Friday, 8 July 2011

Geospatial Focus Group

Today I attended the first Geospatial Focus Group here at Plymouth University. Anne Mather an Associate Professor (Reader) in Physical Geography, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Technology) came up with the idea to combine ideas, knowledge and data with a range of individuals both internal and external of the the Faculty. The topics ranged from the following (Plymouth University staff):

Tim Absalom (Geography, SoGEES). Digimap
Richard Hartley (Geography, SoGEES) Hardware and software available for collecting and manipulating Geospatial data in Geography.

GIS resources in teaching/research (with emphasis on the cheap and simple!):
Victor Abbott (Marine Science and Engineering) Hydrographic survey
Sarah Boulton (Geology, SoGEES) River Tools
Martin Stokes (Geology, SoGEES) Landserf
Anne Mather (Geography, SoGEES) Google Earth

Also included were guest presentations in the use of Geospatial data beyond education, both extremely interesting. Thank you to both speakers!:
Commander Andrew Swain (FOST HM), Devonport

A very large array of topics. I'm always amazed how all these areas overlap in terms of how they recorded and publish data. Of course, from a learning technologist perspective I was rather keen to see how staff used their geospacial resources for teaching, meetings like this are invaluable for getting an idea of what your clients may ask you in the future!

Keith Westhead briefly introduced the very handy and excellent iGeology mobile application that is available for both iPhone/Pad and Android devices. This software relies on pulling down their geological map via a 3G data connection or similar in relation to the GPS location provided by the mobile device. As long as you have a fast data connection it works brilliantly. Having had some difficulty using any data derived mapping system such as this in 'very' remote locations, I asked if they were planning to make cached or small maps tiles available to download for use offline (contained within the programme, to ensure copyright issues). Apparently they have not, but he said that this was a good idea and would take this back to BGS and the software developers as a possible feature. I hope that they do! there is a lot of scope for such functionality in fieldwork.

Digimap aside, the availability of 'digital maps for mobile devices' (in education contexts) could be an option, so educational software developers can incorporate these maps into their own digital training material. Ideas like these are out of our hands but hopefully organisations such as BGS will consider the wider marketing advantage and offer such services.

Cdr Andy Swains presentation, on the Royal Naval approach to using hydrographic mapping and land surveying was very interesting (we are talking life and death situations! The data has to be good!), its fascinating how different organisations utilise technologies for their benefit.

A great set of talks from everyone, I will certainly be looking forward to the next meeting.

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