Monthly Archives: October 2014

Feature Spotlight: Renders and PDFs

One of the new features we introduced in VentusAR 2.0 was the ability to produce a PDF file to download. The creation of a document makes it easier to share and save the visualisations created by VentusAR. As I have just been out to a viewpoint with VentusAR, I thought I would share the process to setup the project, create the visualisations in VentusAR, upload the results to the portal and create a PDF.

1. Project Setup

Within the portal, set up the project as required. In this example I am going to be assessing what adding a single turbine to Spottiswood Farm would look like.

portal - setup

Portal Setup for Spottiswoode Farm Project

On the device, run the bulk download process to ensure that all data is downloaded. Then head out to the viewpoint and take a few captures.

Gallery For Spottisewood Farm

Gallery For Spottisewood Farm

2. Publish the Captures

This will ensure we can publish all the metadata about the images. Steps:

  • Click Select in top right corner of the gallery grid screen
  • Select (click) the captures you want to publish
  • Click Publish (top right of gallery grid screen)

This will take a few seconds to complete. An ‘OK’ box will display once the images and data have been successfully published (uploaded). You will then be able to see it in the ‘Published’ images tab in the gallery.

The Published section of the gallery

The Published section of the gallery

3. Generate Renders

From the My Images tab, choose the image you want to view and generate as many renders as you require. Renders are full-screen images generated from the current view (camera view, turbine and wirelines) but not VentusAR controls. This is the difference between a VentusAR image render and a device hardware screen-grab.

Renders are generated using the Generate Render button in the options tab in the right panel.  have generated 2 renders: photo + turbine and wireline + turbine. All the renders will be stored in the renders tab in the gallery.

Pro Tip: The wireline + turbine render can be generated by: setting the overlay to wireline  and turning off the camera feed.

Renders in the Gallery

Renders in the Gallery

Pro Tip: make sure you use the red / white colour scheme in the settings tab as this will be printable.

4. Upload the Renders

PDF generation is done on the portal, so the renders you want to include in your PDF must be uploaded to the portal. This is done by:

  • Choose Select in the top right of the renders tab
  • Select (click) the renders to upload
  • Click Publish (in the top right of renders tab)

It will take a few seconds to upload the renders to the portal. Once they are all uploaded a message will popup saying “Publish Renders Process Complete”

5. View the project in the portal

The renders that have been uploaded to the portal will be shown in a FilmStrip view in the Renders section on the View Project page in the portal. To get to the film strip view:

  • From the main projects list, click View of the project you are interested in
View project link on project details page

View project link on project details page

  • Scroll down to see the FilmStrip view (from the top, the sections are: Layout versions, Viewpoints, Overlays, Reference Structures, Renders, Nearby Cumulative Projects)

6. Publish Images to PDF

Publish Images to PDF button on Project details page

Publish Images to PDF button on Project details page

  • Click on the Publish Images to PDF button to start the PDF production process.
  • On this page, you must choose two images to be included in the pdf (a Wireline and a Visualisation) and the source image with the metadata in it. Choices are made by selecting the highlighted radio buttons. One Visualisaiton image, one wireline image and one metadata image are required.
Choose which Images to use

Choose which Images to use

  • Choose Publish to PDF to produce the PDF. A two-page PDF file will be generated that can be saved or shared as required.
  • An example PDF file can be seen at Clyde_-_Spottieswood_Farm

Future Enhancements

This export to PDF process is an early look at the documentation and output capabilities that we are working on and thinking about. It is by no means final and we are working on simplifying and streamlining this with coming releases. If you have thoughts, suggestions or feedback on how this works, please get in touch as we would love to hear from you.

DECC Updates Community Engagement and Benefit Guidance for Onshore Wind

Earlier this week (7 October 2014) the UK Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) published updated guidance for engagement in planning and development for onshore wind. Aimed at communities, local authorities and developers, the documents are forwarded by The Rt Hon Edward Davey (Ed) who says the opportunity to develop onshore wind and benefits “requires ambition, innovation and commitment on all sides” through a clear, transparent process.

A quite reasonable 94 pages (50 for benefits, 44 for engagement) are also summarised into bite-sized documents for both Local Authorities and Communities. Copies of all PDFs can be found within the link here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-benefits-and-engagement-guidance-for-onshore-wind

In true 2014 style, I put the document through Wordle and the key words can clearly be seen below.
Wordle-DECC

Best practice includes:

  • Public exhibitions
  • The use of questionnaires
  • The use of visual aids, such as photomontages of the proposed development
  • Making the report available online and at local meeting places

Innovative practice might involve (amongst others):

  •   The use of photographic, video and three dimensional tools for illustrations

The use of innovation and engagement as headlines and key words throughout, resonate with the work Linknode are doing to make visual assessment more accessible (through mobile technologies), relevant (by being location driven) and understandable with our augmented reality views of planning data. Our VentusAR solution fits perfectly in enabling greater engagement through new mediums and is finding a place in communicating a development from scoping and feasibility, through consulting and into the formal planning process.

Where the documents focus on the planning process, there is a lost opportunity to share how the engagement process works and how it can be a benefit to the developer as well as the community. The left-hand side of the image below comes from the DECC publication and we have mirrored the timeline with a collaborative approach. Communication begets engagement begets empowerment and, through feedback ultimately begets improvement.

VentusAR-DECC

We look forward to seeing how this changes and empowers more communities and increases the involvement and engagement of all parties.

Xamarin Evolve Keynote

This week (6-10 October 2014), Linknode are in attendance at Altanta for the Xamarin Evolve conference. After two days of training, the conference proper is under way with sessions on the new features and services of what is coming up from Xamarin, now and over the next few months.

WP_20141008_005I thought I’d capture some of the my thoughts about the keynote talk and some of the products that I am looking forward to trying out.

Atmosphere

Firstly the atmosphere of the keynote: being from the UK, we don’t get many big developer conferences. I get all my previous experience from watching online (usually distracted while doing something else). It felt good to see Xamarin promoting the geeks up on stage, not just the executives talking up their products. It was polished and smooth, but you could feel the excitement as they took you through the new features.

Key Message

The key take home message for me was summed up by Nat when he said:

“Your app, even if it’s an enterprise app, is next to the best apps in the world on someone’s phone.”

And he’s right. User experience and how people interact with your app is crucial. We looked closely at our user experience in the VentusAR 2.0 release, but its something we have to continually work on to evolve and get right.

Xamarin Platform Line-up

A quick note on the tools that Xamarin introduced, and what they mean for VentusAR development:

Android Player

It is well known by developers that the Google-provided android emulators are really slow to use. So slow, that you give up with the task you were trying emulate and resort to finding an actual hardware device. Xamarin released their own android player to provide a decent emulator. This will mean that we can test our apps against more virtual devices and screen resolutions to improve the quality of the android apps in general. One question I’d be interested to know the answer to is how does the performance stack up against the GenyMotion emulator? More information from the Emulator page.

Android Profiler

There are many reasons why tracking memory usage and performance on android is really hard: virtual machines and limited native tools to name two. Today Miguel De Icaza unveiled his fourth attempt at an android profiler – and this one looks good. For anyone who gets an OutOfMemoryException in android and has no idea where to turn, this looks like it will be a great help and benefit. More information from the Profiler page.

Sketches

The last feature I want to highlight is Xamarin Sketches. This is a live, interactive coding environment which allows you to experiment by typing in commands in the sketches window. As a long time user of the Visual Studio Immediate window and LINQPad, it will be very useful to be able to run commands on an android or iOS device quickly and directly without having to recompile. See more on the sketches documentation page.

Xammy Awards

In other news, the entries for the Xammy Awards have opened and I was pleased (and slightly surprised) to see the quality of the entries. Specifically have a look at the Honeywell Total Comform Connect app (built by our friends and neighbours Screenmedia). Have a look at all the entries and see just what can be done with Xamarin technology.

Conclusion

That was three big features unveiled at the keynote, and I didn’t even mention the Xamarin Insights analytics and error tracking product or Xamarin Test Cloud Enhancements. Congratulations to the whole Xamarin team for getting all this released!

Anyway, tonight’s reception is in the Georgia Aquarium, so I’ll be spending the evening with geeks and sharks (both never sleep, so the myth says).

WP_20141008_036

Evolution of Ordnance Survey Maps: Why do people love maps? – BBC News Article

In my news feed this morning there was an article showing the evolution of Ordnance Survey maps. I was struck by the graphic showing the evolution of Ordnance Survey mapping. To summarise the changes over the years: colours have been added, contours are clearer and text less script (see below):

OS Mapping Evolution over the years

OS Mapping Evolution over the years.

(read the full article from BBC News website).

It made me think of the Fly Through mode of VentusAR using an OS map as an overlay.

People have described our Fly Through as bringing the contours on an OS map to life: it explains the land form in a simple, interactive, accessible way.

It made me wonder what the next 50 years of OS mapping had in store and how it will be presented.

VentusAR Fly Through: OS Maps from Linknode Ltd on Vimeo.

VentusAR Field Kit for iPad

The backseat of the car, wind, rain, hail, even trouser pockets. It’s a tough world out there for the hardware that runs VentusAR. We take the same kit out into the field as we supply for our customers, so we’ve a fair bit of experience of what works well, and what is less effective. In this post I will detail the contents of the iPad field kit. An equivalent field kit is available for the nexus 10 devices, to be covered in a separate post.

We can supply a field kit containing all the components you need to make using VentusAR in the field easy. Some of this is about protection (X-Lock bumper, ruggedised case), some about stability (tripod and mounts) and some about ease of operation (stylus and compass). It is all optional, but this is what we use and recommend. If you already have a solid tripod, then we can just provide the bits that you don’t already have.

Ruggedized case

P1030802We learnt this lesson the hard way. The image above shows the aftermath of a device that was left on the roof of a car, unprotected, as we drove off (we think it went underneath a lorry). It still turns on, but is no longer any use for VentusAR work! If we’d had the device tucked safely inside the ruggedised case it would have been in a better shape today.

P1030796 P1030786 P1030789

The ruggedised case we use is made by Peli, it is “watertight, dustproof, crush proof, corrosion proof and buoyant”. There are plenty of examples of Peli case users showing off how tough their cases are on youtube.

X-Lock Bumper Case for iPad

X-Lock case for iPad

X-Lock case for iPad

The first level of protection around the iPad is a close fitting, hard X-Lock bumper case. This has two primary functions: protecting the device and allowing the case to be mounted on a tripod. We use the Studio Proper X-Lock case as it is a good quality, well-fitted design that allows access to charging ports and buttons and is by far the neatest way to mount an iPad on a tripod we have seen.

Tripod

Velbon Sherpa

Velbon Sherpa  tripod

While VentusAR can be used handheld, the solid base a tripod provides give stability when the iPad is being operated by cold or shaky hands. We use a light-weight aluminium tripod from Velbon. This primary reason for using this is that the legs can be opened wide for maximum stability. This one has a single control head to allow easy adjustment of pan and tilt.

Any tripod is a compromise between weight, stability and price. It is possible to spend over £500 on a super light-weight carbon fibre tripod. Our Viber is not as expensive as a carbon fibre one, but still doesn’t affect the reading from a compass.

Tripod Mounting

X Lock case mountings

X-Lock case mountings

These small but essential components connect the X-Lock case to the tripod. They connect one end to the standard1/4-20 tripod screw and the other to the mount on the back of the iPad case. These provide a firm secure mounting to attach the iPad to the tripod.

Stylus

Adonit Jot Pro Accurate tripod

Adonit Jot Pro Fine point stylus

To make the trace feature in the gallery (described previously) easier to use, we provide an fine pointed stylus. This allow much more accurate point input to the touchscreen. The best description is taken from the adonit website:

“The sound dampening tip simulates natural pen and paper contact for a smoother and quieter stroke. The rubber grip provides comfort while the sleek brushed aluminum and steel shines in all four colors” adonti.com

Sighting Compass

Sighting Compass

Sighting Compass

The digital compass built into an iPad is susceptible to local magnetic interference. Our tests have shown that an analogue compass can provide a much more reliable heading when required. The marine sighting compass we supply can be used with the VentusAR configuration panel to enter an accurate override value.

Field Kit in Use

Put the whole package together and you get our field kit. We charge £350 for everything and have had no problem working with VentusAR in rain, hail and wind.

P1030791George_ipad_tripod