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Esri’s Community Maps Program allows users to share their local content in the Cloud with the global GIS community. The City of Melbourne was the first Australian council to make its spatial data freely available through the Program. We sat down with Esri Australia Senior Consultant Andrew Langdon to learn more about Community Maps, and why local councils might consider taking part.
Esri Australia: Andrew, how significant was the City of Melbourne’s decision to make its spatial data freely available?
Andrew: It’s hugely significant. Melbourne now sits alongside New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and other major cities as one of the first in the world to contribute to a new World Topographical Map, and join the Community Maps Program. From a local perspective, ratepayers – as well as the broader community – can now freely access Melbourne’s spatial data as a basemap, which displays building sites, parcel boundaries, tree locations and other layers.
EA: Can you tell us a bit about the Community Maps Program? What exactly is involved?
A: The Community Maps Program is an Esri initiative that seeks to make local authoritative GIS content more accessible to the community – by developing a suite of multi-scale global basemaps that can be used in a wide variety of applications. As part of the Program, councils can contribute their own basemaps – which are then made freely available to the public through ArcGIS Online. Councils can choose to upload 23 different types of data including trees, building footprints, trails and landmarks.
EA: How do contributors benefit from the Program?
A: Essentially, it’s an easy way for councils to share maps with their stakeholders – whether that’s businesses in their region, or members of the public – as well as the global GIS community. It’s free to contribute, free to access and there are no ongoing infrastructure costs. For example, when it comes to the City of Melbourne, they now have a way to share their spatial information with the community. This has been particularly valuable during major events such as their New Year’s Eve fireworks.
Providing open access to its spatial data also means users can not only view maps, but also create their own customised maps with unprecedented levels of detail. Businesses often have maps on their website of their store locations or the areas they service – and previously, they’ve had to rely on some online base maps that haven’t been regularly updated or verified. By contributing to the Community Maps Program, Melbourne residents and businesses now have open access to an incredibly accurate and verified base map they know they can trust.
EA: Can you tell us about the Local Government Information Model? What role does it play in the Community Maps Program?
A: The Local Government Information Model is a collection of valuable resources created and maintained by Esri for local government GIS users. It is the common data model at the heart of the Community Maps Program, and is where local governments migrate their data for review, before it is imported into a community map, like the World Topographical Map.
EA: In the recently released Local Government Benchmark Study, over 70% of councils indicated they would consider making their spatial data freely available to the broader community. What are the incentives for councils in going down this path?
A: From a community perspective it gives ratepayers ongoing and reliable access to an authoritative and trustworthy resource that’s always available. It encourages information-sharing between councils and their communities. Councils can also reduce their administrative costs by having an accessible, low-cost basemap that can easily be updated.
EA: Thanks Andrew.
My name is Toby Clewett and I use GIS technology for geospatial analysis and modelling at Sunshine Coast Council. Last year, our GIS team captured the interest of our region – when we decided to survey tree heights across the area. At the time, none of us imagined it would lead to the discovery of a new environmental icon: Queensland’s tallest tree.
Dubbed ‘Big Bob’ – in honour of long-serving Sunshine Coast councilor and former mayor Bob Abbot – the 73 metre giant was found hidden in the rugged forest of Conondale National Park, using a combination of GIS and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology.
You can read more about how we made the discovery here – but basically, in addition to finding ‘Big Bob’, we were also able to generate an extremely accurate picture of what Conondale National Park actually looks like – right down to the rocks, shrubs, landslips and former forestry tracks of the bare landscape. The two videos below show a visualisation of LiDAR data from the area:
- Visualisation of Vegetation GIS Mapping using LiDAR; and,
- Vegetation Mapping using LiDAR Point Cloud Data – 3D Visualisation.
However, we wanted to be sure of the accuracy of the method – and after an off-track field trip, we were able to get cold, hard proof that it works!
Late last year, we thought we would put the GIS and LiDAR solution to the test, by conducting a ‘quality assurance’ exercise. Together with my colleagues – Dean Derby and Lee King – we took Julia and David Pennisi (who are two famous Australian tree climbing champions… known as ‘climbing arborists’), out to the tree to climb and measure it!
It was incredible to witness David climbing to within four metres of the highest branch, and then using an aluminium extension pole to hoist a tape measure to the highest branch.
Communicating via CB radio with Lee at the base of the tree, David dropped the tape measure and we were able to establish the height at 72.84 metres – just 6 centimetres different to the 72.90 metres measured by LiDAR.
It was a fun and fascinating exercise – and proved once and for all just how accurate we can be by leveraging GIS and LiDAR technologies to get a clear and detailed picture of the landscape and its features.
If you’re interested in LiDAR technology you might also like to check out my university thesis – ‘Application of LiDAR Technology Mapping for Vegetation Management – A Survey of south-east Queensland’s Professionals’.
Toby Clewett, Geospatial Analyst, Sunshine Coast Council.
I am delighted to see how remote sensing technology has evolved over the years to assist professionals in many disciplines. This technology had its origin in land-based applications but is now widely utilised in several diverse disciplines. Why this change? I think it’s because an average user of spatial information/GIS can now easily integrate often complex and scientific Remote Sensing tools into their spatial/GIS workflow. Remote Sensing education and teaching has played a vital role in this transformation. University academic programs provide the benefit of Remote Sensing technology by offering this subject in a variety of disciplines such as urban and transportation planning, agriculture and forestry, public health, social and environmental sciences and many more. Modern day software tools have assisted users in integrating the scientific information derived from Remote Sensing into their own disciplines, in their own ways. (more…)
ArcGIS Online is evolving at a rapid pace – there’s no doubt about it. As I was putting my fingers to the keyboard for this final part of a three part series on the December release, Esri announced another major release on 19 March. My plan for the final part of this trilogy was to discuss Task Services – and I will cover that off, in what will now be an overview of the March release. (more…)
The dust has now settled on a busy week of activities broadly dubbed our GIS in Defence and Intelligence week. Culminating in a full day of presentations and demonstrations last Friday the Esri Australia Defence and Intelligence team, with support from Esri Inc and Exelis VIS, took a look at how GIS is transforming the National Security sector. (more…)
Directions 2013 wrapped up this month with our highest attendance to date. While attending the Melbourne leg of Esri Australia’s nine stop tour, I found myself curious about what brings people back to Directions every year. To my surprise, the attendees I spoke to came from a diverse range of industries, yet their responses were similar: “an opportunity to connect…to connect with GIS professionals from other industries…and…connect with the latest technology at Esri Australia”. (more…)
Many organisations view workplace training and development as an important investment in the success and growth of their employees. Training inspires, motivates, and keeps employee skills up-to-date. In the case of GIS professionals, changes in technology and fast moving industry trends makes training an essential part of an employee’s professional development.
Managing and visualising big unstructured datasets can improve analysis and understanding of patterns and trends. If you are a desktop user, analysis and visualisation are core skill sets. For you – training may focus on learning a new part of the technology, like Buisness Analyst, which can help you derive quality information from large datasets, and enhance your organisation’s decision-making process.
For desktop users the advance of cloud computing may also mean learning new workflows. The latest release of ArcGIS is very much about collaborating and sharing analyses by publishing to cloud-based services. If this is something that interests you, we offer several courses that focus on sharing GIS content on the web.
If you are a developer, mobile apps can improve the reach of your business. Building web applications can help you communicate analyses, ideas, marketing, and research to a wider audience. Mobile solutions also go beyond the smartphone and tablet – think of real time data collection in the field, or crowdsourcing information for city planning or disaster response. Understanding Esri’s mobile technology can help you and your organisation make the most of advances in mobility.
For city planners, local government, or any GIS professional active in the urban design and planning area, 3D city models are becoming integral foundations for building and planning cities around the globe.
City Engine, 3D Analyst, and 3D Analyst for Server are applications designed to develop 3D content. With technologies that let you visualise alternative planning scenarios and share design proposals and analyses via web applications, it won’t be long before 3D planning design can also be viewed using augmented reality applications.
With a new financial year on the horizon, now is an ideal time to start planning your training requirements and thinking about what training courses can help you get the most out of your current role. Esri Australia’s National Training Manager Kath Sund gives us a quick update on new training developments in the GIS space.
Esri Australia: Hi Kath, thanks for taking some time out of your schedule to chat to us. Can you tell us what’s been happening in the training world and what we can expect in the new financial year?
Kath: At the moment we’re focussing on expanding the course options we have available. GIS is such a wide field and we know a one-size-fits-all approach to training doesn’t really work. Different GIS professionals have different needs, so we’re investing a lot of time in helping clients understand what’s right for them and developing training courses that help meet their needs.
What’s got us really excited at the moment is customised training, where we tailor an existing training course to meet a client’s exact requirements. This is proving to be a popular choice for users that need to brush up on a skills set for a particular project they’re working on.
Not only can we provide training materials amalgamating different course chapters together, we can also build specific training materials for an organisation. We have an experienced training team who can help users with their specific needs, and work out the best option for them.
EA: Why would a user take up a customised training option? What’s in it for them?
KS: Because all our clients have different needs, a standard approach sometimes isn’t the best option. With customised training, clients know they’ll get training that’s relevant and helps them meet their operational requirements. It’s all about flexibility for users and making sure they get the skills they need. The courses can also include a workshop component, allowing the trainer to spend time working on specific workflows not covered in the training materials.
What about the Learning and Services Credits Program? How can this help organisations plan their training?
KS: The lead-up to a new financial year is always a crazy time for larger organisations with budgets under scrutiny. Our Learning and Services Credits Program is ideal because it offers real flexibility. Clients can purchase training credits in the current financial year to use in the next financial year. There’s also flexibility in how they spend those credits – whether they prefer one of our GIS training courses, or dedicated time with our staff – the choice is up to them.
How have people responded to one-on-one training?
KS: Again, clients like the option because it gives them flexibility. With our Client Exclusive Training option, we provide training for up to 10 employees from an organisation at either their premises or one of our own training facilities. By focussing the course exclusively on the needs of one organisation, students receive quality time. Ultimately, this means a more cost-effective and targeted training option.
EA: Thanks Kath.
I was born in Christchurch, New Zealand to a Samoan mother and New Zealand father. I grew up travelling a lot, playing representative sport and visiting family abroad. So it was at a young age that I became enthralled with two things: maps and National Geographic. Little did I realise that I would rekindle this passion later in life as I studied towards my Bachelor of Science and later Masters in Geography from the University of Otago in Dunedin. Over this period I have spent my summers working as an intern at the Centre for Sustainability (CSAFE) studying a range of geographic issues. Some of my projects included assisting the national energy authority (EECA) establish a GIS for renewable energy generation in New Zealand, engaging with communities about energy behaviour change at the household level, building EIA capacity in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and assessing the public fall out from Project Hayes, New Zealand’s largest wind farm proposal, published as part of a book entitled “Making Our Place”. So what has signified the importance of GIS in my life to date? To answer this question I would like to share two important reflections from my home and homeland:
Hello, my name is Pia King and I am part of the first Graduate Consultant Group at Esri Australia. I am an American-Australian and I have spent my life living in both Brisbane and Philadelphia, USA. My first exposure to GIS was during my undergraduate studies in Environmental Studies and Political Science while working on a political campaign.
After working for a few years, I decided to go back to school to gain the skills and knowledge that would help answer my spatial questions in a meaningful way.