Monthly Archives: February 2016

Xamarin acquired by Microsoft

Hi, it’s me again – Rufus. It is that time of the year again where I write a technical blog!

You may have read my previous post about the Apple technologies that were announced a few months ago. With the recent announcement that Xamarin has been acquired by Microsoft, I thought it was an appropriate time to share some of my thoughts with the world! This blog post will share a little bit our history with Xamarin technologies – and some of our thoughts on the recent news.

How we got into Xamarin

When Linknode first dipped into the world of mobile applications, it was only natural for us to begin investigating the Windows Phone platform, due to our developers having a rich history with Windows desktop and server based technologies. After creating a number of Windows Phone applications – to gain some experience with intricacies of mobile development we looked into expanding to the other platforms. Driven by our development history, our desire to build Augmented Reality applications and the small size of our development team the following requirements were important to us:

  • Share as much code as much as possible
  • Provide the user with a “Native” experience – Each application should follow the idioms of the device it is running on
  • The ability to write high performance – real time applications
  • Ideally we should be able to reuse our .net/C# skills and code.

The above list of requirements is quite steep – but the first three are easily possible using available tools. However back then, most people thought C# was a Microsoft technology and was not supported by other platforms… or was it? This is where Xamarin comes in!

xamagonXamarin

We started building some simple test applications to try out the Xamarin technologies and were highly impressed with the quality of the output, and also the lack of a steep learning curve.

Xamarin is based on the “Mono” runtime and allows you to write applications in C# for Android, iOS, Windows and Mac. Xamarin allowed us to share a large amount of code and make use of our experience with C# and the general richness of the large “.net” based API’s.

Some other options at the time were not sounding so promising. This is not to say switching to Xamarin was without issues. As an “early bird” user of Xamarin we had some issues such as the primitive nature and stability of the development tools. However we have seen the Xamarin toolchain go through various phrases of re-branding and improvements and it has now emerged as a stable and somewhat mature development platform. The Xamarin developer Ecosystem is full of libraries/components developers can make use of to accelerate development without sacrificing the experience for the end user. Another point of note is that if you are a native iOS/Android developer with a lack of sharp experience as I was – switching to Xamarin is extremely easy. All the API’s and built-in Frameworks you are familiar with are still there and easily accessed from C#.

code-sharing1

 

Acquisition + conclusion

We are happy with the decision to go down the route of building cross platform applications using Xamarin and are pleased with the somewhat expected acquisition. We hope the recent news will enrich the Xamarin development community further, not only by generating more interest for the Xamarin toolchain and growing the size of the community – but also to aid in breathing some new life into the windows mobile space.

Either way I am sure having the great experience of a company such as Microsoft cannot be a bad thing. If any of you are deliberating whether to investigate Xamarin for your own projects I strongly recommend you try it out!

xamarin-joins-microsoft

 

 

I Love it When a Planning Application is Approved

Planning Application ApprovedWe noticed today that some of the solar projects we worked on in 2015 have now been approved!

You might remember, we added the solar domain to VentusAR during the summer of 2015. In the last 6 months VentusAR has been used in 24 solar planning applications. Our customers have been using VentusAR to assess and communicate the visual impact of the solar development in the following ways:

  • Landscape architects and developers are using it as a design tool to inform their design and layout process
  • Public engagement specialists are out and engaging the public by creating immediate and relevant photomontages
  • Local authorities are reviewing photomontages and wirelines to help decide if the visual impact of a project is acceptable or not

Approvals

Some successful applications we want to highlight have been submitted by Green Cat Renewables using visuals created with VentusAR. We worked closely with Green Cat to refine the solar domain (see the case study) and we are pleased that the tool has now been used to help their clients secure planning permission.

Brailsford Solar Farm

  • 1.21 MW covering 2.7 hectares in areaOutputImage_From_VentusAR
  • Reference 15/00526/FUL at Derbyshire Dales District Council
  • Application submitted: 23rd July 2015
  • Approval granted: 2nd December 2015
  • Two visualisations created using VentusAR submitted as part of the Landscape figures document
  • See full details here

Broxbournebury

  • 5 MW covering 9.06 hectaresBrailsford Solar Farm
  • Reference 07/15/0866/F at Broxbourne Borough Council
  • Application Submitted: 16th September 2015
  • Assessment done in VentusAR, but hidden on Broxbourne Borough Council planning system
  • Approval granted: 16th February 2016
  • Full details from here (search for 07/15/0866/F using Reference Search)

Planning applications

Out of those 24 projects: 15 we have no information on, 3 have been refused, 2 have been approved, 4 are still in planning. None have been refused on grounds of visual impact.[1]

planning statusVentusAR is successfully being used to communicate the impact and reduce cost and risk from the planning application process.

VentusAR for Solar

VentusAR is the only mobile tool for visualising what a ground mounted solar farm will look like before it is built. Solar farms can be setup in VentusAR from anywhere in the UK and then assessed quickly and easily using a tablet – the iPad Pro is our preferred device for community engagement. The iPad can be taken out with you on site to do assessment work, to engage with local residents and provide office or community based review and visualisation.

If you have not seen VentusAR for solar in action, give us a shout at hello@ventusar.com to hear more about it.

Notes

[1] None of the rejected applications mention visual impact as a reason for rejection. This is accurate at time of publication in February 2016.

Video Montage for Wind Developments

onshore150-e1438175454732If a picture speaks a thousand words, then a video shows a thousand pictures.

Wind energy developers are always asked the same question…..

“What will it look like?” 

Typically they answer by creating a wireline image and photomontage. A lot of research has been done to find the best parameters and technical ways to present a photomontage. However, photomontages cannot represent one of the fundamental impacts of a wind farm – turbines move.

Turbine blades rotate in the wind, turbines rotate to face the oncoming wind, the light moves across the turbine creating different effects and naturally animated features such as animals, leaves and grass appear in views. These dynamic factors mean the visual effect of a wind farm is better communicated through video.

Introducing the Video Montage

A video montage (videomontage) is one of the outputs possible with VentusAR. It is high-definition video recorded directly from the iPad. It can be based on either a gallery image (static background image with animated turbines) or a live in-situ view (live camera feed with animated turbines). Both have their place.

The video above is of the proposed Harburnhead wind farm. We used photographs in the VentusAR gallery and recorded the screen display to create this output. It shows the movement of the turbine blades – they can be controlled to show different rotation speeds and directions, while maintaining all the metadata of when and where the video was taken.

To find out more about VentusAR video montages and how they can help you understand and communicate a wind turbine or wind farm project at scoping, feasibility or planning, please get in touch through hello@ventusar.com.

UrbanPlanAR Call to Action – We Need Your Data!

This week we launched our new UrbanPlanAR website, where we have stated a ‘Call to Action’ to possible partners and users.

www.UrbanPlanAR.com

UrbanPlanAR is a Linknode R&D project in collaboration with Heriot-Watt University School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society, and funded by Innovate UK, and will deliver an augmented reality solution for visualising proposed urban developments.

PR

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.

As we launch the website, we are looking for early adopters to aide in our development of this ground-breaking solution. If you are interested in collaborating with us, sharing your data, projects and problems.

Later in 2016 we will be holding a seminar and demonstration. We welcome conversations now and to ensure that you keep up to date with news and invitations, please visit the website and get in touch. You can email us at hello@UrbanPlanAR.com

New Transmission Models

Today we are making our new outline transmission models available, and users of our transmission domain will have access to all these models.

These models have been created using engineering diagrams from SSE so represent real-world towers. They are outline models (i.e they show the outline of the tower not the details of the lattice towers) as at the moment we are showing visibility and shape, not detail.

AllfiveTransmisison

Models

We have models for the following towers: L4, L7, L8 and SSE400 and a wood pole model. The model and the texture are stored separately – so the grey colour we have used can be changed if required. Below we have a look at each model in a bit more detail.

Wood Pole

WoodPoleThe trident wood pole is used on 132kV circuits. This model uses colour and texture to show the wood and the structure at the top

Specification:

  • Height: 13.2m or 16m
  • Voltage: 132kV

L4 Tower

L4The L4 tower is a steel lattice tower. It is used for 132kV lines. All our steel lattice tower models have a grey colour, this is configurable per model, but having a standard grey follows the recommendations.

Specification:

  • Height: 26.5m
  • Width at Base: 5.4m
  • Width of widest cross arm: 13.6m
  • Construction Thickness: 0.2m
  • Voltage: 132kV

L7 Tower

L7Specification:

  • Height: 28.1m
  • Width at base: 8.4m
  • Width of widest cross arm: 12.6m
  • Thickness: 0.3m
  • Voltage: 132kV

L8 Tower

L8Specification:

  • Height: 48.2m
  • Width at base: 10.8m
  • Width of widest cross arm: 26m
  • Thickness: 0.3m
  • Voltage: 275Kv

SSE 400 Tower

SSE400Specification:

  • Height: 50.6m
  • Width at base: 13m
  • Width of widest cross arm: 32m
  • Thickness: 0.2m
  • Voltage: 400Kv

 

Usage in VentusAR

These models are available to VentusAR customers who have the transmission domain on their account. In the settings section there should be the five models (at the bottom of the page)  and 5 tower types corresponding to these types. These tower types can be added to a layout version in the portal and become visible on the 3D screens in the app.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 16.45.48

Once set up in VentusAR these models can be shown in My View, Fly Through or Gallery.

Wireline PhotoMOntage

PDFs can be created in the portal for easy sharing.

pdficon_large Dumrossie Wood pole and substation

Custom Transmission Models in VentusAR

We understand that sometimes our standard models won’t do. Some transmission and distribution lines require custom towers for any number of reasons: extra tall towers to go over certain topography etc. If your project requires a customised model or needs a substation or other infrastructure, get in touch (hello@ventusar.com) and we can talk about how easy it is to display 3D models in the landscape using VentusAR.

VentusAR 4.3 Released

This weekend we released VentusAR 4.3. This adds minor features to improve the app and portal to make it simpler to use.

ios_turbine-labelling-1024x768

For Android and iOS users, the release includes:

  • Turbine Labelling in My View / Gallery / Renders – to identify which turbine is which
  • A-Z ordering in the project list
  • Distance shown to Cumulative projects

For Portal users this includes:

  • Horizontal Subtended Angle from viewpoints to cumulative projects shown in the cumulative tab
  • Easier to download media from the media tab.

Please see the full release notes for Android, iPad and the Portal