March 3, 2014

GeoNext conference and Wearable Technologies

Posted by josediacono @ 3:07 pm under Uncategorized

This one day conference was well worth attending

Maurits v/d Vlugt kicked off, showed us a UAV developed in the Netherlands that weights 20g (yes not a  typo). They will be everywhere, continually collecting data.

Nic Lowe from Go Get was the first keynote. They started with 5 cars in 2003 and now have 1500 in Sydney and are also in other state capitals. They sponsored the conference and supplied their business data for the hackfest. This was an excellent idea.

Kurt Iveson of Sydey Uni spoke about “The politics of real time transport data” a story spanning 14 years in Sydney. In1998 when the first GPS unit was installed on a bus and the Sydney Morning Herald wrote “soon we will know when our next bus is coming”. 14 years later we now have that for all buses on our smartphones. Its been a long journey.

Along the way there were 5 political issues to solve

  1. quality of location data, getting GPS into private buses, replacing creaky infrastructure, canyons in city mean apps don’t work so well in Circulary Quay
  2. data ownership and access. The data is not yet fully open – only 6 licensed developers have access
  3. monetisation of location data. Developers carry full cost and risk. Government has to be willing to endorse the apps and promote or there is no awareness. In Holland an award winning transport app still only has 10,000 users because Dutch govt would not endorse it over others. Spectrum of “openness”, totally open in Portland resulted in 55 real time apps on the transport website. How do you decide which is best?  Too much choice. Sydney Transport ran a hothouse (hackfest) and then selected 6 which they endorsed because they could be comfortable with them after QA
  4. location of the “location data” what about those who don’t have smartphones or the many who don’t know how to download an app? Keen on big screens on bus shelters and in public places. Even smartphone owners like those. In UK 10,000 bus stops have real time displays. Kurt showed a pic of a futuristic bus stop design with displays. Interesting point  when surveyed, commuters waiting at a stop with a display perceived their wait to be shorter than those who didn’t have a display. So they were happier.
  5. disciplinary  – buses are a workplace. There have been complaints from bus drivers of being told to “hurry up” by central control when they are stuck in traffic.  Platform staff on Sydney trains have been given smartphones so they can access the same info travellers do (and then ask them about).

Panel discussion on wearable technology

 Dr Elliot Duff CSIRO

Talked about  SLAM Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping. They have this gizmo called Zebedee which you carry around a building (eg a museum in Hungary) waving it around. It creates a 3D map.  Then you track things constantly inside it.  “You worry when they disappear” used for tracking robots in factories.

 Peter Kock and Rob Manson

just say "take a photo" or even blink, and it does!

just say “take a photo” or even blink, and it does!

Augmented Reality – amazing technology Google glasses. You can look at something and say “take a photo” and it photographs what you are looking at. Can also video stream. Only available by invitation and $1500 a pair.  Rob Manson is from buildAR. Contact if you every have a need for augmented reality. Could be used by a worker in a construction site – he can see not just the physical hole in the ground but the building that will be built.

Could use it to give instructions for assembling IKEA furniture.

 Chris Rizos Uni of NSW  Indoor Positioning

Case Study of Australian technology called Locata. Has its own network (with antenna) which can be integrated with GNSS. Technology lost me but Chris thought it had great potential if it could get commercial backing. Canberra company. 2D accuracy to cm level. UNSW have done tests in a hangar and impressed but does not know how it scales up to larger neighbourhood. Has been used on US military bases.

Contact them.

Simon Hope – Geoplex The Geekification of GIS

Bringing futuristic mainstream IT into spatial

Very keen on Open Source without which the following would not be possible. Lots of buzzwords and products I hadn’t heard but sounds very exciting.


Elasticsearch supports structured and unstructured search. Combine a text search with geolocate. Ideal for people who don’t really know what they are looking for (with a  classic spatial search you have to be very explicit)


What has changed, by whom, when? Traditional extract and post or Version control very expensive and domain of Smallworld and big GIS companies. GIThub represents the democratisation of change management

Online maps

Cost, ease, power. CartoDB. Simon showed the spread of the US postal service on a map 100 years in 10 seconds

What next?

Browser based raster processing e.g raster tiles. Showed how you could dynamically shad a terrain model in various ways just in the browser. Formerly a very heavy computing task.

Go Get Hackfest

 Go Get had released subsets of their business data (anonymised)

Trip data, bookings, petrol purchases and consumption, pods (where several share cars are parked). This was put in fusion tables. Nokia (now “Here”) supplied their APIs which do things like shortest route and geofencing. (seems to be what we used to call polygon processing).

zooming and panning around the Sydney Equestrian centre site

checking out the Sydney Equestrian centre site on the HP touch screen monitor, superb resolution

Developers invited to develop apps – they retained the IP.

Ian schrivener did a Dashboard with state data, financials, website analytics, bookings – which would display on a big screen in their office.

Jeffrey Candillero analysed petrol purchases to find they could save 1.5% on their fuel bill over the average price by directing drivers to cheaper fuel when they need to refill. Interesting use of external data (average petrol prices). Jeffrey did a winning app in the mashup Australia called geo2gov which I wrote about. It was nice to meet him.

Another app enabled cars returned early to be booked out again (and gave incentives to people to return them early)

I think these sponsored hack fests with a theme are a step up from the general ones (though the latter have there place for government) .

January 14, 2013

Real time bus information

Posted by josediacono @ 8:53 pm under Uncategorized

TripView – that brilliant app for iphone and android that brings you Sydney bus, train and ferry timetables, now tells you when the bus is actually coming. Colour coding makes it clear if it is early (yes they do sometimes run early), on time or late. Brilliant for those last minute people. Only public buses so far. Roll on the real time bus data for my local Forest Coach Lines.

November 14, 2012

Open Australia Foundation Hackfest

Posted by josediacono @ 8:14 pm under Uncategorized

Sadly I cannot go but perhaps you can? It will be good and you get to see inside the Google offices at Pyrmont Sydney. Well worth it.

OA say “We’re launching an exciting new project very soon that makes it straightforward for ordinary Australians to request information from their government. The site also opens up the whole process of making Freedom of Information requests by making the whole paper (or rather email) trail of request and responses public.

For this hackfest we’re not only inviting hackers to get involved with the technical aspects of the project, we’re also inviting hacks, activists, FOI gurus and anyone else that’s interested in learning more or getting involved with this new project.”

Register at

October 9, 2012

At last! Real time bus data for Sydney

Posted by josediacono @ 6:55 pm under Uncategorized

The approach might seem quite conservative (ie. teams have to apply, the best will be picked to continue… rather than the usual hackfest open slather, but given the fiasco of the London Tube real time feed (scroll down the page) , working closely with app developers to ensure the technical and performance bases are covered could well be wise.

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June 22, 2012

Brisbane Hack Brisbane winners

Posted by josediacono @ 10:09 am under Uncategorized

park website

Clayfield mobile software developer Kelwyn Graham is $10,000 richer thanks to his Brisbane Access Map app which Lord Mayor Graham Quirk named one of two winners of the inaugural hack::Brisbane competition

Read more:


April 30, 2012

So how are we doing with open data?

Posted by josediacono @ 9:35 am under Uncategorized

I just watched this video again from Tim Berners-Lee (still not so recent, its 2010), reviewing progress on open data and some mashup examples. The one about the water connections (or lack of)  to white and black communities is particularly powerful.

Sadly, in Australia, I heard that has lost government support – it no longer has anyone looking after it. Sounds like a death knell. There is no “most recent datasets” list so its really hard to see if any new data has been posted.

Tim Berners Lee The Year Open Data went World Wide

January 27, 2012

Citizen map makers

Posted by josediacono @ 9:30 am under Uncategorized


citizen mapmakersWe see them every day, popping up on our Twitter feeds, filtered through blogs, or even scattered throughout the New York Times: maps portraying not the usual locations or destinations, but data.  From people’s kisses in Toronto, to the concentration of pizza joints in New York, to the number of women who ride bikes, to the likelihood of being killed by a car in any given American city, the list of lenses through which we can now view our cities and neighborhoods goes on, thanks to data-mapping geeks.

“The map user has now become the map creator,” is how Fraser Taylor put it to me in an interview. The director of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre at Carleton University, Taylor is one of the world’s leading cartographers, standing as the director of the International Steering Committee for Global Mapping and a member of the United Nations Expert Group on Global Geographic Information Management as well as a host of other major international mapping organisations.

Read more:

Thanks to Ross Johnson for this posting.


December 11, 2011

My Brilliant Geospatial Career

Posted by josediacono @ 9:01 pm under Uncategorized

Teenage girls in Victoria can find good vintage clothes with the mymarkets app

I recently was invited to give a presentation about careers in spatial to 200 year 12 girls and teachers at Cheltenham Girls High School in Sydney. I gathered a lot of material at the spatial@gov conference the previous week – talking to young women at the conference about their careers. Andrew Bashfield told me how his company Intermap technologies is working with a group in Borneo called Deforestaction. School students check satellite imagery each week for changes that flag illegal logging. I used an example of an app to help them find vintage clothes in Victorian markets.

I purposefully kept it very non technical (it was last thing on a hot afternoon) and it was very well received. (They cheered!) I’m happy to give it at other high schools or for others to modify it and present themselves.

It has creative commons licencing and presentation notes. It is on slideshare


November 2, 2011

Climate Change mashup in California

Posted by josediacono @ 10:32 am under Uncategorized

A  GIS team has brought together all sorts of historical and predicted climate data for planners to use.

October 13, 2011

Ausgrid mashup – build on it!

Posted by josediacono @ 10:55 am under Uncategorized

St ives residents are heavy electricity users, especially in winter

Ausgrid (formerly Energy Australia – one of the two electricity suppliers in Sydney) first released some of their usage data at the apps4nsw hackfest. It was very interesting to see the differences of up to 30% in average electricity between suburbs (St Ives is the highest). Now Ausgrid have launched their own mashup which shows not only electricity use but also the works they have completed in your suburb (repairs, new substations, streetlights) and how much solar energy is being fed back into the grid.

As an enhancement I’d like to be able to see easy comparisions between suburbs. Currently you just have to click and then remember the stats before you click on another suburb to compare. But we don’t have to wait for Ausgrid to do this. All the raw data is available.  Ausgrid say on their website “We’re working to share more information to help educate, inform and support the community. In particular, this information may be of interest to researchers or developers who want to create applications for the web or smart phones”.

Imagine if AGL published the gas consumption and Integral Energy (who serve the West of Sydney) published theirs, we could have a full picture for the whole of Sydney.What a powerful mashup that would be.

Also electricity is only part of the equation, could gas be added? Perhaps they don’t have gas in St Ives.

Here is another electricity mashup – this time street lights from ETSA in South Australia


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