Geospatial in the USA

Last week’s trip to the USA reminded me how cartography and GIS are central to American academic geography. I was invited to the Geography and Geology department of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) to give a research presentation on my work using LiDAR-sourced data to examine archaeological landscapes. It was good to join later in some of Mike Peterson’s classes: it was clear that his new book, ‘Mapping in the Cloud’, acts as an excellent basis for the syllabus of a course on web mapping. I also discussed the August pre-conference joint ICA Commissions (Education & Training/Maps & the Internet) workshop in Curitiba, Brazil: I chair the former, and Rex Cammack from UNO the latter, so we were able to firm up some of the co-organisation in person.

A couple of days later and 500 miles to the east, the AAG conference in Chicago beckoned and my Education & Training hat was retained, presenting a paper about accreditation in cartography, participating in a panel discussion about the role of cartography in GIS education, and invited to sit in with the luminaries on the UCGIS board crafting the extended ‘Body of Knowledge’ in GIS&T. There was also time to visit the Newberry Library in Chicago, where Volume 6 of the History of Cartography (published by the University of Chicago Press, and covering the 20th century) was launched. At 1,960 pages with 1200 illustrations, in two enormous volumes, it was astonishing to see the magnum opus in print. Luckily, contributors have been offered a .PDF copy, so I did not have to check in excess baggage at the airport …

Back in Vienna this week, I visited Gilbert Kotzbek at the Universitat Wien (which celebrates its 650th birthday this year). I have been discussing his PhD work on the use of GIS to examine football data with him for some time now, and he has created some excellent Python-scripted ArcGIS tools to input, filter, and analyse the staggering amount of spatial and attribute data captured during a game and interpreted after (1/25th second interval positional data for every player and ball, plus information about every event – tackle, throw-in, offside, corner etc). What’s missing in the data is the third dimension – it would be interesting to contrast the style of a long-ball team which keeps the ball in the air a lot, with a close-passing, tiki-taka side. I also had the chance to remind myself of teaching in a classroom, when I had a class with the 15 students of the International Masters MSc course in Cartography (who are all studying in Vienna this semester, having been at Dresden and Munich for previous semesters). This is a very international bunch from Egypt, China, Canada etc and closer to home from close-by Slovakia. The topic was VGI, so I was able to convey some of the thoughts which came out of Maythm Al-Bakri’s PhD study from a couple of years ago, and outline what Kaizer and Mustafa are doing in Newcastle now.

bis zum nächsten Mal …

David Fairbairn

GISRUK 2015

A group of 6 staff and PhD students attended the annual UK GIS conference (GISRUK) being hosted by Leeds University. With all but one presenting (though now GISRUK regular Phil James was named on three of the six presentations), the groups diverse and interdisciplinary range of work which related to GIS was well covered.

Congratulations must be given to Neil Harris and Craig Robson who won best paper for their paper entitled “Real time coupled network failure modelling and visualisation”. No doubt this was (at least in part anyway) down to a live demonstration by Neil during the presentation of the developed software/framework which worked (or so it appeared to those less who hadn’t seen it before!). See below for a link to the abstract and presentation.

It was also good to see a number of alumni who have continued to work in the field of GIS upon departing our department after three years of study.

Finally a thanks to organizing committee for putting together a great conference and for the bursary awarded to Craig.

The official conference proceedings can be found here.

Links to the six presentations (and abstracts) are below:

  • “Real time coupled network failure modelling and visualisation”,  Neil Harris, Craig Robson, Stuart Barr and Phil James (Winning paper).
  • “Assessing the need for infrastructure adaptation by simulating impacts of extreme weather events on urban transport infrastructure”, Alistair Ford, Maria Pregnolato, Katie Jenkins, Stuart Barr, and Richard Dawson.
  • “Evolutionary Computing for Multi-Objective Spatial Optimisation”,  Daniel Caparros-Midwood, Stuart Barr and Richard Dawson.
  • “A geospatial relational database schema for interdependent network analysis and modelling”, David Alderson, Stuart Barr, Tomas Holderness, Craig Robson, Alistair Ford and Ruth Kennedy-Walker.
  • “Football fan locality- An analysis of football fans tweet locations”, Neil Harris and Phil James.
  • “Spatially modelling dependent infrastructure networks”, Craig Robson, Stuart Barr, Phil James and Alistair Ford

Geospatial in Vienna

It has been a good start to my two month sabbatical in Vienna.  Georg Gartner and his  team at the Technical University (TU) Wien Cartography department have been most welcoming, and my apartment (rented on the viewing of web-site photos alone) is gemutlich.  It is great to be staying in one of my favourite cities.

I remember watching the 2006 World Cup final in a bar in Vienna full of excited Italians.  By contrast, the Liverpool-Newcastle game was dull fare earlier this week: Flanagan’s was still smoky (I’d forgotten what watching a game in a bar where smoking is still allowed is like), but the capitulation of the Toon was no excitement for the (extremely small number of) black and whites.  From the ridiculous to the sublime, the walk back home took me past the final aria of that night’s Opera performance, being beamed live from inside the Vienna Opera House to a sizeable crowd outside.

Included in that crowd I spotted Prof Ana-Maria Coutinho, opera buff and cartography academic from Rio de Janeiro (also vice director of the forthcoming International Cartographic Conference in Brazil in August).  I caught up with her later in the week when she visited the department at the TU.  We had a good chat about the joint ICA Commission on Education &Training/Commission on Maps & the Internet workshop which I am co-organising in Curitiba, before the main event in Rio.

I have been able to put the finishing touches to my presentations for next week in the US, and also finalised some proposals in liaison with the Newcastle archaeologists.  And the texts for the Rio proceedings are due this month – my solo one already in, the paper by Kaizer, Phil and myself just about ready to go.

Auf wiedersehen …

Dr David Fairbairn

RSPSoc Wavelength 2015

From Monday 30th March till Wednesday 1st April, the department hosted the annual Remote Sensing and Photogrammetric Society (RSPSoc) Wavelength Conference. Since it’s rebranding from the student conference, which was last hosted in Newcastle nine years ago, young professionals are now also welcome to present their research and latest developments in all aspects of remote sensing and photogrammetry. The conference was organised by third year PhD student, Andrew McClune, whose research is focussing on the automatic reconstruction of 3D building models from aerial photography.

The conference was well attended by approximately 40 delegates, mainly from UK institutes but with some travelling from as far as Nigeria and Turkey especially for the conference. A wide range of research topics were presented. The opening session was dedicated to the research of  dust & gas detection from satellite platforms, before second year PhD student Magdalena Smigaj, presented her work entitled ‘’Remote sensing for UK forest health monitoring” in the first of the two vegetation sessions. The final session of the first day was a keynote session given by the International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) Council members, who were in the area for an ISPRS Council meeting. Chen Jun opened with an introduction to the society before Christian Heipke, Leibniz Universität Hannover, and Marguerite Madden, University of Georgia, discussed their individual research topics “New approaches for automatic classification or aerial and satellite images” and “Geospatial Information Supporting Animal Movement and Habitat Studies”, respectively. The final day was closed with a meal at Blackfriars Restaurant, where ISPRS Council members and delegates continued to network and discuss research.

The conference prides itself on offering a strong scientific and social programme, with Tuesday morning being designated to the first batch of social activities. Whilst a small group went to battle it out over the annual game of laser quest, a local tour guide led the rest of the delegates around the many scenic delights that Newcastle has to offer. Although the weather did not hold up with a heavy downpour encountered mid-tour, the tour gave an insight into the history development of the city. The tour started along the Quayside visiting the many bridges along the river before working their way back to the University via the castle, Grainger market and Grey’s Monument.

Presentations resumed after lunch with the urban management topic which saw presenters from GetMapping UK present their street level imagery dataset and the online GIS platform for local parish councils, as well as the use of historical imagery for assessing planned urbanization. The second oral session of the day saw the second vegetation session of the conference and included the winner of Best Oral Presentation from Emily Norton, from Bournemouth University for her research entitled “Multi-Temporal remote sensing of mass graves in temperate environments”. She was proudly presented with a remote sensing book, kindly donated from sponsors Taylor & Francis.

A wide range of poster were presented towards the end of the second day with second year PhD Elias Berra discussing “Forest phenology monitoring by unmanned aerial vehicle” and first years Ben Grayson and Fikiri Mhenga presenting their proposed PhDs researching “Digital photogrammetric techniques in aid of UAV trajectory determination” and “Using remotely sensed products for improved hydrological models in high mountain hydrological regimes.” The final session of the second day was a sponsor session, where representative from Sterling Geo presented the latest developments of the ERDAS software suite whilst promoting the CHEST agreement, which entitles universities to purchased licences for the software at a heavily reduced price.

The second day finished with a meal on the Quayside before the second social event of the conference which saw delegates go bowling. For some it was their first time and they either took to bowling like a duck to water or were experiencing some beginners luck.

The final day was opened with a session dedicated to disaster management and prevention, which saw Maria Peppa and Polpreecha Chidburee, both second year Newcastle PhDs presented their individual PhD research topics entitled “Development of a UAV-based landslide monitoring system” and “Development of a low-cost, real-time photogrammetric monitoring system for landslide hazard analysis”. This was followed by a session of data integration before the conference was closed with a keynote address from David Holland, Ordnance Survey, presenting research on the creation of 3D datasets, a topic which he has been supervising Andrew on as part of his PhD.

A big thank you to the staff and PhD students that helped in the organisation and success of the conference, as well as Edward Malina from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, part of University College London. Edward will now become the Wavelength Rep for RSPSoc and will now start to organise the next Wavelength conference in 2016.

Wavelength Delegates

Wavelength Delegates

 

Instrumenting the City – @FutureCitiesCatapult

Just come back from a great workshop organised by Charlie Catlett from the University of Chicago Urban Center for Computation and Data and the Argonne National Laboratory. The outcome from this workshop has been a draft US/UK draft proposal for instrumenting cities. All we need now is the funding!

Charlie and Pete choosing Plan B - the wired option for Instrumenting the CIty

Charlie and Pete choosing Plan B – the wired option for Instrumenting the CIty

The workshop was hosted at the Future Cities Catapult new Urban Innovation Centre (freshly opened and still smelling of paint – btw geo people apparently the OS is taking a floor there for their Research and Innovation group). Over 2 days we discussed solar powered mini cells from Jacqueline Cole at Cambridge University/Argonne and were introduced to the Waggle platform and Array of Things by Pete Beckman and Rajesh Sankaran from the Argonne Lab – just a small part of the great stuff going on in Chicago. We also heard from Intel/Imperial’s Duncan Wilson about the work they are doing in London with Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cites and the plans for instrumenting York from Alistair Boxall and the Capacitie project. One of the highlights was a tour of Umbrellium’s offices (and good Vietnamese food) in the company of Usman Haque the founder of Umbrellium (thingful.net and other things). Usman founded Pachube the sensor upload and data service.

We have already agreed to host some of Jacqui’s mini solar cell powered sensors and have already started to look at integrating Plenario (UCCD’s platform for displaying city metrics) as it is built on the same PostgreSQL/PostGIS/Python stack that we use for the Urban Observatory. Might be planning a trip to Chicago shortly!

Geospatial engineering in the Caribbean again!

As part of my work on the CARIWIG project I have been lucky enough to visit the Caribbean on 4 separate occasions. These, despite the speculations from my colleagues, have been work packed trips with the majority of my time being spent in a windowless heavily air-conditioned room. My latest trip saw myself and Phil James from Geospatial engineering visit Barbados where we took part in the CARIWIG training event (which took place in various windowless rooms).

We were there presenting the work that we have done putting together the CARIWIG portal which is a portal designed to let the user visualise, graph and download both historical and simulated future cliamte datasets, as well as allowing the user to run a number of simulations across the region. For slightly more information see here

Gridded data viewer on the portal

Gridded data viewer on the portal

 

Tropical storm model on the portal

Tropical storm model on the portal

 

Over the 3 days participants were introduced to the tools put together for the project and how they are run on the portal. They were then given time to use these tools to conduct their own mini case studies, with them then reporting their findings back to the group.

Overall the event was a great success with participants fully engaging with the tools put together and seeing their potential. And from a personal point of view, they liked the interface and found it intuitive. Plus there were 0 internal server errors, even when a entire room of people all ran the tropical storm model at the same time!

barbados

One of the nicest views on the island

 

 

Geospatial Engineering in the News!

WhiskyGlacier

Whisky Glacier

During my recent trip to the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco – see separate post (6th January 2015), myself and colleague Lucy Clarke (of British Antarctic Survey/University of Gloucestershire) were contacted by the BBC Science correspondent Jonathan Amos, who expressed interest in our Antarctic glaciers research. This subsequently led to the publication of an article on the BBC News website which reports on the project and some of work presented at AGU: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30471542

This NERC-funded project, ‘The spatial and temporal distribution of 20th Century Antarctic Peninsula glacier mass change and its drivers (GCAP20C)’ is being undertaken in collaboration with colleagues at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), with myself and Prof Jon Mills involved in the Newcastle component. The research is exploiting a unique archive of >30,000 aerial images of the Antarctic Peninsula which date back to the 1940s, enabling assessment of multi-decadal glacier change at around 50 benchmark glacier sites. This is providing insights into the spatial distribution of historical glacial mass balance changes across the Peninsula, which in turn will provide data for BAS ice sheet modelers to better calibrate simulations of future mass balance changes across the AP, and enhance understanding of changes to sea level, and other climate drivers.

The article was one of a number which stemmed from research presented at the AGU Fall Meeting, and even appeared as third lead article on the front page of the BBC website for a period! This reflects the fascinating nature of the research and the human story surrounding the determined, highly efficient and thoroughly professional team involved in the Falkland Islands and Dependencies Aerial Survey Expedition (FIDASE), led by Peter Mott of the former Hunting Aerosurveys. These survey professionals, and accompanying specialised team members, ventured forth into the unknowns of Antarctica over two field seasons between 1955-57. Not only did they undertake extensive and risky airborne missions to capture the photogrammetric imagery which provides much of the foundation for the GCAP20C project, but much of their focus was dedicated to field-based survey and triangulation in and around the South Shetland Islands and the adjacent west coast of the Peninsula. This involved painstaking optical observations by theodolite over extended distances and under extreme weather conditions, with teams often snowed in for days or even weeks at a time. It is this incredible and invaluable legacy from 60 years ago, which allows us to undertake the scientific analysis we do today as part of GCAP20C, and which will enable scientists to better understand the future response and impacts of this region in relation to climate change.

Moider Glacier Change 1957-2004

Moider Glacier Change 1957-2004

AGU 2014 – San Francisco in December

GoldenGate

Immediately prior to Christmas, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2014 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) which ran from 15th – 19th December in San Francisco, California. The AGU Fall Meeting is a truly unique experience – the largest earth science gathering on the planet, with 25,000 delegates and a multitude of parallel sessions on an enormous range of topics, from deep ocean science to planetary geology; enormous, hangar-like poster halls with an ever-changing collage of scientific outputs, each one the culmination of months or years of hard analysis (in theory anyway!). Totally engaging, overwhelming, exhausting and inspiring. I was lucky enough to have been awarded an oral slot, and on the Thursday morning delivered a presentation on the results of our ongoing NERC-funded project, ‘The spatial and temporal distribution of 20th Century Antarctic Peninsula glacier mass change and its drivers’ – otherwise known as GCAP20C. Our colleague from the British Antarctic Survey/University of Gloucestershire, Lucy Clarke, was also attending and presented orally on her related work on GCAP20C. Both presentations were well received, and I presented to a sizeable audience in a session dedicated to glacier monitoring using remote sensing techniques. The Newcastle component of the research is quantifying multi-decadal mass changes to a benchmark set of 50 glaciers distributed across the Antarctic Peninsula (AP), exploiting a completely untapped resource of  >30,000 archival aerial images of the AP dating back to the 1940s. By comparing DEMs derived from this archival imagery to present-day ASTER DEMs we are able to quantify mass balance, and gain a clearer understanding of the spatial distribution of historical glacial change across the Peninsula. Alongside a more refined multi-temporal sub-sample of glaciers being analysed by Lucy and BAS, this information is crucially important to allow better calibration of models which predict mass changes into the future, and simulate how this would impact on processes such as sea level change.

Over the week I caught up with a few former Newcastle colleagues, including Liz Petrie (now a lecturer at Glasgow University, having moved in September 2014), and my good friend Shih-Yuan Lin (also known as Eric) who studied alongside me when we were undertaking our PhDs at Newcastle – pictured below. It was good to see both, and especially Eric, as our last face-to-face get together was a full 6 years ago now, at the ISPRS Congress in 2008.

Pauline and Eric at AGU 2014
Pauline and Eric at AGU 2014

During my only previous visit to the AGU FAll Meeting in 2006, I was unfortunate enough to encounter a week of incessant torrential rain. However, California has been experiencing drought conditions for quite some time, and prospects this year looked more encouraging (for me at least, if not for Californian farmers…). I was hoping for an escape from the cold, icy conditions which had gripped Newcastle in the early weeks of December. Some mild Californian sunshine would have been most welcome. My hopes were dashed however; the grey and misty, but initially dry skies which greeted my arrival at San Francisco International Airport were as good as it got – the rain quickly moved in as the conference got underway, and stayed put for the whole week. Nevertheless, San Francisco is a pretty special place to experience under any conditions, and with my imminent departure from Newcastle to a new job at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, this final trip as an ambassador of Newcastle’s Geomatics group to AGU 2014 will stay with me for a long time to come.

Geospatial in Grenada – Ivan 10

From the 1st – 3rd of December I visited a very sunny Grenada attending the 10th anniversary of Ivan symposium. This looked at the lessons learnt from the fallout of hurricane Ivan across the Caribbean region and how different sectors could help to prevent a future hurricane having a similar affect. I was there representing the CARIWIG project, along with Professor Michael Taylor and Jayaka Campbell from UWI, Jamaica. Michael Taylor brilliantly outlined the project and demonstrated elements of the portal site that I have been putting together over the past year. The presentation was very well received with myself and Jayaka Campbell being asked to demo the storm model element of the portal to a number of delegates.

The CARIWIG portal site is likely to go live following a workshop event in February so watch this space for more details.

storm6

CARIWIG Storm tool

I would like to thank the members of of CDEMA for putting on this event, the conference was well run and contained many interesting talks about hurricane Ivan, including a opening address from the Prime minister of Grenada, as well as plenty of Caribbean food as lunch times. Plus December in Grenada beats December in the north east of England

Whitley Bay eat your heart out

Whitley Bay eat your heart out

Neil – @neil_py_harris

EuroSDR 3D SIG……. the first of many meetings to come

Last Thursday and Friday (27th – 28th November) saw the joint European Spatial Data Research (EuroSDR) and International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) ‘Workshop for capturing national scale 3D models’. Hosted at Ordnance Survey, Southampton, the workshop brought national mapping agencies, industry vendors and research scientists together to discuss all things 3D  including the storage of 3D data (Hans Veihmann, Oracle) and making building models look more realistic with automatic texturing (Gerald Forkter, UVM Systems Gmbh).

Several presentations were given through the duration of the workshop, including those from the three Ordnance Survey funded PhD students focusing on 3D modelling. Firstly, Jon Slade, Cardiff University, presented methods of adding semantic and geometric information to a 3D model using imagery from repositories such as Flickr. I then presented my research on automatic 3D reconstruction from multi-ray photogrammetry, with the slides available here. Kelvin Wong, University College London, presented some preliminary results of an experiment to determine which parts of buildings people look at whilst navigating to determine what users may require from 3D models.

Examples of where national scale 3D models have been implemented were presented. Sander Oude Elberink, University of Twente, presented a case study of how part of his PhD research is being implemented by the Dutch Kadaster. Building footprints are extruded to a height calculated from lidar point clouds to produce a 3D national dataset. Height are also applied to roads, bridges and water bodies. Similar work is being undertaken by Ordnance Survey, presented by Isabel Sargent, by applying height attributes to OS MasterMap building footprints for the base of the building and various parts of the roof. This is currently available as an alpha release. Other research being undertaken includes automatic classification of roof structures using machine learning and clustering, as well as the research being undertaken by the PhD students listed above.

A series of breakaway groups were formed during the workshop to discuss matters such as the management of 3D data, what 3D editing tools need to be applicable, and the best approach to creating 3D models: whether this be developed from existing 2D datasets or to start data capture and production as a new process. Whilst no formal answers were concluded, these matters are to be further discussed and developed as part of the special interest group (SIG) and presented at the next workshop meeting, to be held in March 2015. One topic is to determine what are the potential economic benefits of national and regional 3D models by answering the following questions;

  • What is defined as a regional or national dataset? What is defined as 3D?
  • What added value does a national or regional 3D dataset have over local and project-based datasets?
  • What are the economic benefits of 3D data, if any, gained from this level of extended coverage?
  • What business opportunities can be realised through the application of 3D data at a national level?
  • Beyond technical challenges, what are the additional problems that NMAs face at this level of coverage?

This research is being fronted by Kelvin Wong, who requires participants to undertaken a short interview. If you would like to take part in this research please email kelvin.wong.11@ucl.ac.uk.

Thanks go to Rollo Home and Jantien Stoter for the hosting and organisation of the workshop. The points raised in this workshop led to many discussions and opinions, which hopefully may become closer to being solved by the next meeting in March 2015. Information on the SIG can be found at http://www.eurosdr.net/research/project/eurosdr-special-interest-group-3d-3d-sig

Photo of the delegates from the EuroSDR 3D workshop at Ordnance Survey, Southampton

Photo of the delegates from the EuroSDR 3D workshop at Ordnance Survey, Southampton

Andrew McClune
3rd Year PhD Student