Locate14 wraps up

By on 15 April, 2014

Locate14 Exhibition hall

Guest post by SSSI NSW committee member Ross Johnson.

Locate14 has been declared a success! This landmark event brought together surveying & spatial professionals for a 3-day meeting in Canberra from 7-9 April 2014, and included an open day, vendor exhibition, conference, & awards night.

Some 500 delegates were totally immersed in spatial information at the conference, which, for the first time, combined previous national conferences held by the Surveying & Spatial Sciences Institute (SSSI) and the Spatial Industries Business Association (SIBA), as well as the Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards (APSEA). Discussions are proceeding to include GITA and other strategic alliances in future Locate conferences.

I arrived on a crisp Monday morning at Canberra’s National Convention Centre, and after checking in, proceeded to the exhibition hall.  I was pleased to see so many people buzzing around in and out of more than 35 vendor displays.

In high demand was: the Pitney Bowes Software booth serving freshly brewed coffee; the Esri Australia booth offering free wi-fi and a chill out space; and Dialog Technology’s booth offering a chance to try out Google’s cool new Glass.

Monday’s free open day attracted a large number of people, and it was encouraging to meet spatial enthusiasts from all stages of their careers. Sadly, I did not spot many students in attendance, but it was pleasing to see the Destination Spatial/Life Without Limits booth in full conversation.

During the open day, a number of concurrent events took place, including: presentations from Navigate and HERE; impacts from 10 years of the Geocoded National Address File (G-NAF) on everyday life; an update on the Spatial Industry Statistics Program; the newly released SkyBox Imaging; DigitalGlobe’s first Australian User Meet; and an Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) user forum.

Monday night saw around 100 people (including many Locate delegates) attend the GeoRabble ‘All Stars’ event at the wonderful underground lounge bar, Digress. This proved a fun, informal night of spatial presentations, while attendees enjoyed soothing beverages and Indian cuisine. My favourite presentation of the evening was from Pia Waugh, director coordination & gov 2.0, who spoke passionately (and rapidly!) on open data and the many benefits it flows through the digital economy.

Day two opened in the Convention’s Royal Theatre with speeches from both Australian minister for communcations, Malcolm Turnbull MP, and New Zealand minister for land information, Maurice Williamson MP. While Mr Turnbull spoke passionately about the Government’s digital economy focus for releasing data, Mr Williamson spoke about the success of NZ’s mandated open data policy (such as free download of Christchurch 3D city models), and its advantages for stimulating both business and the community.

The Locate conference itself consisted of a number of concurrent sessions based around the themes of: Locating the Digital Economy; Innovative Technologies; Spatial (Smart) Cities; National Security; Think Spatially (Spatial for a Non-Spatial World); and The Changing Landscape of Surveying.

I enjoyed attending the session with surveyors generals from all of the Australian states & territories debating issues, alongside the announcement of Cadastre 2034 reform, and the innovation national strategy. In fact, I would like to see more engagement between traditional surveyors and GIS professionals.

It was fascinating to hear the work of Geoscience Australia undertake risk assessment using analysis of LiDAR data in the Philippines & South Pacific countries. We learned from DigitalGlobe that WorldView3 (due to be released mid 2014) contains new satellite bands for detecting vegetation clearing and mineral deposits, and from MapStory creator, Chris Tucker, on the value of turning historic hard-to-retrieve data into animated map stories. Also interesting to hear was that the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) has developed online portals to support smart cities – let’s hope they publish data to Creative Commons by Attribution (CC BY).

Day two wrapped up with a presentation by Esri Australia on emerging big data, and a packed forum on open data with both Australian and New Zealand panellists. This included an update on the Foundation Spatial Data Framework (FSDF), and the announcement by secretary of the Department of Communications, Drew Clarke, that the administration boundaries theme (covering jurisdictional, statistical, electoral & maritime boundary datasets) would be made available to freely download on www.data.gov.au for a 12-month trial.

That evening, the Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards (APSEA), held in the impressive Grand Hall of Parliament House, was a chance to enjoy some fine cuisine and wine from the nation’s capital. I admired a number of unique and purpose-driven spatial projects awarded, as nominated by industry peers.

The big winner from the night was the pragmatic Helen Owens, manager of Office of Spatial Policy (OSP) & Locate Conference convenor, who received the prestigious 2013 SSSI President’s Award as well as the SIBA 2013 Chairman’s Award. Helen has been a much-needed fresh face in our changing industry.

Day three of the conference commenced with a keynote presentation by Google Australia on its growing suite of mapping initiatives, including 3D and indoor mapping, and a new maps gallery.

The conference continued with concurrent sessions, most noted for me was: the emergence of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and advanced laser scanning for detailed asset capture, agriculture, and mining; breaking down data silos across government and utility sectors in Western Australia by geo-enabling existing systems; a fascinating discussion on comparing open source vs. proprietary spatial software (including apps), which focused on what is fit for purpose for user needs; and hearing the compelling results of a comprehensive spatial audit and strategy covering all local governments across Victoria.

The Conference’s final session was the official handing over by Helen Owens of Locate – including its branding and IP – to SSSI (represented by SSSI president, John Trinder) and SIBA (represented by SIBA director and vice chairman, Maurits van de Vlugt) which will run future conferences.

The Locate15 dates were then announced as 10-12 March 2015 at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. So mark your calendars, keep an eye on the Locate conference website, and I’ll see you all there in sunny Brisvegas!

This recap of Locate14 was written by SSSI NSW committee member Ross Johnson.

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