Queensland Surveying and Spatial Conference 2010

What was interesting to the QLD GIS community at this recent event ?  Plenty of highlights on the strategic front, with new state government initiatives, and possible collaborations, which may mean both new ways of accessing/sharing spatial data, and potentially vast new resources of high accuracy information.  This was my first SSSI conference, and I was happy that GIS-side of spatial was well represented, both in the presentations given, and in the make up of the audience attending.

For the sake of this report I’ll break the timeline and discuss the Day 2 sessions on Friday first, before discussing Thursday’s workshops.


Steve Jacoby, DERM

Steve’s presentation in summary, gave a solid justification to establish a shared data hub for QLD government’s spatial information, particularly from a legislative perspective.  This data-hub which would essentially supply spatial web-services, and extend the capabilities already provided via the Queensland Government Information Service (QGIS)

It was heartening to hear that QGIS is regarded as a success, “solid progress”, by QLD government and QSIC, (which was also backed up by Wayne Fry’s presentation later in the afternoon).  Note that technology-wise, QGIS implements the ArcGIS Server Geoportal Extension, with some custom code for server based ETL using the ArcGIS Server Data Interoperability extension

Workshops with CIOs from State Govt, SEQ councils, and Universities, unanimously supported the data-hub concept.   Something to definitely watch.

James Bangay, Ergon Energy

Very interesting presentation in terms of providing context around Ergon’s drive to capture enormous and absolutely unprecedented volumes of spatial data, and to create a virtual QLD.  We’re talking petabytes of data, here (eventually) captured annually.  There were many hints that Ergon are trying to involve other parts of QLD government to share in this project.   I’d like to think that this means a data sharing arrangement, to the benefit of all QLD government, rather than a mandating of any particular system/technology to gain access.   Knowing many state govt agencies quite well I can say that the latter scenario would be very unlikely to sit well at all, or even fit their basic needs.

Although Ergon have been investing heavily in developing many of their own systems via non-traditional means, it was interesting to see that from a technology perspective, many of the elements James showed had been demonstrated at ESRI’s user conference and other recent events, and are essentially off the shelf, particularly in ArcGIS 10.  These elements included massive-scale 3D cities and environments, huge libraries of imagery, 3D-based GIS analysis, augmented reality, and enterprise-scale field force enablement over smartphones/mobile devices.  See example video of ArcGIS 10 for 3D GIS.

Ken Lyons, Kevin McDougal, USQ

A shorter discussion around the spatial industry’s difficulty to attract new people, echoing similar issues in the engineering world. Working groups reporting back soon with ideas of where to focus.  Interesting to hear that the same challenge was also faced 30 years ago, but addressed successfully.

Day 2, Friday – Formal sessions

DERM – Spatial Information Management / Spatial Data Infrastructure

Greg Payne, Lindsay Redlich, and Peter Moylan from the Spatial Information Group presented on enterprise spatial initiatives within the department.   Greg gave the history lesson on DERM’s very successful transition from data silos to a true enterprise data management environment, through the ENRII program, leading to the Spatial Information Resource, SIR (spatial database) and the Corporate Registry Service (ESRI’s Geoportal).

Lindsay outlined the next progression of DERM’s plan, which would lead to a collaboration environment for scientists similar to the Data Basin initiative out of North America.   The need for such an environment is driven heavily by DERM’s involvement in the Great Barrier Reef Rescue and Reef Plan initiatives, with DERM looking after the land-side modelling.   The system would also need to bundle, capture and archive model inputs and outputs whenever scientist created a model or simulation, making sure that should decisions be made on a model, that this would be defensible in future – with huge implication on data storage for DERM.  We’ve been fortunate to be working with Lindsay on this project, which certainly leads into new and exciting areas.

Peter Moylan pointed out DERM’s 27 spatial systems, and the need to rationalise – “largely driven by that DERM have run out of catchy acronyms”.  It was certainly interesting to see stats from the systems, and just how heavily these are utilised.   This led on to an outline of future directions, including virtualisation, the cloud, SOA, re-architecture, enterprise licensing etc.

Ian Gordon and Wayne Fry spoke about whole of government initiatives led by DERM.   Ian’s presentation reported back conclusions from the Information Queensland Board following an extensive investigation of Bing Maps’ suitability as a platform to deliver government spatial information to the public.  This proof of concept driven by a Microsoft grant, and also involving Geomatic Technologies for deployment, fell short in a few areas, particularly through data issues.  This path wasn’t perhaps ruled out forever, but wasn’t a runaway success.

Wayne presented an outline about the Queensland Government Information Service, QGIS, and it’s recognised success to date as an online information discovery and download resource, providing 110 layers, due to be expanded to 150 soon.   As a replacement to the process of counter-staff giving spatial data to the public, it was strongly stressed that good metadata was crucial to ensure clients understand the data and its suitability.


Also attended sessions from Intermap, Dept Transport and Main Roads, QUT, DERM (ex EPA), Unidel, and Pitney Bowes.    May add some more notes on these when I have time.  Would have liked to have attended the session from Department of Infrastructure and Planning (apologies Mark C), but had conflicts.

Day One, Thursday – Workshops


With several local government clients, I had certainly heard about ADAC, but had been quite in the dark as to what this was – is it just a CAD thing?  Where does GIS fit in?

Following these presentations, I’m a lot happier with what this all means now – basically an common XML standard for transferring /submitting asset data, most likely from engineering firms working for council.  Upshot would seem to be quicker processing of as-constructed plans to council, huge savings both in cost and time by avoiding manual entry, and everyone is happy.   On the GIS side, this is typically where the spatial data winds up, so scripts (FME or Data Interoperability extn.) would do the work of mapping this to a geodatabase & asset system.

One takeaway from Logan City was that the cost to an authority to build an asset (e.g. council swimming pool) is only 20% of its lifetime expense.     So it’s careful what you ask for I guess.  Grants may sound good, but there’s a bigger picture to consider.

Data Collection & Capture

Unabashed sales presentation from ERDAS on their Apollo Server.  If comparing ArcGIS Server, we have a very different approach to tackle the same client requirements, with ESRI providing the same capabilities, particularly with our server extensions, but as flexible building blocks, rather than a turn-key, but niche-focussed product.

Tim O’Donnell from Geoimage gave a presentation around private sector consulting projects, and the challenges of data quality and lack of metadata from the commercial world that make this difficult.  Beige vs Sexy project categorisation – commercial projects in the main fitting into the former category.   Got into a discussion following the presentation, around pragmatic approaches to metadata in the commercial world – a good practical example came from Barrick Gold’s experience where a common sense certainly prevailed.

Andrew H.

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