Monthly Archives: May 2015

Linknode and Heriot-Watt University collaboration to visualise urban developments

Linknode Ltd in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design at Heriot-Watt University have commenced a two-year long research and development project.

UrbanPlanAR will create a “Mobile Architectural Visualisation Platform for Planners and Communities”. The project received funding from the InnovateUK funding board, following a successful bid in the ‘Innovation in Location Based Services’ competition.


The business proposition for UrbanPlanAR is to revolutionise communication and engagement within urban design and master planning. UrbanPlanAR will deliver an augmented reality solution for visualising proposed urban developments.  All stakeholders, including architects, developers, planning authorities as well as communities and citizens, will be able to picture planned developments within their actual urban environments in real-time.

Existing architectural visualisation solutions are mainly desktop based, limiting reach and engagement, preventing robust assessment and decision making by planners and communities where it matters. Other visualisation systems (such as Linknode’s VentusAR for onshore wind planning) use GPS positioning, which is just not precise enough for many urban environments.  The solution will implement state-of-the-art urban location tracking, harnessing the value of increasingly available city 3D models to create a unique experience.  The system will also integrate technology to enable a smooth workflow with Building Information Modelling (BIM).

Dr Crispin Hoult, Director, Linknode said “The opportunity to extend Linknode’s business in AR solutions, in collaboration with the academic input from Heriot-Watt University will create a world-leading solution and a fabulous partnership for further opportunities.”

Dr Frédéric Bosché of Heriot-Watt University added, “UrbanPlanAR is about delivering a modern solution to transform stakeholder engagement in the construction sector, including engagement with the general public.  We are delighted about this project and the prospect of collaborating with Linknode, as our expertise and interests perfectly align and complement each other.”

The collaboration presents an exciting opportunity for Linknode who see this as a way to cement their position as leaders in the exponentially growing professional AR marketplace. Heriot-Watt University will benefit from this project through the generation of new and improved knowledge and expertise. The project will also likely raise new research questions that will drive future research projects.

This first collaboration between Linknode and Heriot-Watt University creates a strategic partnership that will leverage the research skills of Heriot-Watt University with the development and commercialisation expertise of Linknode.

Cumulative Data Refresh: May 2015

UK-Themed-UK-copyEarlier this week, we imported a refresh of our national cumulative data which is available from VentusAR (both for app-users and for data-only access). The dataset contains information on the size and location wind turbines as they pass through the UK planning application systems.

Last time I delved a little deeper into the statistics for turbines and projects across the UK. I thought I would follow this up with a more detailed comparison of the stats for Scotland to see how the picture has changed as we continue to improve the data.

Headline numbers for the May 2015 refresh across the UK are 15,717 projects containing 29,940 turbines. This is approximately 1% more turbines than imported in the March 2015 dataset.


This time we have done a fair amount of data cleaning within the Scotland data. For example, there are instances where we have merged separate turbines back under one project umbrella. In all, this continuous improvement gives us a clearer picture of what has been going on in Scotland and enhances the value of the data for cumulative assessment even further.

Headline numbers for Scotland are there are now 4,871 projects containing 12,755 turbines (this is up 0.5% on the March 2015 import).

By Stage Through the Planning Process

It is always interesting to see how the planning pipeline looks. The table below shows that the number of projects that are proposed (i.e. awaiting a decision) is down 34 projects (from 357 to 320). This is due to a number of projects moving from proposed to either consented or refused.

Stage Total Projects Total Turbines
Consented 2,991 7,398
Proposed 320 1,796
Refused 804 2,191
Scoping 23 138
Screening 45 106
Withdrawn 688 1,126

By Local Authority

An alternative view on the data shows where in the country the 0.5% growth is. Below is a table of all the Local Authorities that have had an increase in the number of turbines in the planning system since our last refresh. These are the Local Authorities in Scotland where wind developments are most actively being put into the planning system.  Over time, we will be able to compare year-on-year to give a broader picture of development.

Local Authority Number of Projects Number of Turbines Turbines Added
East Ayrshire 165 646 28
Highland 554 1,861 14
North Ayrshire 45 208 11
Perth & Kinross 250 630 5
Aberdeenshire 856 1,299 2
Argyll & Bute 253 812 2
Dumfries & Galloway 256 1,137 2
Fife 163 298 2
Edinburgh 33 38 1
Falkirk 57 109 1
Moray 152 480 1


Our third refresh of the VentusAR National Cumulative dataset has increased the overall project and turbine count by approximately 1%. The size of the planning pipeline is slightly smaller than it was in the March 2015 dataset, but East Ayrshire, Highland and North Ayrshire were the top three authorities by number of turbines added in the last two months.

If you have other suggestions of interesting statistics (most used turbine model at different sizes) or want to have a custom analysis and report created for a specific area, please email


Notes to Readers

The VentusAR May 2015 refresh contains data sourced in the two months up to 1st May 2015 and loaded on 3rd May 2015. It contains publicly accessible information about the project and the turbine locations, including turbine type and dimensions.

The dataset can be used as a quick, easy and convenient way to obtain cumulative turbine locations, required as part of the onshore wind development process. More information can be found about the VentusAR national cumulative dataset on the VentusAR website.

This dataset is available to all, whether you are a  VentusAR app customer or not. Non-VentusAR customers can access the data via a secure website by registering as a “portal-only” user.  Please contact us for further information.

Research on Trust in Visual Presentation Media

Or “How does the media used to convey a planned onshore wind development affect the understanding and belief in the visual representation?”


As is well known (in the UK at least) the visual impact assessment (VIA) component of the environmental statement is a critical component in planning for development, especially so in onshore wind.  Guidance has existed for many years based on the Landscape Institute’s GLVIA guidelines and focussed for onshore wind by Scottish Natural Heritage publications.  Neither are a legal framework for planning, but represent best practice and are de-facto standards for print production.

Digital technologies are becoming prevalent in all aspects of our life.  3D modelling, virtual, mixed and augmented reality are increasingly used as communication tools for planning (including Linknode’s VentusAR) where they can be more flexible, cheaper and dynamic. In 2014, Linknode utilised academic funding to create an independent assessment of paper and digital media.  The School of Psychology at The University of Glasgow undertook the research, headed by Dr David Simmons.

Existing Research

Recent research on GIS techniques for landscape and VIA assessment (WISERD, 2012) found that for digital landscape visualisation (LV):

  • Photomontages were rated highest overall in all in each of the four evaluation areas (ease of interpretation, landscape and visual impacts and perceived accuracy)
  • LV-based outputs were generally felt to lack the ‘realism’ of photomontages
  • Animated LV was rated more highly than static LV for assessing potential landscape and visual impacts
  • Problems with usability were a major issue with regard to dynamic LV-based visual tools, particularly navigation of the viewer position using the real-time LV model

In particular reference to onshore wind and landscape, Highland Council and The University of Stirling published results in 2012, leading to updates in the SNH guidelines.  This compared the effect of focal length on printed materials (not digital), however, it did not include figures on any observed statistical significance of the results.

SNH and LI (GLVIA) also publish and reference research extensively.

Psychology of Landscape and Visual Perception

At All-Energy 2014 in Aberdeen , we presented an introduction to the psychology of landscape visualisation called “Visualisation and Perceptions in Trust”.  A download link is available under the ‘documents’ section here.

This was the background to the trial that was designed and implemented by The University of Glasgow.

2014 Trial

Local, academic and professional people were invited to take part in a blind, naive trial – the real purpose was not exposed until the end (and thus had to be approved by the ethics committee).  Assessing a viewpoint from the University, participants were given a questionnaire and an ordered set of locations to attend.  Some locations were “at a viewpoint” with a clear aspect to the proposed turbine, and some were away – where there was no real-world view.  In both zones, a viewpoint visual (prepared to SNH standards by LDA Design), a static PDF of the visual and a tablet-based view based on a live, or near-live image with animation was presented.


The full results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal later this year for academic reference.  However, as part of the All-Energy Conference in Glasgow today (6 May 2015) we are highlighting key findings.  The slides below show how there is a consistent preference for digital technologies over paper and static digital.  The graphs show a median and IQR because averages are not appropriate statistics in this type of evaluation.

All Energy 2015 - A

It is up to the academics to answer the question such as Why?  But we do have observer comments that can clearly signpost us towards some of the reasons and one such eloquent description is below:

“the animated views were much more convincing and realistic of the visual impact of [the wind turbine], especially near window where I could easily visualise and compare this view both with and without the [wind turbine]”


Being “At the viewpoint” is important.
Observations showed that (using whatever medium), it is better assessed at the viewpoint, rather than away from the viewpoint.  This is important in comparing the input and influence of planning officials, elected members and committees when assessing a site.  The experience of users in different locations leads to different levels of belief and understanding of the project.

Tablet Medium was Preferred, Digital Static Not So
Observations showed that the tablet was rated “as good as” or “better” than other views for ALL tests (Ease of Use / Clarity / Trustworthiness / Information Shown / VIA Effectiveness).  Additionally, in overall preference, the tablet had the most trustworthy visuals and was referred, and the static digital view was the least preferred.

All Energy 2015 - B