Viewing entries posted in September 2016

Innovation is a word often used by companies in the IT industry

Innovation 2709c

Posted by on 27 September 2016

Innovation has never been so popular. Companies in the IT industry often proclaim that ‘innovation is what we do’, but what does that actually mean? In reality, the word is usually a marketing term to make a traditional IT company seem more interesting.  True innovation is something different. It’s a company recognising that there is inherent value in the exploration of what is possible, and what isn’t.  At Interpret, innovation is encouraged, nurtured, and backed by a belief that both trying and failing are worth the investment.

Yesterday I came across an API of real time bus locations.  I threw it at the team, with an offer of a trip to Fiji* for the first person to have buses moving around on a web map.  There are a number of different technology solutions that could have been used, so I wasn’t sure what the final output would look like.

Innovation 2709a2A short time later I got sent a URL by one of our young developers, which showed the buses moving around the map in real time.  Even in its unpolished state it met the brief.  The rest of the team took up the challenge as well, expanding and enhancing the map (and maxing out our API key, but that’s another story).

Innovation is encouraged in other ways as well.  Weekly technical meetings provide staff with the chance to collaborate on problems and ask for feedback.  This helps to bring together the experience of the entire team.

Innovation is celebrated throughout the company. Staff are encouraged to push the boundaries of what technologies can do, and to figure out ways of making things work better. Many of our best ideas and applications have developed from casual conversations asking ‘what if we…’ or ‘I wonder if we can do…’. We also have a list of R&D projects for the inevitable quieter moments, putting a focus on the key projects that have a business case.

Every six months or so we also run an internal hackathon where we pick a project from the R&D list and work collectively to develop a solution. It’s a great way to bring the team together and highlight everyone’s individual skillsets, as well as knock something off the development list.

Innovation 2709bA few months ago we applied for and were granted funding from Callaghan Innovation to build upon an existing innovation project that we hope will further enhance our ‘Predictive Lightning Strike Model’.  Obtaining this funding is a great way to enable work that might otherwise remain an R&D project.

As I sit at my desk and look around, I can see innovation sparking up across the team. Whether it’s Natalie using hexbins to better visualise data, or Kaushi who combines the latest JavaScript techniques with geospatial data, or Todd who does things with FME that really shouldn’t be possible it is clear that creating a culture of innovation can help make a company successful.

So next time a company tells you that they are innovative, ask them what they do, and how they promote an innovative mindset across the team. Pretty soon you’ll find out that there is a difference between saying you innovate and actually innovating.   



* Terms and conditions apply; actual prize may differ from that advertised

Read the full post

Weekend Away at Boyle River

Boyle River Rock Climbing

Posted by on 21 September 2016


Last weekend Abley and Interpret staff enjoyed a weekend away at Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre. Staff enjoyed an action packed Saturday doing walking, rock climbing and high ropes acrobatics (not for the faint hearted!). Some even made it to Hanmer Springs on Sunday for a relaxing dip in the pools. It was a great team bonding experience and much fun was had by all.

Boyle River bridgeBoyle River weekend away all staff
Boyle River three girls high2Boyle River high ropes2

Read the full post

Strictly Strictly Spatial #24

Posted by on 20 September 2016


In this fortnight’s Strictly Spatial we look at how Python and GIS can be used together to automate and improve workflows, the migration of birds across the globe, the distribution of foreign aid across the pacific and more!

Strictly Spatial 24aRecently, two of our staff presented at the 2016 New Zealand Python Conference (PyCon) in Dunedin. Their presentation was on how Python can be used to improve and enhance the GIS work we do. If you’re interested in seeing the presentation, you can view it here.

Python is a great tool that can be used to automate almost anything in GIS. This blog post from Lincoln University walks you through how Python has been used to automate network and spatial analysis. The underlying study was looking at individuals’ exposure to tobacco retailers from both their homes, work places and the travel routes in between. The post steps you through the creation of the Python script, great for those new to Python.

Strictly Spatial 24b2Every year, numerous species of birds make mammoth migrations. These involve hundreds of thousands of kilometres, crossing both oceans and continents. Making use of the Unity WebGL engine and 3DS Max, researchers at the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences have built a 3D globe displaying the migration routes of 11 bird species. The browser based app is amazingly slick and very quick and responsive. You can check it out here (it does take a while to load!).

Politics is big. When you get 20 or more leaders in one place, things can happen. Recently the G20 Summit was held. Among many things discussed at the most recent Summit, the topic of geospatial was reportedly discussed. Niall Conway has written a short, well humoured piece on the topic, you can check it out here.

Strictly Spatial 24cChina and other countries provide a vast amount of aid to countries within the Pacific. Without this aid many of these countries would struggle to exist. This map, well more of a dashboard, is primarily focused around China’s contributions to the Pacific, but also highlights other countries’ contribution to the region. It is a very good way of displaying a lot of data in a clear and informative manner.

GIS is very much an emerging discipline. It’s bringing geography and spatial into a technology driven age. As a result, we are finding GIS slowly trickling down into elementary (primary) schools. This education is being pushed quite heavily in the States. Here is a short piece about how Esri is introducing the younger generation to the benefits of spatial software.

That’s this fortnight’s Strictly Spatial done and dusted. Do you have any ideas how GIS can be incorporated into schools? Let us know on through Facebook, @InterpretGS, LinkedIn or email!

Read the full post

Auckland Spatial Drinks

Auckland Spatial Drinks

Posted by on 13 September 2016

Following on from the success of the Christchurch spatial drinks, Interpret is pleased to be helping to coordinate the first Auckland Spatial Drinks. These are a vendor and software agnostic networking and social get-together. Please join us and your fellow spatial colleagues at AUT on Wednesday the 28th of September. For more information, and to RSVP please follow this link.

Thanks to Auckland University of Technology for providing a venue and Eagle Technology for sponsoring drinks. We hope to see you there!

Read the full post

Strictly Spatial #23

Posted by on 8 September 2016


With it officially Spring you’d hope that the days would be getting longer and warmer… But no winter strikes back! So why don’t you find a spot near the heater and settle down to read through this fortnight’s Strictly Spatial. Where on Earth do you think is less mapped than the Moon or Mars? Do you know about New Zealand’s new vertical Datum? Or how about how much land has been reclaimed over the past 30 years? If you don’t know the answer to any of these, then read on!

Strictly Spatial 23aYou’d be surprised in knowing that the planet Mars and the Earth’s moon have more accurate topographic maps that America’s 49th State, Alaska. This changed last week when The White House, the National Science Foundation and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency released a high resolution Digital Elevation Model (DEM). The DEM has been created using 2m resolution imagery sourced from Digital Globe commercial satellites. The Daily Mail has published an article with an embedded map displaying the data. There is also an Esri Storymap and National Geographic article with some interesting facts, maps and comparisons.

Strictly Spatial 23b2Last fortnight we mentioned Australia’s new positioning system. Since then a relative media storm has arisen after the BBC suggested that Australia’s current coordinate system was out by a kangaroo – amusing, yet technically correct. Spatial Source has written a brief article on the matter which you can read here.

Strictly Spatial 23cOn the topic of coordinate systems and datum’s, Lincoln University has published a very interesting blog post on New Zealand’s new gravity based vertical datum, NZVD2016. Currently New Zealand has 13 different standard mean sea levels. This can be incredibly problematic! Fortunately, as an end-user you will notice little changes, but behind the scenes there are huge changes. I encourage you all to read and understand the blog post as it is very informative and relevant to GIS.

Strictly Spatial 23dThe land and the sea are fighting a constant battle. The sea is trying to erode the coastline whilst the land is responding by collapsing into the sea. Humans are on the lands side. Over the past 30 years the Earth has ‘gained’ 172,000km2 of land with much of it from land reclamation. This figure has been calculated from a study by Donchyts The results from their study have also been published to a webmap. At the loading zoom level, the data looks very coarse, but as you zoom in the resolution improves considerably. So much so that you can see changes that occurred with the Canterbury earthquake(s)! Check out the map here!

350 years ago the Great Fire of London began in a bakery on Pudding Lane. In just three days the fire had spread to over 13,000 houses, nearly 90 churches and damaged St Pails Cathedral. To commemorate the fire, the BBC has compiled a map of events based on Samuel Pepy’s diary. You can view the map and read his diary entries here.

That’s all for this fortnight’s Strictly Spatial. Remember to stay in contact through Facebook, @InterpretGS, LinkedIn or email!

Read the full post

Technology and innovation with the Road Engineering Association

REAAA Roadshow

Posted by on 1 September 2016

By: Dale Harris

Recently I was privileged to travel the country as a speaker with the 2016 REAAA roadshow. “REAAA” stands for “Road Engineering Association of Asia & Australasia (NZ)”, an organisation that brings together roading interests in New Zealand. Members are a mix of representatives from local government, consultants, contractors and the NZ Transport Agency.

This year’s roadshow involved a five-day tour top-to-south, starting in Auckland and ending in Dunedin. The roadshow had a future-looking focus titled “Our industrial legacy – what are we leaving our children” and include a range of speakers on topics including asset management, road construction, road safety, sustainability and cycleways.  

The topic on which I spoke was my involvement in a NZ Transport Agency research project undertaken during 2015 on the use of crowdsourced information in transport applications.  Part of the research included developing a trial in the Queenstown-Lakes District where we used the ArcGIS Online platform to crowdsource winter road reports and develop a real-time winter road condition mapping application. There was great interest among the attendees about what ‘crowdsourcing’ is, and how it could be used to address transport information gaps. I also talked about our current South Island trial.

Aside from presenting, I was also particularly interested in how local authorities and roading contractors are using spatial information and applying new technologies to be smarter in how they manage their road networks, particularly the remote rural road networks that cover much of the districts we visited.

Neil Bennett from Fulton Hogan talked about his experience with RoadRoid, an application for mobile devices that records the roughness of roads. Although designed for use on high-speed sealed roads, Neil’s experiments on low volume, unsealed roads demonstrated how different surface treatments behaved over time. The technology also captures imagery and video, and uploads information to a mapping/querying interface for further interrogation.

In Taupo, we heard about the historic imagery scanning project underway for LINZ, and how this is being used for road asset management. The most interesting slide from this presentation was a historic aerial photo capturing two people lying on a bridge in an X pattern and the name “Spike” clearly written on the pavement – an early example of photobombing!

In Dunedin, James McCallum a road engineer from Southland District Council, outlined how the Council are using low-cost UAVs (drones) to capture imagery and 3D data across the district. It was amazing to see how new generation road engineers are experimenting with new technologies and dabbling in GIS to more efficiently and safety survey remote and difficult-to-access sites.

All-in-all I had an enjoyable time touring the country and seeing a diverse range of innovative projects being undertaken by the road engineering community. For more information on the tour and to view the presentations, check out the REAAA website.

Read the full post