Inaugural QGIS northern group meeting

A group of us attended the inaugural QGIS northern group meeting, kindly organised and hosted by Seraphim Alvanides at Northumbria University. The meeting focused on the use of QGIS in teaching at university level followed by a broader session on the use of QGIS in other sectors and its development.

From the strong mixture of representatives, presentations from Leeds (Helen Durham) and Newcastle University (David Fairbairn) gave insights into the teaching of QGIS and more broadly open source spatial technologies at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Josephine Ellis, from Blue Kayak, gave an overview of how the skills learnt on these courses are being implemented in a professional environment to move away from proprietary software. Our own David Fairbairn presented details of the teaching some members of group do across a range of degree programmes, including the content on our own GIS and SMS (Surveying and Mapping Sciences) degree courses, but also those modules which we give on Civil Engineering courses as well as to other programmes within the schools of geography and biology . A brief mention was also given to some of the CPD courses which both Leeds and we run, with Laura Hanson (ARUP, formally our group), also referring to these within her talk on experiences with GIS and QGIS.

The later talks were more focused on the application of QGIS and developments of the software and plugins. This was mostly led by public sector inputs, with talks from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (David Renn), Newcastle City Council and Lutra Consulting (Brian Williams and Saber Razmjooei respectively) as well as a talk from Northumberland National Park (Tom Chadwin). These series of talks focused on the adoption of QGIS (from ArcGIS) and the development of plugins to fill gaps within the functionality of QGIS to make it the GIS software of choice for many within the organisations.

From the perspective of researcher within an academic environment and a current QGIS user (as well ArcMap user), it was informative and useful to discover how such software was being applied and developed within different environments.

Plans are being made for further meetings, with suggestions from those interested welcome.

Python II

In this week’s Understanding Code – Python seminar the use of classes were explored. Whilst this felt quite a step up from last week’s topics on variables, for, if and while loops, we were reassured that Phil Jeffes, the seminar presenter, had been studying his undergraduate for two years before classes were introduced.

The examples started with basic implementation of classes; how they are defined and can then have functions called upon them. Towards the end of the seminar, a more complex example was given. Participants were given some code which, when completed, would allow them to move between different rooms of a house depending on the user’s input. To complete the code an if statement was required to determine the user’s input and to catch if the number of inputs exceeded the number of variables in the list.

The Understanding Code series comes to an end next Monday (07th March) where everything taught up to date will be used to link python code to a web browser.

Python I

The Understanding Code workshop, given at Campus North, is a series of six sessions learning various aspects of code, held on Monday evenings. The first three sessions covered an introduction to HTML, CSS and styling followed by Javascript and Dynamic Content. The fourth session, given on 22nd February, was the start of three workshops on Python. Whilst there are many different languages available Python is proving to be one of the most popular (http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/the-2015-top-ten-programming-languages).

Python I was well attended with approximately 30 people from all different backgrounds present, including several PhD researchers from within the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences. The seminar was an introduction to Python involving some basic processing: variables, while, for, if statements and when these might be useful. Classes were briefly introduced at the end of the seminar in preparation for next week’s Python II course.

The course was a really good introduction to Python, keeping it simple and straightforward whilst starting to look at how basic principles can be use in complex cases.

Ordnance Survey PhD Workshop

February 9th and 10th was the third of what has become an established annual event for Ordnance Survey (OS); inviting all sponsored PhD and postdoc researchers to present their latest research at the Ordnance Survey head office in Southampton. Whilst many know OS mainly for their paper maps, there is a wide range of research that is being undertaken to keep OS at the forefront of mapping technologies. This diversity in research was presented over the two days in four themed sessions. The opening session was ‘3D’ and was opened with my research on automatic reconstruction from a dense image matching dataset. Other 3D research presented included automatically adding texture maps and semantic information to 3D building models (Jon Slade, Cardiff University), why people need 3D (Kelvin Wong, University College London) and real-time urban dataspace modelling (Oliver Dawkins, University College London).

As well as giving oral presentations, a panel session was held at the end of each session where the session’s presenters and OS employees working in the relevant field were asked questions on the overriding theme of the session. This generally led to some really interesting and insightful discussions about how the panel saw the discussed research fitting into the OS remit. It also became apparent that parts of the research presented in the session as well as the other session had several overlapping themes, opening the opportunities for future collaboration. A poster session was also held after lunch each day which allowed OS employees who may not be directly involved with the research to view what studies are currently being undertaken, whilst giving the authors an opportunity to network and discuss their results.

The final session of day one was themed ‘Data Analysis’. The first two presentations from Robin Frew, University of South Wales, and Rebecca King, University of Southampton, addressed spatial usability issues and temporal modelling, respectively. The final two speakers of this session were first year PhD students presenting an overview of their research; Nick Bennett, University of Southampton, and Judit Varga, University of Nottingham, will be investigating similar topics in the use of data mining to map events and update mapping at different scales.

The second day opened with the theme of ‘People and Places’, the social sciences side of Ordnance Survey research. This covered a wide range of research included mapping vernacular geographies (Katherine Stansfeld, Royal Holloway, University of London), how people identify with narratives and place (Iona Fitzpatrick, University of Nottingham) and how different users interact with geo-spatial technology (Mike Duggan, Royal Holloway, University of London).

To close the workshop the final session theme was ‘Machine Learning’. Presenters Ce Zhang (Lancaster University) and postdoc David Young (University of Southampton) discussed their research utilising deep learning for supervised and unsupervised image classification.

As well as giving us the chance to see the various research projects undertaken by OS as well as getting to see our external supervisors, it also gives the chance to see how fellow PhDs are progressing through their projects and share an tips or advice of how to overcome the next hurdle. As I am now approach the writing up stages of my research, this will unfortunately be my last OS PhD workshop. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank Ordnance Survey for the data supplied and their continuing support throughout the progression on this research.

Andrew McClune

Final year PhD Researcher

Visualisation workshop

A number of us last week attended a workshop on visualisation, organised by Nick Holliman, professor of visualisation in the school of computing scince. After successfully having abstracts accepted David Fairbairn gave a presentation on ‘using geovisualisation in the decision theatre’ and Neil Harris presented his and Craig Robson’s work entitled ‘spatio-temporal network simulation and failure visualisation’ (as presented at GISRUK earlier in the year).

The aim of the workshop was to firstly share the work going on in the visualisation of data in research around different groups and departments across the university. This was achieved through a series of presentations giving an opportunity for people to present their work on visualisations as used in their research. This also gave the opportunity for them to raise questions about their work with regard to how to improve the visual outputs as well as pose thought provoking questions in the area of visualistion. This session provoked some productive discusions on the area of visualisation in gereneral in repsonce to the material presented.

The afternoon session focused on two questions; (1) what tools and methods are commonly used for visualisation in research and (2) what is required for the future of visualisations in research. Breakout groups were used to facilitate disscusions around these questions as well as full group discussions allowing key points to be discussed by the wider group.

The day proved useful in many ways by combining a range of people with varying thoughts and interests with regard to the visualisation of data. By the end of the day future meetings and collaborations were being discsused along with ideas on how to continue such meetings/workshops in the future.

 

ITRC @Newcastle – autumn 2015

As a research group a small number of us have been involved in the ITRC project over the past five years, namely Stuart Barr and Dave Alderson. Craig Robson joined the ITRC ranks in January, pausing his PhD work to help complete the final phase of the research required by autumn 2015. ITRC (Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium) has been investigating the future of the UK’s national scale infrastructure with regards to how it must develop to meet ever changing demands and how climate change amoungst other factors will affect the resilience of those networks we rely on.

Our role in the project has centered around the development of the tools which would allow the five year project to be completed and included, but was not limited to, the development of the central database for all data for the project, and the support tools which would enable the analysis to be undertaken and results reported. It is on this later point where most of the past 6 months have been spent; developing a reporting tool for the presentation of the results from the long-term infrastructure planning aspect of the project.

The developed reporting tool allows users to view results from the each infrastructure sector (e.g. transport or waster supply), or view cross sector results, a set of similar metrics computed for each sector allowing for direct comparisons between them on there performance. For each sector a range of model outputs can be viewed from the level of emissions produced, to the running costs per year to the cumulative capital investment required. Results are shown not only at the regional level, but where possible at the sub-national level through the government office regions for example where the models output data at this granularity. This allows the tool to show data not just in charts, but also through maps, allowing new insights to be learned which may not be identified through non-spatial results. More detail on the tool, along with images and the like will be provided in a specific post at a later date, but for now a small selection of images below exemplify the tool.

Drawing1

With the end of the project looming near an event was organised at the ICE in London on the 15th October where the key results and impacts from the project could be disseminated to a wider audience with those key members behind the research all being present to answer questions and discuss their work. At the event we were available to demo the reporting tool and discuss the complexities behind the database for those interested, while a set of slides were used to give a overview of our work. More generally two videos (below) were produced giving an overview of the project and the one on the resilience of the UK’s national infrastructure.

Summer school in Obergurgl

 

glaciers
glaciers
Geodetic ride
Geodetic ride

An amazing summer school took place last week in Obergurgl, Austria (http://www.uibk.ac.at/geographie/summerschool/). The focus was to investigate the various close range photogrammetry remote sensing techniques for alpine terrain research. Such an international environment made the atmosphere very interesting. I met other researchers from Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland and even Equador!!! Professors in remote sensing and photogrammetry from Germany and Italy insipred us with their talks.

The days were very busy with data collection in the alps and data processing, however the fieldwork gave us the opportunity to explore the beautiful mountains and refresh our minds. The best part of course was the social events with tasty austrian beers. The weather was incredibly warm, even the locals became crazy in such a warm environment; I couldn’t believe that Austrian drivers use the horn, this is a Greek habit!

The local newspaper reported the event on their website: http://www.tt.com/panorama/katastrophe/10251350-91/katastrophen-besser-lesen-lernen.csp

The organiser Dr. Martin Rutzinger successfully managed to create a great event and make everybody happy.
The 2nd attached picture shows how engineering is combined with nature. 🙂

Maria Valasia Peppa

Geospatial in Budapest

The central location of Vienna has allowed me to engage with some more people in the past few weeks. I and the other two members of the International Cartographic Association Statutes Committee, Ferjan Ormeling (Netherlands) and Bengt Rystedt (Sweden) met here a couple of weeks ago to discuss proposals for the ICA General Assembly in August. We were joined by my host here, ICA President Georg Gartner, and the Secretary-General Laszlo Zentai from nearby Budapest. Ferjan, Bengt and myself also form half of the Working Group on International Map Year (http://mapyear.org) and were able to make some further plans for this UN endorsed event. My ICA work in helping organise our Commission workshop in Curitiba in August continues from afar.

I spent a couple of days in Budapest this week – giving a seminar on VGI at the Eotvos Lorand University Department of Cartography & Geoinformation (a lively group of half a dozen staff and plenty students). It was good to meet again with Laszlo’s colleagues with wide ranging interests (Matyas Gede is currently exploring cave surveying and 3D visualisation, along with citizen mapping of tourist activity; Zsolt Torok is a historian of cartography, but also researches eye tracking; Andrea Podor, from a nearby university, examines environmental GIS and educational issues).

Back in Vienna I have been meeting with colleagues in my extensive host department, Geodesy and Geoinformation which has 7 research groups (https://geo.tuwien.ac.at/research-groups/). Gerhard Navratil in Geoinformation has interesting views on the topic of VGI and cadastral systems, which I am continuing to engage with Kaizer and Mustafa back in Newcastle. And Gottfried Mandelburger, familiar to Newcastle geomaticians having spent some time with us, has discussed further the archaeological work I have been interested in doing with LiDAR.

I’ve been doing some ‘map use studies’ by finding orienteering events to participate in whilst here – and it’s great that some wonderful terrain is available so close to Vienna and accessible by public transport. I even had a run in the suburbs of Budapest in torrential rain one hour after my seminar finished: a bit beyond the call of duty, but good training for a main event – the academic orienteering championships at the Danube Park next week (yes, there are enough university staff and students in Vienna to have a formal closed championship).

David Fairbairn

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

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