Monday, 22 September 2014

Volunteering with the AGI

Jeremy Hidderley - AECOM & AGI Events AWG

In our 25th year, the AGI has really pushed the boat out with the Geo Big 5 series of seminars.  The special interest groups continue to support the association with the provision of seminars with activities focused on specific subjects.

All of these events would not be possible without the support of a growing band of volunteers putting these events together with the support of the fabulous AGI staff.  This is a great method of working.  The volunteers (also members of the AGI) are able to set the vision for these events, and the AGI staff facilitate many of the volunteer requirements.  The volunteers benefit from a knowledgeable and hardworking support network.  The AGI, as an organisation benefit from the volunteers as they all bring something to the table.  

The benefits to the AGI typically fall into two camps:

  •         Ensuring that the AGI follow the correct strategic direction
  •         Making that strategic vision a reality

Whichever camp you think that you may fall into, the ultimate reality is that all volunteers are contributing to the community in which they are involved.  They are helping to share knowledge which should help everyone in their day to day jobs. 

The benefits of volunteering are not just one way, the individual can benefit greatly.  Some of the common benefits gained from any type of volunteering include:

  •          Gain confidence and self esteem
  •          Giving something back to a group that has supported you
  •          Sharing your own knowledge/skills
  •          Gain new or develop existing skills
  •          Help to gain/maintain accreditation (CPD)

Particular attention should be paid to the benefit of gaining accreditation.  As a prospective and qualified Chartered Geographer, individuals should be demonstrating an ongoing commitment to promoting geography.

In the run up to the conference in November 2014, we are starting to look to fill our volunteer roles.  So if you are attending the conference, please do take a look at the AGI’s Big 5 Volunteering website (  As a conference volunteer you will benefit from building a strong network of industry peers, some of whom may sit outside of your normal group of contacts as well as helping to influence how the conference looks and feels. 

Whilst some of our roles do require a minimum time commitment, these are normally short term or one off roles.  If you would like to volunteer on a more flexible basis, please do get in touch, as we are starting to look for Working Group members for 2015 and beyond.

We look forward to hearing from you.  

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Big Data and Location – A real or imagined new frontier?

In the run up to this month's Geo Big 5 Big Data event (30th Sep, IBM, London) Andy Coote reports on some of the insights gained from speaking and listening to some of the foremost experts in the field and ponders the place of location in Big Data. A glossary of Big Data terminology is also provided.

Big Data, why should I care?

In their recent report on Big Data, McKinsey[1] suggest it is becoming a key battlefield of competitive advantage, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer behaviour. One of the key application areas they highlight is geo-centric - personal navigation data. They assess the application of such data as being worth $800bn worldwide during the current decade. Even if McKinsey are an order of magnitude too high in this forecast, it is still a staggeringly large potential market for the location industry. 
Mobile devices, earth observation satellites and the Internet of Things are just a few sources contributing to creating the world of Big Data. But it is about more than just Volume. Big Data also describes data sets with a high Velocity of change (such as real time data streams), and with a wide Variety of data types - collectively known as the three V's[2].
This combination makes processing and analysis difficult using conventional tools. In particular, the volume and mix of structured and unstructured data, is a challenge for object-relational database management systems (such as Oracle and SQL*server) that most organisations currently use to underpin their data management. Here the major disruptive technology has been Hadoop, employed by search engines to produce the almost instant query response we have all come to expect from Google et al.
The huge additional business value to be derived from Big Data comes from what Accenture describe[3] as finding new insights. These might include identification of financial fraud, increasing retail sales or sources of inefficiency in Government. None of these are new, but the science of what is often termed predictive analytics in Big Data circles, is introducing new tools and techniques which rely heavily on what we might have previously called spatial analysis and 4D visualisation.


According to John Morton, until recently with SAS but now an independent Big Data consultant, location figures in a wide range of applications because of its ability to reveal new information patterns and present information to senior executives visually.
Some real examples were showcased at the recent Strata 14 conference on Big Data in San Francisco including:
Transport – Ian Huston, Data Scientist at Pivotal, sees Big Data analytics as a way to bring techniques from other disciplines, such as change point detection used in the wind turbine industry and cell population analysis from biology to complex problems of traffic management[4].
Retail – Susan Ethlinger, Altimeter Group, described as an example the use of location to identify problems in the supply chain of steak restaurants to illustrate deriving actionable intelligence from existing social and enterprise information sources[5].
Security – Ari Gescher, Palantir, presented “Adaptive Adversaries: Systems to stop fraud and cyber intruders”, where he described the use of geocoding of servers through IP addresses and various other “location assets” to provide intelligence to banks. 
Health – genomics, the science of gene sequencing which involves very complex calculations on very large datasets takes centre stage in this sector. However, the medical insurers, such as Kaiser Permanente in the United States are also making heavy use of tools such as ArcGIS as part of their Big Data strategy.

Location in Big Data Platforms

Different suppliers appear to have different views on the potential for location analytics in Big Data solutions.
SAP have taken the decision to embed Esri technology into the core of their product, which they believe will enable their users to more simply leverage geospatial tools as part of the HANA in-memory computing platform.

In contrast, Steve Jones, Cap Gemini, (partners with Pivotal in the Big Data space), believes the dominant approach will see designers building location analytics for their platforms as they find it useful. According to Jones, Big Data analytics will borrow the algorithms of GIS via good developers but will not try to “shoehorn” existing products into their architectures. 
Another aspect of the Big Data debate was outlined by Steve Hagen of Oracle. Speaking recently at a UN GGIM meeting, he suggested that real time feeds of location data are simply so huge that they are unmanageable in raw form and that filtering at source before loading into databases is the only viable solution. It seems to me however, that although deciding what to keep requires skills which geospatial practitioners unique possess, it does pre-suppose you know in advance what insights you might find.

Big Data & Location - Geo Big 5

So much energy is being pumped into the Big Data story, it won’t go away. Even if it is simply a rebranding of concepts that have existed for a long time such as business intelligence. Why is it important to the location market? Because it is potentially a huge opportunity - well over 50 % of the presentations at the Strata conference used geo-centric use cases to demonstrate their solutions or ideas. Furthermore, there seemed to be a general under-estimation of the richness of insight that location analytics (what we used to call spatial analysis) could bring to the party.

If you’d like to understand more about what Big Data means for the location industry, the AGI is organising an event on Tuesday 30th September in London titled simply “Big Data and Location”.  Hosted at the prestigious IBM Centre on the South Bank, it will bring together the main players from the Big Data and Geospatial worlds to explain technical concepts and showcase real applications.  For more information go to the AGI website

Andy Coote is Chief Executive at location consulting specialists ConsultingWhere
Email:, Twitter: @acoote

Glossary of Technical Terms:

  • Hadoop - is a database file system for storage and large-scale processing of data-sets on clusters of commodity processors.  The concept relies upon storing data items multiple times across different processors/disks for resilience and fast retrieval. Originally developed in 2005 by two of Yahoo’s engineers it underpins most of the search engines, Facebook, and many of th

  • Mapreduce – is the programming framework that enables fast retrieval of data from Hadoop clusters. Originally developed by Google, it is based on algorithms that schedule and handle parallel communications necessary to make that retrieval fast and reliable. Put another way, it supports massive multi-threading of processes.

  • NoSQL – is a term used to refer to the storage and retrieval of data which does not rely on SQL and the relational model of storage, of which Hadoop is typical. Although Hadoop is very efficient at dealing with certain types of tasks, such as retrieval from unstructured sources, relational systems, such as Oracle and SQL*Server, are better at operations on structured data, leading to the term being redefined recently to Not only SQL.

  • Data Mining – is about discovering patterns in large datasets involving various methods drawn from machine learning (what used to be referred to as artificial intelligence), statistics, database querying and visualisation.

  • Graphs - the mathematical structures used to model pairwise relations between objects. A "graph" in this context is made up of vertices or "nodes" and lines called edges that connect them. The classic graph in the geospatial world is the link and node structure used to represent a transport or utility network.

[1] McKinsey Global Institute: Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition and Productivity

[2] 9 levers for Converting Big Data and Analytics into Results. Christy Maver, IBM.

[5] Social Data Intelligence: Integrating Social and Enterprise Data for Competitive Advantage

Extracts from an article written by Andrew Coote, ConsultingWhere and published by GIS Professional magazine in their edition in June 2014

Monday, 15 September 2014

The AGI GeoBig 5 - Policy

Policy! Policy! Will anyone come along?

Well that was the first reaction from the AGI Cyrmu steering group when we discussed this theme for our part of the GEO Big5 programme. Compared to some of the slightly more sexy themes on the agenda we thought it would be an uphill struggle to deliver a stimulating and appealing day. 

How wrong we were.

As we got into the topic and considered both its significance to what we all do and the varying aspects for how we could run an engaging and exciting day we quickly found out a number of really interesting themes that we could focus in on for an interactive and lively GEO; Big5  event. 

Policy affects us all. Sometimes we moan about it and it seems overcomplicated and a burden. At other times it’s exciting and innovative and it moves us all forward in our jobs. The GIS community has to interpret policy, advise and convince management what the best options are for its adoption. Suppliers develop solutions to help people implement and comply with policy– a challenge as guidance never stays still! Then there is the effect GI has in shaping policy itself – location is a fundamental principle in helping to draft, deliver and measure the benefit of policy. There is also the policy of GI itself.

So at first what seemed a topic that would send us all to sleep has made us all think and got us really excited as we have put the programme together.

The AGI Policy event is certainly fast approaching, and scheduled to take place on 9th October at the SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff.   The event is sure to attract a variety of public and private sector delegates as well as several exciting exhibitors, including our Platinum Sponsors Ordnance Survey and ESRI UK.  Following some great keynotes, the day will focus on the relationship between Policy and Geospatial with a split stream session of “Policy influencing GI” and “GI Influencing Policy”.  The afternoon sessions includes a series of lightning talks and a highly anticipated GI Interactive group event which will provide voting, networking and debating opportunities about some of the issues you should really care about.

Directly after the event will be a tips and tricks session, where you may find yourself learning some new skills and getting some value you can take back into your organisations and implement straight away.

If you want a bit of an ice-breaker before the event, come and join us at Y Mochyn Du pub at 7pm on 8th October for a drink!

The AGIC Team

View the event programme here

Platinum Sponsor Comments:

Esri UK is delighted to sponsor the GEO: The Big Five Policy event in Cardiff on 9th October. Esri UK is committed to helping organisations across the public sector meet the most pressing policy challenges and implement government priorities – giving the geographic insight needed to make better decisions.  Esri GIS solutions help the public sector enrich operations, meet missions and better communicate with the public.

For further information on how Esri UK supports Government Policy, email or visit .

Ordnance Survey is proud to sponsor the GEO: Big Five Policy event in Cardiff on 9th October. Through the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) we are already supporting the majority of Welsh public sector organisations in identifying efficiencies and cost savings in policy creation, monitoring and delivery. We would like to ensure this opportunity is exploited by all our public sector customers and look forward to discussing how we can work together to make this happen.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

AGI announces Professor Iain Stewart as Guest Compère at its annual awards evening - 13/11/14.

The Association for Geographic Information (AGI) is pleased to announce Professor Iain Stewart as Guest Compère at its new annual awards evening – The AGI Awards for GeoSpatial Excellence -  to be held at the Chesford Grange Hotel, Warwickshire, during the evening of November 13th 2014.

The AGI Awards are a prestigious event recognising the very best achievements in the field of Geographic Information throughout the year. The purpose of the awards is to recognise excellence within the industry and to foster a spirit of innovation to the betterment of Geographic Information in the UK. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the AGI and as a result the AGI has launched an exciting new set of awards for 2014 and beyond! The AGI Awards for Geospatial Excellence move beyond the traditional sector based approach to generate an open and engaging competition for each award relevant across the whole industry! For more information about the awards and how to nominate yourself or your project please visit:

The deadline for nominations is 30th September 2014.

About Professor Iain Stewart:

Iain Stewart, professor of Geoscience Communication at Plymouth University (UK), is an Earth scientist and broadcaster who specialises in recent geological change. He has presented major television series for the BBC on the nature, history and state of the planet, most notably ‘Earth:  The Power of the Planet’; ‘Earth: The Climate Wars’; ‘How Earth Made Us’, ‘How To Grow A Planet’; ‘Volcano Live’, and ‘Rise of the Continents’. He regularly fronts BBC Horizon specials on geoscientific topics, such as the Japanese earthquake, the Russian meteor strike, Shale gas/ Fracking, and Florida sinkholes. In 2013 he was awarded the American Geophysical Union’s Athelstan Spilhaus Award for conveying to the general public the excitement, significance, and beauty of the Earth and space sciences.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Learn more about the future of water infrastructure at a free AGI Asset Management SIG event

Jeremy Hidderley - AECOM & AGI Asset Management SIG

With ageing water infrastructure and the move towards total expenditure regulation in AMP6, UK water companies face tough decisions about how to spend their budgets most effectively.

Combining these decisions with delivering outcomes rather than outputs and increasing service demands from customers and the environment, the emphasis is on delivering effective operational and asset management. To help keep abreast of these challenges, the AGI’s Asset Management SIG is hosting a water utilities seminar in Bristol on Tuesday 9th September. 

All water companies have recently submitted their PR14 business plans to OFWAT.  The next great challenge will be applying asset management expertise to help translate these plans into tangible benefits for their customers. 

At the forefront of this challenge will be the need for accurate and complete data, the lifeblood of effective asset management.  The transfer in ownership of underground assets since 2011 has made this requirement a greater issue as the householders were the previous owners of the asset, and of course, very few formal records were maintained. 

Water companies are tackling these data issues either by proactively mapping assets from paper records or predicting the number, length and age of those assets using any available data.  In addition to this, mobile mapping technology has truly come of age with operatives now able to collect location and attribute information in the field which can be returned to the corporate GIS quickly and efficiently as certain attributes can be mandated during the collection phase. 

Wessex Water and Arup will be sharing their perspective on some of these issues and how they are using geospatial technologies and geographic information to solve them.  South West Water will be sharing their approach to fast and accurate asset data collection with their new black-lining system.      

In addition to the completeness and accuracy of data, the volume and speed at which data is being created is increasing.  Networks of sensors across water company assets already provide a wealth of information about the performance of a system. Further investment is still needed in this technology to increase coverage, allowing the performance of whole catchments to be viewed at the click of a button. This will help water companies move towards real-time operational management, and even take this to the next level of self-learning asset control. For example, if water companies could link the effect of prevailing weather patterns to the need for additional network storage or a temporary increase in wastewater treatment capacity this could increase operational efficiency and reduce customer disruption.

By utilising this wealth of data that is (and could be) available, the industry can start to build up a greater understanding about how and when assets fail.  In a similar fashion to using weather and climate data to predict capacity requirements, the industry can start to look more at the environment in which an asset resides. On this subject, Cranfield University will be talking about some of their research into the impact of soils upon underground assets.  As we begin to better understand modes of failure, the industry can begin to fine tune their predictive capabilities. 

To learn more about the above, please register for the event at:

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Geo: The Big 5 - News Round-up

Big Data (IBM, London, 30 Sep) in Partnership with the Demographics User Group – programme online, book now!

There is still chance to book a place for this highly anticipated event and gain insight into one of the hottest topics in future IT thinking. The AGI’s Big Data event features world leading experts from big data (IBM, Cloudera, MapR, Deloitte), major commercial users (Marks and Spencer, Telefonica) and geospatial sectors (Esri, Ordnance Survey). Two parallel streams will run through the day, one focussing on Strategy and the other Best Practice. The conference is accompanied by an exhibition and the full programme can be viewed here.

Geocom - The Changing Face of Geo (Chesford Grange Hotel, Kenilworth, 11th-13th Nov) - early bird ends 12th September

This year’s new format Geocom (marking the AGI’s 25th year) will see talks from leading industry speakers and Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Mark Walport. Talks will explore the challenges, opportunities and business benefit of integrating geospatial with a host of other tools alongside skills focused workshops, hands on training and an innovation theatre. Regardless of your sector or interest GeoCom will allow you to debate, engage with and shape the future of the geospatial industry. Logistics information and the conference registration form can be found online.

 AGI Awards for Geospatial Excellence (Chesford Grange Hotel, Kenilworth, 13th Nov) - still time to gain recognition for your work

There is still plenty of time to submit an entry for the AGI Awards for Geospatial Excellence and be recognised for your achievements in and commitment to geospatial in 2014. Detailed descriptions of our ten prestigious awards are available on the Geo Big 5 site

Thursday, 7 August 2014

AGI Awards for Geospatial Excellence – why you should enter, sponsor & attend

There is still plenty of time to submit an entry for the AGI Awards and be recognised for your achievements in and commitment to geospatial in 2014. 
Ten prestigious awards (new for this year and beyond) will recognise excellence in visualisation, education, research & development, business benefit, impact and sustained commitment to geospatial. 

Reflection and celebration is not often at the forefront of an employee's to-do list; award entries take time and effort (though the AGI's entry form really is quite concise) and other deadlines will often take priority. However, awards are an important way of acknowledging achievement and commitment. The AGI awards aim to inspire through showcasing the very best practice in the geospatial industry, fostering a spirit of GI innovation in the UK.

This post details a plethora of reasons to submit an entry for, sponsor and attend the 2014 AGI Awards for Geospatial Excellence: 

Why Enter?

  • Obtain recognition of your success among your industry peers – being shortlisted for an award will raise your profile among the most renowned names in the industry
  • Showcase your company at one of the UK’s biggest gatherings of GI professionals
  • Demonstrate your company’s success stories to prospective clients – the awards are an opportunity to prove that you are at the forefront of the GI market
  •  Keep an eye on the competition - the awards are a great opportunity to measure your own performance against your competitors’ and see where you sit alongside the best in the industry
  • Share your stories and excellent case studies of exemplar projects to help the AGI to sell the value of investing in geospatial to a wider audience.

Why Sponsor?

  • Showcase your company at of one of the year’s premier geospatial events and position your company as a market leader
  •  Stand out from your competitors with branding throughout the conference and ceremony
  •  Differentiate yourself from competitors by demonstrating your support and commitment to the GI industry and its achievements
  • Participate in the judging process and present an award on the night
  •  Benefit from visual marketing at the event and coverage in the AGI Geocommunity Brochure.

Why Attend?

  • Learn about the projects which your peers and competitors are undertaking - see state of the art projects and learn from the entrant’s experiences
  • Network with Geospatial leaders from a range of sectors and network in a relaxed environment
  • Celebrate the industry’s success with clients
  • Establish face to face relationships and create new business opportunities
  • Reward your team with a glamorous night out
  • Meet our distinguished panel of judges.

Diamond Sponsors:

Awards Sponsors: