August 2015

Feature Story

Rapidly add value to your spatial data

11 August 2015

Our new Rapid Spatial Analytics (RSA) program is designed to deliver high impact research to improve the ability and efficiency of government and industry to create spatial information products using mobile and cloud infrastructure.

To ensure the program will meet the needs of our partners, we hosted a one-day workshop in Melbourne in July. A general call for expression of interest was sent to our participants and partners in May with space limited to 18. We were overwhelmed with interest.

Before attending the workshop, participants were asked to contribute to the day by providing responses to six questions that focused on identifying current and emerging problems, defining how RSA can resolve emerging issues, and who will be the users of any CRCSI research outcomes.

Participants were also asked if they or their organisation had interest in or capabilities to lead RSA projects.

The pre-workshop responses by the 18 participants helped fine-tune the agenda for the day.
The workshop focused on five themes (see diagram below). Theme 1 Spatial Workflows is an overlay to cover and enable Themes 2 – 4. Theme 5 Visualisation and Decision Making is the common output for data communication and representation across all themes. We have used the term ‘rapid’ to express the connection across the program such as near real-time, efficient, and fast access.

RSA Five Themes

Supported projects will be funded to begin in January 2016 with a July 2017 completion date and adoption of the project outcomes.

The workshop is a starting point for project ideas with the RSA team members Professor Matt Duckham and Dr Nathan Quadros coordinating the project portfolios.

Once completed the RSA portfolio will be available to CRCSI stakeholders and other organisations with specific interest in the program.

A full report is available which includes a list of participants (page 23), detailed description of the five themes (pages 29 – 38), workshop summary (page 15) and conclusion (page 16).

The Communication Nub

with Jessica Purbrick-Herbst

The Conference – 25-27 November (Melbourne)

The annual conference is fast approaching with invitations to our members and participants going out in August. This year the three day Melbourne event will focus on outcomes, application and adoption.

The education day (with the 25 current PhD and masters students) will be held on Tuesday 24 November (the day before the conference) with an open invitation for CRCSI stakeholders to attend the afternoon session to either be part of or to listen to “The Pitch”. This unique occasion captures, in three minutes, early stage ideas and the people who will lead the way.

If you are keen to learn more about The Pitch, please email me with your interest.

The Spatial Stone

The words we use are important regardless of where we work and live, who we talk to and the industry we surround ourselves.

As a newbie to the spatial industry it is an interesting journey finding the meaning to some of the words ‘we’ take for granted as known and understood.

I am not alone. I have found that across our research programs there are words and meanings that are particular and understood only by those working in that field, with many outsiders to that research struggling to understand.

Using a language that corresponds to our work yet connects with our stakeholders and users of the technologies we create is the simple beginning of our journey as we move into the outcomes, application and adoption phase of the CRCSI and our challenge to speak beyond the boundaries of our ‘known’ spatial world.

The first step in this journey is the Spatial ‘Rosetta’ Stone – hardly a dictionary yet the beginnings of taking our spatial work to the streets. This is my starting place.

Feel free to debate the definitions and of course contribute your own words directly to me to add to this growing compendium.

43pl members

from David Sinclair

The 43pl Board has been working on the 43pl Strategic Plan 2015-2020. A copy of the draft plan will be disseminated to all current 43pl members for discussion and input.

Some of the key points in the plan relate to:

  • Account management – a Business Development Manager is dedicated to a select group of 43pl members to build better understanding of industry needs, solutions and input into research themes, proposals and program areas.
  • R&D tax incentive application assistance.
  • Support for PhD/masters students.
  • Expansion of international collaboration.

CRCSI app finds biomass

Involving over eight investigators from four institutions and over 60 livestock producers in a network of participatory research groups and corporate agribusinesses, the Biomass Business project aims to develop and deliver a sensor and mobile device application (smart phone app) package that provides graziers with the ability to determine the amount of green dry biomass in their pastures whilst in the field.

Dr Andrew Robson is the lead investigator on the project with support from CRCSI Science Director Professor David Lamb and Dr Mark Trotter (Senior Lecturer Precision Agriculture) at the University of New England, along with input from the University of Canterbury and the NSW Department of Primary Industries. 43pl members Sundown Pastoral Company and Twynam Agricultural Group are also participating.

Determining green biomass is critical for producers who want to measure available pasture biomass and match it with livestock feed needs. Case studies by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) have estimated that the provision of accurate pasture biomass information and its use in better feed allocation would allow producers to increase total farm productivity by 11.1% ($96 per hectare) for sheep enterprises and 9.6% ($52 per hectare) for cattle production systems.

The project is currently evaluating the accuracy of active optical sensors to provide biomass assessment in pastures. To date, these type of sensors are used to aid fertiliser management in the grains industry.

Fundamental to the 'app' development, is a unique self-calibration process and crowdsourcing protocol which will ultimately enable graziers to develop and submit their own sensor/biomass calibrations to build up a library of relevant data and facilitate continuation of the development of the project into the future.

Graziers are extremely interested and engaged in this project. There are currently five 'Participatory Research Sites' in which groups of producers have sought independent funding from the MLA to work alongside the research team in evaluating the sensors and smart phone application. The producers from these groups have provided feedback on the project and in the development of sensor calibrations from across Australia, making the sensor evaluation far more regionally robust than we could have done without their involvement.

The Biomass Business 2 project Real-time pasture biomass estimation is a collaboratively funded project between the CRCSI and MLA.

Finding facial recognition in health

A new CRCSI project in collaboration with Genetic Services of WA Health and Curtin University will use 3D facial analysis to provide new knowledge into disorders, rare diseases and clinical genetics.

The initial research conducted in 2014 with the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children (Western Australia) in facial analysis streamlining for clinical translation (project 4.404) saw improvement in work efficiencies by at least 10% through the use of the 3D FAST app, a data cleaning tool, developed in C++ and translated into MATLAB. An inventory of current data storage, data management and databases has identified areas for further efficiency improvement.

This new project CliniFace (project 4.406) will build on the initial results to streamline processes to allow for real-time data mining to create powerful diagnostic and treatment monitoring tools. The practice of this work will be used in applications for facial diagnostics, treatment monitoring and surgical planning.

CliniFace will medically enable 3D facial analysis of patients by using spatial technologies in 3D imaging, feature extraction and mapping.

The project is led by Gareth Baynam (Genetic Services WA Health) and CRCSI Program Manager Hedwig Verhoef and supported by CRCSI partner Curtin University.

Western Port story is live

The CRCSI provided spatial expertise, development and support to the Western Port Biosphere Story Maps project.

The Western Port Biosphere is supported by five local governments (Bass Coast, Cardinia, City of Casey, Frankston City, and Mornington Peninsula Shire), and Parks Victoria.

The story map forms part of the work focused on establishing a GIS for the Biosphere to support monitoring, day-to-day activities, and communication with the community.

Three stories describing the Western Port Biosphere Reserve and its activities as part of the six year Growing Connections project are now available to the public in interactive online map form.

The Biosphere’s Growing Connections project aims to improve biodiversity in the Western Port Biosphere by connecting and improving habitat corridors regionally and establishing large areas of new woody vegetation to sequester carbon. This is achieved by implementing a biodiversity plan and delivering on-ground works such as re-vegetation, remnant vegetation protection, pest control and species monitoring. The biodiversity plan is developed through a mixture of scientific information and community participation with over 25 partners including community groups, councils, businesses and government agencies involved.

The biodiversity plan includes maps developed with the spatial expertise of the CRCSI, using a combination of scientific information and community knowledge (contributed via a workshop). Spatial data analysis was performed employing GIS and the Victorian State Government’s Environmental Systems Modelling Platform (EnSym) to determine priority areas for on-ground biodiversity works.

As part of the communication and community participation component, the CRCSI has developed three ArcGIS Online Story Maps to communicate to the public the History of the Western Port Biosphere, the Changes to Vegetation Over Time that have occurred in the biosphere, and the work done so far as part of the Growing Connections Camera Trapping Program. The maps are easy to navigate and provide interesting information as well as links to additional information and ways for the public to get further involved. There will likely be additional maps to come as the project runs until 2017.

This valuable community and environment project is unique in its cooperative approach to bringing science and community knowledge together across the Biosphere.

Next gen spatial

CRCSI-Curtin University PhD students Tristan Reed, Jeremy Fa and Chet Tan are undertaking the research activities in the CRCSI project Semantic Web Technologies for Next Generation Spatial Infrastructures (project 3.01). The three activities; search and discovery, federation of spatial data and orchestration of web services, are considered advanced in relation to similar work occurring in Europe.

The recent mid-term review of the project recommended the acceleration of the utilisation through the addition of a developer to take the web-based proofs of concept developed by the team (currently hosted on the Amazon Cloud Drive) to meet participant requirements.

The prominence of the research internationally has increased through Dr David McMeekin’s (Senior Research Fellow, within Spatial Sciences at Curtin University) involvement in the recent OGC GeoSemantics Summit held in Boulder, Colorado in June.

The emergence of Linked Data and the Semantic Web has reached a stage at which the technologies are impacting on how we deal with spatial data at other levels than just geometry. David’s paper was one of the few accepted. The emphasis of his presentation on the artificial intelligence aspects of the Semantic Web research was recognised as being advanced thinking in the geosemantics space.

Pilot study into innovative locations and addressing

New natural language techniques and a cloud-based data exchange system are being explored as part of a CRCSI pilot study.

The 2014 CRCSI study into the future of geocoded addressing in Australia (project 3.10) concluded that systemic issues with the current jurisdictional addressing supply chains prevent ‘authoritative’ address datasets such as G-NAF from meeting the longer-term needs of Australian and New Zealand users. This study partnered with 43pl members, Business Aspect and Mercury Solutions.

The study recommended augmenting traditional approaches with innovative crowdsourced and community-based location experimental approaches.

Currently emerging at the same time are some innovations in location approaches with what3words, MapCode and Geepers being the more high profile. These location approaches are using crowdsourcing or short alphanumeric code.

The pilot study in partnership with Curtin University, University of Melbourne and the Department of Communications, will examine new natural language techniques and a cloud-based data exchange system to determine if these innovations will contribute to better location communication in Australia.

The study is conducting exploratory conversations (workshops, interviews) with Program 3 researchers, technology providers and users to identify relevant touchpoints across the Program 3 research topics (supply chains, crowdsourcing, Semantic Web, federation).

The research will result in recommendations about the capabilities of these new approaches and how it can be used to augment existing addressing solutions along with the identification of industrial opportunities into further applied research.

For more information please contact Kylie Armstrong, Program 3 Manager.

Modernising Australia's disruptive datums

Datums are used in GPS systems to indicate a position on maps to its real position on Earth. It is the reference point used to locate a place.

Australia's current geocentric datum will not be able to support the requirements of Australians in a spatially connected world.

The first Datum Modernisation Roadmap was released in 2011. It is now time to develop a series of recommendations for the implementation process aligned to a modern Australian geocentric datum.

Prepared by Scott Strong, Program Manager Geodetic System with Land Tasmania, the report Stakeholder Requirements for Modernising Australia's Geocentric Datum makes 17 recommendations that will meet all stakeholder requirements and minimise the disruptive effects associated with the anticipated rate of change.

The recommendations include:

  • The need for a documented pathway for the modernisation of datums
  • The implementation of change management techniques to address technical and the practicalities of implementation 
  • The development of communication resources for education and technical expertise
  • The engagement of commercial software providers to facilitate the introduction of tools to perform datum transformations.

The report sets a timeframe of 2020 for the implementation and the important role of lead agencies ANZLIC and the Intergovernmental Committee on Mapping and Surveying (ICSM).

A copy of the report can be downloaded here.

Commercial opps

The CRCSI in collaboration with partners has developed a range of commercialisation and investment opportunities. From precise positioning at 2cm, Barista software, search and discovery improvements in the Semantic Web, and data mining in the health sector.

All these and more can be found online here are ready to be explored and examined. Working with the CRCSI Business Development team will help guide thinking and opportunities for further investment and utilisation.

Results in education

The CRCSI supports 25 PhD and masters students through its scholarship program.

Three students have recently completed their thesis.

  • Niva Kiran Verma submitted her thesis on estimating trunk diameter at breast height for scattered Eucalyptus trees.
  • Jessica Roberts submitted her thesis on the potential for remote monitoring of cattle movement to indicate available biomass.
  • Yuxiang He submitted his thesis on automated 3D building modelling from airborne LiDAR data.

Our partners, University of New England and the University of Melbourne were crucial in guiding the students. If you are interested in working with our education program please contact Dr Nathan Quadros.

Niva Kiran Verma – Estimating trunk diameter at breast height for scattered Eucalyptus trees

‘Farmscapes’ are farming landscapes with combinations of forests and scattered tree vegetation, natural and improved grasslands and pastures and crops.
Scattered eucalypt trees are a particular feature of Australian farmscapes.

There is a growing need to assess carbon and biomass stocks in these farmscapes in order to fully quantify the carbon storage change in response to management practices and provide evidence-based support for carbon inventory.

The aim of this research was to investigate various avenues of estimating diameter at breast height (DBH) using synoptic remote sensing techniques.

The approach used on–ground measurements to establish the fundamental allometric relationships between such parameters and DBH for scattered and clustered Eucalyptus trees on a 3,000 ha farm in north-eastern New South Wales, Australia.

The work investigated a range of remote sensing techniques including very high spatial resolution (decicentimetre) airborne multispectral imagery and satellite imagery and LiDAR to estimate the related parameters.
Overall, the research demonstrated the usefulness of remote sensing of tree parameters such as crown projection area and canopy volume as a means of inferring DBH on a large scale.

The thesis can be downloaded from here. Niva completed her thesis in 2015 through the University of New England.

Jessica Roberts – Potential for remote monitoring of cattle movement to indicate available biomass

There is a call for sustainable intensification of agricultural industries to cope with impending challenges to future food demand and production. Beef and sheep meat production in Australia is dominated by grazing production systems, and equates to the largest land use of the country.

Pasture utilisation by livestock can be a major limiting factor in grazing production systems, through under- or over-grazing.

This thesis aims to identify if spatio-temporal information from livestock tracking devices can be used to understand livestock-biomass interactions in a rotational grazing system. The specific goal was to determine if this spatio-temporal data might be related to pasture characteristics (particularly biomass quantity) and potentially used as an indicator of the state of the pastures being grazed.

Cattle were tracked with GPS for detection and monitoring of specific behaviours including, distance moved, time spent grazing, stationary or travelling, spatial dispersion and social dispersion. Behaviours were compared with declining pasture availability, and monitored with an active optical sensor.

This thesis explores the behaviour of cattle in three grazing situations. In all experiments, distance moved and grazing time results were considered normal, although behavioural changes observed in relation to pasture biomass did not always follow the same pattern. Large daily variation was observed in most results, potentially problematic for detecting a response to biomass.

Considering only how the monitored behaviours relate to biomass, the most appropriate behaviour metrics investigated in this research were time spent grazing or moving and the proportion of the paddock utilised. In most cases these metrics exhibited simple, quadratic relationships with biomass.

In combination with real-time monitoring systems these metrics might easily be monitored and key thresholds could be determined, resulting in management trigger points from the steepness of an incline or decline, or occurrence of a maxima or minima. There is potential to continue this research in a commercial context to determine if these behavioural metrics can be related to the pasture biomass characteristics that are important to producers. If successful, these behaviour metrics could be used to develop an autonomous spatial livestock monitoring (ASLM) system to assist graziers make decisions that will substantially contribute to the sustainable intensification of red meat industries across the globe.

The thesis can be downloaded here. Jessica completed her thesis in 2015 through the University of New England and works for Lincoln Agritech as a precision agricultural scientist.

Yuxiang He – Automated 3D building modelling from airborne LiDAR data

Remote sensing datasets have been used to simulate applications in the virtual environment across disaster management, city planning and assisted navigation.

This thesis presents a complete framework for 3D building reconstruction and modelling from airborne LiDAR data. The reconstruction procedure is decomposed into distinct stages and a workflow is designed by exploring a range of techniques.

The workflow consists of three distinctive modules. These are:

  1. LiDAR data filtering
  2. Building footprint extraction
  3. Building rooftop modelling.

Experimental evaluation of the developed algorithms using LiDAR data over several urban scenes from different cities and with various point densities, has demonstrated its utility, robustness and effectiveness for accurate and comprehensive 3D city modelling.

The experiments and the results of the evaluation according to several criteria show that more than 91% of the roof facets over 10m2 are correctly extracted and the achieved accuracy of the building model is better than 1m and 0.35m in planimetry and height. The developed system can serve as a robust and automatic tool to extract buildings for urban modelling.

Yuxiang completed his thesis in 2015 through the University of Melbourne. Download a copy of the thesis here.

New leadership at ANZLIC

The CRCSI congratulates the two newly elected leaders at ANZLIC. Michael Bradford, CEO of Landgate (WA) has been elected as Chair of ANZLIC, and Steve Jacoby, Executive Director, Land and Spatial Information at DNRM (QLD) is the newly elected Deputy Chair.

Further details about these appointments can be found here.

Team CRCSI on tour

Our New Zealand Director of Operations, Dr Anna de Raadt, recently accompanied the ‘Facilitating Research and Innovation Cooperation between Europe and New Zealand (FRIENZ)’ delegation to Europe.

Themed ‘Resilient Cities’ the tour was organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand and supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Science Investments.

The delegation visited research and government agencies at the Austrian Institute of Infrastructure in Vienna, Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems in Berlin, and Deltares in the Netherlands.

The Fraunhofer IAO focuses on applied technology management research, such as the virtual reality to guide construction planning, sustainable IT architectures and the project ‘Morgenstadt’ or ‘City of the Future’.

The interest in the ‘City of the Future’ is that its central focus is what a future city needs to be sustainable – quality of life, produce zero net emissions and waste, optimise resiliency, and enable prosperity and progress through sustainable innovations.

To understand the complexity of a sustainable city, the project examined Berlin, Tokyo, New York and Singapore – what makes them world-class cities? Insights into how these cities work, or not work have been used to develop a ‘City Insights-Toolbox’ for a systems analysis of cities and identification of demand.

This project is now ready to implement the ‘City Insights-Toolbox’ with the ‘Morgenstadt City Challenge’, an international competition for cities who want to be part of this project.

“Being part of the delegation was an amazing experience – thank you to all concerned for this opportunity”, said Anna de Raadt.