Auckland team adventure to Goat Island

Goat island small

Posted by on 18 April 2018

Written by Nick Dragunow, Graduate Spatial Analyst

Our Auckland crew are famous for our fast-paced waterborne hobbies. Whether drinking it, using it to clean our awards, or having it fall upon us as we run for the bus, we’re constantly immersing ourselves in the city’s favourite element.

We decided to branch out with a trip to Goat Island on Sunday 15th April, which is a marine reserve located an hour's drive north of Auckland. Well known for its beautiful beaches, Goat Island is a paradise for those with fins – fish and human alike.

Arriving in the township of Leigh was a relief – rather than buckling under an Autumn storm like most of the North Island, we were baking in sunshine. We took to the sea, where poor visibility failed to dampen our excitement. A respectable range of fish were identified: snapper, leather jackets, goat fish and stingrays, to name a few I recognised from the DOC website.

Fingers too pruned to hazard the drive home, we stopped for pizzas at the Leigh Sawmill Café, where Carnivorous Plant Society were setting up for a night of musical hijinks. A lazy but enjoyable afternoon was had by all, but all too soon we were back in the big smoke of Auckland.

Thanks to all who came along, and to our social club for funding fuel for both swimmers and their vehicles.

 

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Our summary of the Esri Regional User Conference 2018 (Auckland)

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Posted by on 13 April 2018

Blog written by Nick Dragunow, Graduate GIS Consultant

The Esri Regional User Conference is something of a yearly travelling roadshow for Kiwi GIS professionals. Organised by the NZ Esri Users Group, this month-long voyage across the nation (and beyond to Suva, Fiji) provides a forum for Esri users to present their most innovative work.

Open Data was a major theme this year, with several organisations releasing new and improved data portals to the public. Change is in the air, with a number of exciting technical improvements presented by Eagle – learn about them here: http://www.eagle.co.nz/blog/2017-esri-regional-user-conferences-its-wrap

If you missed the Auckland RUC you’re in luck – we’ve summarised the presentations below. If you’re too busy to tackle the list, be comfortable in the knowledge that the venue was lovely, the presentations were well received, and the speakers were adequately compensated with applause and post-conference drinks!

Assessing the Noise Effects from Auckland Airport’s Proposed Northern Runway - Laura McNeil

The Auckland Airport GIS team consistently present interesting work. Last year it was a methodology for finding and eliminating the breeding sites of potentially disease-carrying mosquitos, a major health hazard for international carriers. This year we learned of the behind the scenes work involved in selecting the location of a new runway. The sound levels experienced by neighbouring suburbs were estimated via a complex, research-backed GIS model, allowing the airport to select sites with the lowest possible impact on residents.

Lonely Cones - Amit Kojke

Amit’s hilariously deadpan presentation followed his implementation of a toolset for tracking road cones lost or abandoned by work crews. Crowdsourcing applications, web apps, and dashboards were produced to connect the public with the companies in charge of cone collection – a great example of crowdsourced solutions and positive public engagement.

Department of Conservation (DoC): Open Data - Neil Dingle

The DoC open data program has been enhanced by the release of an Esri-based tool for making existing cloud-hosted data publicly accessible in any number of popular formats. Open data is becoming a major focus for the organisation, says Neil, and a number of exciting programs are in the works, including a dataset that would track the availability of hut bunks as they’re booked.

Watershed Planning - Claire Cunningham

Some months ago, Claire and the Healthy Waters team from Auckland released a set of Story Maps detailing the current state of watersheds in the Auckland region (in conjunction with Interpret). With gigabytes of previously internal data, the sites provide a visual, content-heavy plan for Auckland’s future, and reveal just how much effort is involved in watershed planning.   

Introduction to NZ GIS In Conservation - Parker Jones

GIS In Conservation are a major force for good in the NZ charity space. Parker discussed the organisation and some of their more recent work – details can be found at www.nzgic.org. If you have any interest in providing your services to a good cause, GIC are the ones to speak to!

Unitec Geospatial Bachelor Degree - Randall McMullan

Unitec are working on a new Bachelor’s Degree for the Spatial industry in New Zealand. Built in consultation with major public and private players across the nation, the degree looks to modernise the way GIS and surveying are taught to New Zealand students, and ensures an easy transition into the industry.

Publishing data for actual data users - Hamish Campbell

Rather than discussing a specific tool or its implementation, Hamish took a step back and laid out a framework for determining what users want from open data. Too often we release data that we, as experts, would like to use, and often in formats that aren’t useful or accessible to the public. A familiar face at GIS conferences, Hamish continues to guide the industry towards often much needed self-reflection.

Geospatial Intelligence within the NZDF - Richard Wells

GNZ (previously GEOINT) are the designated cross-branch spatial support specialists for the NZ Defence Force. Richard spoke about the organisation’s disaster relief efforts and the unique experience of using Esri technology from within military facilities with no connection to the internet (to prevent hostile data breaches) – a security concept called an ‘air gap’. He also mentioned an organisational interest in providing open data, mirroring DoC, Stats NZ, and the Department of Internal Affairs, all of whom are dedicated to opening their data warehouses.    

Youth Search and Rescue - Steve Campbell  

Youth Search and Rescue have embraced GIS whole-heartedly, says Steve, with maps and spatial tools offering a path for the upskilling of members and serving an important role in pre-planning and managing rescue operations. The uptake of drones was particularly interesting, with junior volunteers embracing ‘eye-in-the-sky’ capabilities to cut down search times in inaccessible environments. 

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Hamish Kingsbury achieves FME Desktop Professional Status

Hamish Safe systems logo

Posted by on 5 April 2018

Hamish Kingsbury was recently granted Certified FME Desktop Professional status from Safe Software, which gives him greater credibility in providing FME consultancy and services to our clients. Two of our other team members Todd Davis and Alex Oulton, also hold this certification.

Safe Software is the maker of FME and the pioneering global leader in spatial data transformation technology. FME empowers users to confidently transform spatial data so it can be used and shared - where, when and how it's needed. FME's unmatched transformation capabilities and support for 400+ spatial and non-spatial formats enable users to quickly overcome data challenges. Thousands of organizations worldwide rely on FME to quickly overcome barriers to using and sharing data. Visit www.safe.com for more information. FME is a registered trademark of Safe Software Inc. All other product names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

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Auckland Spatial Drinks

spatial drinks

Posted by on 22 March 2018

It’s time for another Auckland Spatial Drinks!

Head down to Northern Steamship in the CBD from 5:00pm on the 5th of April for drinks, platters (provided by Interpret), and spatial chatter.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/auckland-spatial-drinks-april-2018-tickets-44395333638

If your organisation is interested in sponsoring this event, please contact Nick.Dragunow@Interpret.co.nz

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Esri's ArcNews features our road safety work

ArcNews cover Winter2018

Posted by on 2 February 2018

 Esri's global "ArcNews" have recently published an article on our road safety work with New Zealand Transport Agency. 

Titled "Smarter Data for Safer Roads", the article looks at how our transport and GIS specialists have worked together to categorise curves on rural roads to assess and predict risk. This unique road network geospatial tool is specifically designed to help road agencies identify and prioritise high-risk curves for intervention and to ultimately save lives.

Click here to view our article on page 5 of ArcNews (Winter 2018, Vol 40)

 

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GIS isn’t dead

GIS alive well

Posted by on 29 January 2018

Blog written by Natalie Scott, Principal Consultant at Interpret Geospatial Solutions

Location matters. Spatial information plays a core role in many business processes and will only become more important in 2018. Managers and executives recognise that geographic data is a critical part of their business.

This is acknowledged in a recent flurry of blogs and articles reflecting the way locational data, and GIS, will change the way we do business. Unfortunately, it has also brought forth opinion pieces proclaiming that the boom in location intelligence means the end of GIS.

But don’t worry - while it’s no secret that the GIS industry is changing (at a rapid pace), reports of the demise of traditional GIS are fundamentally misplaced.

GIS is merely a set of technologies, some old and some new. ‘Location intelligence’ is simply a way of thinking in which one acknowledges that place is an important component of information. Perhaps some of the confusion comes from the misconception that GIS, in a traditional sense, is purely ‘making maps’ to display static or historic data. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Early GIS was static by necessity, but it still involved a high level of analytics based on location. Examples such as John Snow’s famous Cholera map, Charles Picquet's epidemiological heatmap of Paris, and manual ‘sieve mapping’ using layered transparencies, show that location analytics are no recent invention.

The ongoing development of computer-based GIS software has made analysis much easier. By building tools, processes, models and scripts, we can undertake more complex analyses with ease. However it’s important to realise that these analysis components have always been as much a fundamental part of GIS applications as making maps.

It’s great to see that boundaries are being pushed by GIS software platforms across the board. This demonstrates an ongoing expansion of the power of GIS, rather than a failure of the system.  As the world around us evolves, so too do our systems for collecting and processing data. We are getting better at bringing all of our systems together, which means we have a wider range of information available to feed into our GIS.

The role of maps has always been to share information in a clear and unambiguous way. As interest and knowledge in location-based data has become more widespread, it’s been awesome to see GIS take on this role. Geographic data can play a central role in the day to day jobs of (for example) specialist GIS analysis, developers who have nothing to do with maps, and end-users who rely on the data, but don’t want to have to look under the hood. By making geographic information accessible, everyone benefits.

One of the best things about GIS systems is their flexibility. Data is collected in a variety of formats and can readily be transformed to meet the requirements of the project at hand. This also means that it’s easy to get data to move between systems, because ultimately, data is just data.

This can be moving data from the GIS into a third-party application, or it can be sourcing data from multiple streams to use in your application. The ongoing expansion of open data programs is fantastic and helps provide organisations with the information they need to make important decisions.

It’s somewhat facetious to label GIS software as a ‘legacy system’. They are not some outdated limited pieces of code; rather they are enterprise-level solutions which can be used to solve complex problems.

We all need to embrace the move to having location as an important piece of information, but we also need to understand that the particular flavour of GIS software in use is not the main issue - instead we need to ensure that we optimise the way we use GIS and spatial data to solve real-world problems.

TL;DR: GIS is still very much alive.  'Location intelligence’ is just a different way of spelling Spatial Analysis, and it has been a part of GIS since GIS was being done on paper. The software doesn't much matter, it's what you do with it that counts. 

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Insights for newbies

Ella Insights blog

Posted by on 23 December 2017

Blog written by Ella Mroczek, Graduate Consultant, Interpret Geospatial Solutions

“Insights for ArcGIS is a web-based, data analytics workbench where you can explore spatial and nonspatial data, answer questions you didn't know to ask, and quickly deliver powerful results.” - Esri

Christmas came early this year with the release of Insights for ArcGIS 2.1! Insight licences are now also available through ArcGIS Online – no Portal required, thanks Esri! I got my hands on a licence and was able to experiment with creating a workbook. In this blog, I want to share two ways you might want approach Insights, if you are using it for the first time.

Most people using Insights will have a specific purpose in mind – which is great!  Insights is fast at producing sleek graphs, tables and maps. If you have a specific theme within your data that you want to explore further, you can instantaneously build visual analytics to provide the answers you need. The other advantages of this approach are:

  1. The workflow you follow to build your workbook is automatically captured in a process diagram

  2. The data in the workbook can be easily updated

  3. Once the workbook is built it can be shared for others to view

  4. The ‘data cards’ that show the infographics in your workbook are linked. For example, if you select something on a graph, it will highlight on the map, or vice versa. This adds a level of user interactivity and automated connectivity between fields and data not seen in any other Esri product, it’s a powerful way to find quick answers.

Reporting is a key component for many organisations, and I believe this is where the power of Insights truly lies. Insights allows spatial and non-spatial data to be plugged into a workbook, relationships to be established, and data filters specified. Changes, spikes and trends become immediately apparent in the infographics and these irregularities or patterns can then be explored further on the map at the attribute level. I like to think of Insights as a supercharged Excel spreadsheet that has been specifically designed for integration with spatial data.

But what if you don’t know what you want to know? You can also approach Insights heuristically, with the aim of discovering new relationships or trends within your dataset. This means that instead of having specific questions to answer, your goal is to find out the questions you need to ask. Insights is integrated with ArcGIS Online, which means you can use insights to initially scope out your data and use ArcGIS Pro to do the heavy analysis or to prepare your data schema. You can then use insights as your method of presenting or sharing your findings with others. The advantages of this approach are:

  1. Analysis on Insights is done on the fly; plug in your fields and out comes a new map layer or graph. The analytical options are not necessarily suitable for your requirements or are incompatible with your data. Bringing data into ArcGIS Pro allows you to either prepare the data for Insights or do other targeted analysis.

  2. Exploring your data in Insights, with the ability to examine attributes across fields and datasets both graphically and spatially, might mean you uncover a pattern or trend you weren’t anticipating.

The images included in this blog are from a worksheet I put together displaying visual analytics for motorcycle crashes occurring in Northland. It was fascinating to see crash data displayed from this perspective, even by creating a simple worksheet from raw data I was able to much better understand the relationships between different factors that contribute to a crash.

To sum up, I would highly recommend giving Insights a go yourself.  Sign up for a Free Trial, plug in your own data and let me know what you think (ella.mroczek@interpret.co.nz). Currently Insights workbooks cannot be shared outside your own organisation, so for now, let’s get talking about it!

Ella Insights blog2

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Merry Christmas from our team

spatial newsletter dec4

Posted by on 22 December 2017

Our Interpret Geospatial Solutions offices will close at 2pm Friday 22nd December and reopen at 9am on Monday 8th January 2018.

If you urgently need to speak to a member of staff over this period, please contact Steve Abley on mobile 021 556 864.

We would like to wish all of our clients, staff and family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We look forward to catching up with you in 2018. 

 Group04 High

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My Windows Dev Stack - Part 4: Editors and Linting

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Posted by on 20 December 2017

Blog written by Stacy Rendall, Principal Spatial Researcher, Interpret Geospatial Solutions

This post is part of a series which describes my development environment from high level technologies down to specific apps - it should be of interest to anyone doing Python or web development. See the first post for a general overview of the technologies that make up this stack.

Installation instructions and configuration/settings for tools introduced in this series can be found in this Bitbucket repository.

Editors

What I like in an editor

Different people have different preferences in editors: some people prefer a fully-featured integrated development environment (IDE), while I tend to like something quicker and less cluttered. Given the amount of time you will spend using an editor it is important that it fits in to your workflow and supports you to work efficiently. I used Sublime Text 2/3-beta for over five years, but there were always a few annoyances around how projects were managed, the convoluted process of installing plugins, and the feeling that you had to put in a lot of effort to get it set up right. As a result, I would often trial new editors and IDEs, which is how I found my new favourite editor - it is made by Microsoft, although (despite the name and icon) it is not actually related to Visual Studio the IDE!

Visual Studio Code

VS Code is cross-platform, free, easy-to-use, feature rich, fast and well designed - it can do a lot, but it doesn't get in your way. It has a raft of handy IDE features that I had never used beforehand, but I would now struggle to live without. Some of the best VS Code features:

  • excellent user interface
  • well set up "out of the box", particularly:
    • great plugin management and integration
    • Git integration - including diff and merge conflict resolution
  • IntelliSense (tooltips which can tell you, for example, the inputs and documentation for a function you are calling)
  • simple and effective project management
  • lots of different syntax-highlighting colour schemes available
  • many of the best features from Sublime Text, including:
    • multiple cursors
    • command palette
    • configuration via JSON files
  • other features and integrations out of the box:
    • markdown preview
    • integrated terminal(s)
    • linting
    • debugger

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Visual Studio Code showing Git integration, IntelliSense and integrated Cmder terminal

See the Bitbucket repository for installation instructions (via Scoop), configuration settings, some Sublime-like keyboard shortcuts, and instructions for integrating Cmder into VS Code

Other editors of note

If you are doing a lot of HTML/CSS then Adobe Brackets (also free) is well worth a look - it has an amazing set of tools for front-end development, although I have found it a little unstable with larger projects.

If you just want a simple, clean, fast code editor (and nothing else) I would also recommend trying Sublime Text (it can be trialled for free).

Linting

Linting is the process of running a program that checks for common code errors and conformance to defined styles (these can be external styles, such as the Google JavaScript style, or your teams own internally defined style). Linters will pick up some types of code errors and common "gotchas", like mixed indentation in Python, meaning you can fix them before you attempt to run the code. Common styles, on the other hand, mean that everyone in your team is encouraged to write code in the same way, making it quicker and easier to work together on the same code.

There are lots of different linting tools available for different languages, with differences of implementation, standards, ease-of-use and configurability. VS Code supports integration with a range of linters and allows you to see errors/warnings/suggestions inline (kind of like spellcheck in Word).

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Linting JavaScript in VS code - warning that a variable has not been defined

See the Bitbucket repository for installation instructions and initial project configuration files for the below

Python: Flake8

The most popular linter for Python is Pylint, but it has a couple of problems: it is hard to configure on a per-project basis, and it doesn't seem to install (easily) on Windows at the moment. Flake8 is an alternative linter that works and supports configuration per project (by placing a .flake8 file, like the one in the Bitbucket repository, into the project directory).

JavaScript: ESLint

There are a variety of JavaScript linting tools, but I haven't tried them extensively. ESLint is the default JavaScript linter that ships with with VS Code: it is easy to set up and configure with different rule sets, so I haven't had to shop around at all! After installing ESLint (instructions here) just place the .eslintrc file from the Bitbucket repository into your project directory.

Summary

This series of blogs has presented a bunch of development tools which I use daily that play together quite nicely. This set of tools will not work for everyone, but I would encourage anyone doing development to think carefully about the programs they use, how they work together, and continuously find ways of doing things better, faster, and more efficiently!

This is the last post of the series - I hope you have found it useful and picked up some handy tools! I welcome any feedback or comments at stacy.rendall@interpret.co.nz

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Quis Mentor ipsos Mentors?

Chris blog image

Posted by on 19 December 2017

Blog written by Chris Morris, Group Manager at Interpret Geospatial Solutions

From 2-3 December 2017, members of the New Zealand Emerging Spatial Professionals (ESP) came together for a mini conference/AGM in Taupo.  It was a weekend of thought-provoking presentations and learning, combined with fun events and socialising. Throughout 2017, the ESP group have been growing into their new-found status as the most interesting and progressive kids on the block, and wanted to recognise companies and individuals in the community that have helped ESP members grow. Out of this, the Mentor of the Year and Organisation of the Year awards were born.

It just so happens that I was awarded "Mentor of the Year" and Interpret was awarded "Organisation of the Year".  I'm so proud of these awards, as I believe this reflects the values and attitude towards graduates and emerging spatial professionals that I have personally endorsed and which permeate thoughout our organisation.  I want to personally recognise Nathan Hazelwood, without whom the ESP would probably not exist. He is a mentor to many and had he not removed himself from the nomination round, I am quite sure he would have won and been well-deserving of that win.

Nevertheless, for me winning this award got me thinking about being a mentor and mentorship in general.  It’s fair to say that most mentors do not set out to become mentors, rather their role elevates them to a position where others look to them for guidance.  How that guidance is delivered though, is what separates mentorship from line management - a point I’ll come back to later.

I started to think about the mentors I have had thoughout my own life and came to the conclusion that mentorship is a very personal thing.  Most of my mentors have not been formal, in that they were assigned to me or me to them.  Instead they have been people that I have met, who have offered a take on the world that I resonated with and wished to emulate.  In some cases, they may not have even known that they were my mentor, because I have admired their capability from afar.  That is the thing about mentors, you don’t just have to have one and you don’t have to have the same one forever.  Mentorship should be fluid because you are not trying to become a clone of someone else, rather a mentor should help you become a better version of yourself.

Mentorship can be an activity that helps guide you through your career.  It’s something in which both the mentor and the mentee participate in, with a shared recognition that the intention is to gain insights or make decisions about a particular career situation.  Alternatively it can be a conversation had over a coffee that provides a bit of general guidance about dealing with an issue at work.  Both provide value which will help to shape an individual's career.   And it is this, I think, where being a mentor and being a line manager differ somewhat.  Mentorship is about guidance, helping someone find a path rather than telling them which path to be on.  It’s about sharing experiences, not defining an action.  It’s not about the company but about the mentor - sometimes company and mentor values will differ.  Ultimately being a mentor is about being a sounding board and helping the mentor navigate a destination that often they already have in mind, even if they don’t know it themselves.

So I offer thanks to my mentors, you have helped me become the person I am.  And I would encourage anyone who doesn't have a mentor to seek someone out, who can help you with some of the hard questions in life.  Their guidance can be invaluable in shaping your path.  And finally a huge thank you to the ESP for highlighting the importance of mentors through these awards. 

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