhance, extend and change the spatial sector. Quite an exciting time if you think of it and for the innovative person, the combination of these two technologies would possibly allow for a complete detailed 3D planning environment with time series. I’ve seen this type of technology being used in the games sector and with smart phones increasing in use, the merging of games, information and spatial as with Wikitude could be the start of the next big innovative leap.

To grab the attention of the wider community new technologies such as this need to be embraced but more importantly we need to identify where the value lies and how can we change process quickly enough to support it. A challenge for us all…

NeoGeography and Opening Access to Australian Data

Neogeography. What is it, where did this term come from and how does it affect me? I was readying an article by Michael Goodchild that was published in a recent edition of the Journal of Location Based Services (http://tiny.cc/eE6s7) which talked about how volunteered geographic information and the technologies that support this is blurring the lines between academic/professional spatial scientist and keen amateur. Neogeography is the buzz word that caters to the rise of new geography technologies used by non experts in the area of collecting and sharing information that is spatially referenced.

Reference how many mash-ups are now available with API’s such as Google Maps and Bing Maps. These mash-ups are now common place and contain information that was collected, published and referenced by those who might not have a GIS degree but are quite into new technologies and social media interaction. Apps for Democracy (http://www.appsfordemocracy.org/), Geovation (http://www.geovation.org.uk/), Gov2.0 Mashup Australia (http://mashupaustralia.org/) are examples of Neogeographers who have innovative idea’s making it known to the wider audience.

This explosion of new ideas and use of spatial data is leaving government and private organisations behind in how a neogeographer can be a critical link in how data is collected and disseminated to the wider community.

This got me thinking about how we manage government data and make this accessible to the community. Working in a leading state land agency within Australia the use of data is something that crosses my desk day to day. Time and time again, data becomes outdated, un-trusted and eventually cost prohibitive to bring back up to speed.

Web 2.0; if anything has opened the possibility for government to take a lead role in engagement with the community to leverage the local knowledge of individuals to deliver data that is accurate, stays accurate and becomes trusted. The Open Street Map initiative is a prime example of the community leveraging Web 2.0 technologies to produce a product that is greater than any one government agency could produce. (http://www.openstreetmap.org/)

Government is good at governance and this is the strength government can bring to the table in engaging with neogeographers. There is no value for government to continue to try and absorb with all components of a data value chain. Focus attention and developed the process for neogeographers to access, use and most importantly feed back data changes will ultimately lead to a greater benefit for those in government, thos in the private sector and those who are taking neogeography to the next level.

We are all observers in our local environments. Lets open access to data and ensure that if I make an update to some data that it is easily recorded, absorbed, processed and fed back out into the community.

Power of Local Knowledge
Image Source (http://conferences.oreillynet.com/where2007/)

Project Spatial: The Beginning

Hi!

A nice way to start the first blog of my life although I’m sure you might be thinking, whats next. As this is the start of ‘Project Spatial’ my aim is to bring you all the happenings of the Spatial sector within Australia and maybe some interesting tid-bits from the rest of the world. I like to think that this blog will be my personal space to express what I find cool, where interesting uses of information that has a spatial connection is being used and various happenings that I find interesting.

 

First a little about myself. I am a 29 year old Spatial Professional (I think that is the term the kids are using these days) working in Western Australia for Landgate. A founding member of the Spatial Sciences Institute (now Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute or SSSI) and a past Young Professional Spatial Professional of the year (2008) I have been involved in the Spatial sector for close to 10 years and been part of some really interesting projects and presentations. My dive in Spatial started with a company called ER Mapper (now ERDAS) where I was a programmer. Since realising the ‘fun’ that spatial can bring to the community I decided to get out from behind the computer and start experiencing real use mapping and engaging with the community. Since then I have been an active member of the SSSI and more recently FIG (http://www.fig.net) as a young ambassador for the FIG 2010 Congress. It is an exciting time in Spatial with Web 2.0 technologies and ‘Mashups’ exploring new uses of technology and community interaction that I hope to be part of now and into the future.

 

As this is Project Spatial, I will try to keep all posts on this blog impartial to my work within the spatial sector and for the organisation I work for. From time to time this might ‘SLIP’ but I’m sure you won’t hold this against me. I will intent to post regularly and I aim to start with some interesting findings I have experienced from the 3 conferences I have recently attended. These conferences, The Survey and Spatial Sciences Institute Conference, FOSS4G and WALIS Forum have been the real recent driver for a blog as Spatial in Australia; I feel needs to be recognised for the innovative development I see day to day.  I hope you will join me on this adventure and I hope to meet you all sometime in the future!