Thursday, 20 March 2014

Geo: The Big 5 gets underway!

Not a bad turnout...
Yesterday AGI Scotland hosted Future Cities the first of the Geo Big 5 events series and I'm pleased to say that we've got off to a flying start. Delegate turnout was at pre recession levels, the speakers were fantastic and the venue was pretty spectacular (thanks to Glasgow City Council for that one). Both streams had a really solid line up of presentations and the panel debate in the afternoon was really well received (those can be tricky to pull off).

I spent the day room monitoring in the best practice stream so I will be getting one of my colleagues to write a summary of that soon. In the meantime this’ll be a brief round up of the sessions I saw which included some great pieces of innovation.

The event opened with some very encouraging comments from the head of Glasgow City Council, showing that the local authority has really understood the power of GI to improve services for the citizen. However I will let my colleague cover this more within the context of the future cities stream.

The Main Room/Palace
The morning best practice stream opened with a presentation from the Forestry Commission Scotland on releasing a Scotland wide dataset on native woodland. This was quite an ambitious project in scope with the whole of Scotland surveyed over a period of about six years (some areas surveyed in greater detail based on aerial imagery). After collecting this huge dataset the team then overcame a number of challenges to provide this as open public data easily accessible to non GI users.

This was followed by a very nice presentation/demonstration from Paul Clarke of Esri on designing the future city. This showed City Engine being used on a range of projects as well as a general view on what future cities may look like. Paul also echoed the councillor’s comments about when talking about future cities it is what we are doing today that will define how they look and work.
The following presentation on the use of GI to support the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow gave a very practical demonstration of the challenges a modern city faces and the tools we have to overcome them.

After lunch the best practice stream kicked off with a really interesting project from Ross McDonald and Angus Council. They had successfully evolved their geospatial offering from a truly Byzantine collection of different platforms, datasets and file types into a much more open focused and integrated set up. This has allowed them to free up powerful but expensive proprietary software for users who most need it whilst spreading the power of spatial much wider across the organisation. Their mantra appropriately is ‘spatial isn’t special, its core’.

A presentation by ERM showcasing the use of GI for environmental and social management of major projects was up next. A particularly interesting feature of this solution is that it is accessible via the web and allows users (such as local residents) to comment on features of a project.

Last but not least Scottish Water and Kemeling Consulting presented on an asset visualisation project they have been working on. This project allows much better visualisation of sections of the Scottish Water network allowing the double benefit of improved repair efficiency and also improved transparency with local communities as to why work is being undertaken. The project has so far informed around £1 million worth of repair work.

An overall theme coming out of this stream, particularly the afternoon sessions was that the next step for cementing the role of spatial is to be able to articulate hard financial savings from projects such as these. All the users know there was benefit and the challenge is to be able to express this financially, something that is particularly crucial as the use of spacial spreads into the private sector.

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