The latest ALGIM News and Updates

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  • 6 Dec 2018 11:10 AM | Jordan Dempster (Administrator)

    Another year is coming to an end, and with it, our final conference of the year just wrapped up in Rotorua. We'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who made it to our events this year. We hope you enjoyed them as much as we enjoy running them for you.

    To everyone in local government and beyond, we hope to see you in 2019 at one of our conferences. Check out the confirmed dates and locations below.

    Autumn Conference 
    GIS and Information and Records Management
    6-7 May 2019 | Shed 6, Wellington

    Spring Conference
    Customer Experience and Web & Digital
    15-17 September 2019 | Town Hall, Christchurch

    Annual Conference
    Local Government ICT
    4-6 November 2019 | TSB Arena, Wellington

    ALGIM Autumn Conference 
    GIS and Information and Records Management

    6-7 May 2019 | Shed 6, Wellington

    The organising committee is already hard at work planning this event, and we have a great programme coming together. Keep an eye out for registrations opening soon.

    This year we're sticking with the ever popular Wellington, but shifting the venue to Shed 6 on the waterfront to give our conference more space as it continues to grow. The Wellington location also means we'll be able to carry out our first ever Autumn Conference site visits to places like LINZ, Archives NZ and more.

    See the latest info on our Autumn Conference

    ALGIM Spring Conference 
    Customer Experience and Web & Digital

    15-17 September 2019 | Town Hall, Christchurch

    We love to take our Spring Conference on the road, allowing us to visit different cities, and let delegates experience local businesses with our site visits.

    In 2019, we can't wait to visit Christchurch in the soon-to-be-opened Town Hall. With several Canterbury councils on board with the planning, and a beautiful city to explore, it's going to be a cracker of a conference.

    Keep an eye on this page for more info about our Spring Conference

    ALGIM Annual Conference 
    Local Government ICT

    4-6 November 2019 | TSB Arena, Wellington

    We've just wrapped up this year's Annual Conference, so it almost feels too soon to be talking about the next one, but we want to make sure you have it in your diary.

    For the last many years our Annual Conference has been held in the upper-North Island - Rotorua, Auckland, and Taupo.

    Next year we're trying something different and heading to the capital. Based on feedback from our delegates, we're hoping that the central location and busy airport makes travelling to the conference easier and less time consuming for many of you.

    We look forward to seeing you there for great thought leadership, networking, case studies, workshops, vendors, and more.

    Information on the conference will be posted at this link 


  • 30 Oct 2018 12:43 PM | Jordan Dempster (Administrator)

    ALGIM's 2018 Annual Conference award finalists

    Congratulations to all the 2018 finalists for these awards. The finalists will be presenting at our Annual Conference, you can register using the button above, if you haven't already.

    Excellence in Innovation

    4D CEMETERIES, Ruapehu District Council
    Ruapehu District Council embarked on a project to provide their cemeteries within a rich 3D environment, with the intention of providing the opportunity and experience to relatives, friends and genealogists to visit their cemeteries via an immersive, high definition 3D application via their internet browser.

    NEXT-GEN NETWORKING (SOFTWARE DEFINED WAN), Hastings District Council The five Hawke’s Bay councils have uniquely pooled resources and collaborated to jointly execute the delivery of nextgeneration networking known as SDWAN (software defined WAN). SD-WAN is driving the need to rethink what the WAN looks like and how it operates improving innovation and collaboration across the five councils as well as reducing costs.

    ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION, Auckland Council
    Auckland Council has embraced emerging process automation technology as a way of doing more with the same resource and as a way of enhancing the quality of work for staff, eliminating the repetitive and often frustrating elements. The key drivers were error reduction, faster transaction processing and enabling process standardisation. 

    USING DATA FOR BEHAVIOUR CHANGE, Auckland Transport
    Most of Auckland’s roads are used at their maximum capacity just two hours a day on weekdays – so arguably congestion is not due to a lack of roads, it’s due to everyone wanting to use those roads at the same time and in their own car. To tackle this head on, Auckland T ransport Business Technology ran a trial in August 2018 to see if real-time and historical data could alter commuters’ perceptions, and ultimately change their behaviour. 

    SENTIMENT ANALYSIS OF SOCIAL MEDIA COMMENTARY, New Plymouth District Council
    Sentiment analysis work was carried out to support the council and public engagement by gauging sentiment at an aggregate level on certain topics and issues. The work required the NPDC BI team to utilise Python to build a model that would assess positivity on a -1 to +1 scale, for every comment made on NPDC’s numerous Facebook pages. The end result is a dashboard hosted on Power BI Report Server which allows our communications & marketing team to gauge public sentiment on a particular issue as they post about it.

    CUSTOMER PORTAL, Hurunui District Council
    With the internet, customers now expect to do more and have access to information when it suits them.The need to move from a “9 to 5” organisation and into the 24/7 world of the internet has identified the need for a Customer Portal (GoCouncil portal). The portal allows customers to See their Council Records, Pay for Council Services, and Do; apply for, or renew Council services. If customers wish, they can use live chat functionality to interact with the customer services team.

    Best Technical Solution

    DIY INTERNET OF THINGS SENSOR NETWORK, Timaru District Council
    Timaru District Council have successfully developed a working air quality sensor design and associated LoRaWAN network, at a reduction of over 20x the cost of the quoted commercial offering, with 2.5x the number of sensors.

    The sensor hardware has been developed in house using off the shelf components and sensors, moving from an initial prototype build through to a custom designed printed circuit board, with 3D printed enclosure.

    By using open software and systems, they have enabled side benefits of a publically usable LoRaWAN platform for the Timaru District, and open access to the resultant data. The system hardware and microcontroller software is also to be made available.

    SAFE SWIM, Auckland Council
    The updated Safeswim programme pulls together data from Auckland Council and Watercare’s long-term monitoring programmes, sensors on the water network, high-frequency risk and event-based sampling programme, meteorological data, the council’s network of rain gauges and rain radar, advice from Surf Life Saving Northern Region’s patrol captains and control centre, and advice from medical officers of health attached to the Auckland Regional Public Health Service. Auckland beach users now have access to a fully-integrated web and signage platform – a ‘one stop shop’ for advice on beach conditions that allows them to ‘check before they swim’ and make informed decisions about when and where to swim.

    WHANGAPARAOA DYNAMIC LANES, Auckland Transport
    When the Auckland Transport Operations Centre (ATOC) lit up the eagerly anticipated Whangaparaoa Dynamic Lane (WDL), a challenging technology-driven upgrade to the only road in and out of the rapidly developing Whangaparaoa peninsula, lights on the central median strip changed colour to indicate it could be used by east-bound traffic, and within minutes the normal afternoon peak congestion had all but disappeared.

    At the flick of a switch and at about 1/10th the cost of alternatives, the WDL had doubled the route’s effective capacity without any land acquisition and without removing any walking or cycling facilities.



  • 28 Sep 2018 10:43 AM | Jordan Dempster (Administrator)

    A WIDE RANGE OF EXHIBITORS AT ALGIM ANNUAL CONFERENCE

    Every year we ask delegates what they come to our Annual Conference for. In addition to the speakers and networking, the wide range of exhibitors is always listed as a major driving force behind their decision to attend.

    This year we have a range from across the spectrum of ICT related businesses. Check out those confirmed below.

    Our Elite Partner

    MAGIQ Software

    Platinum Sponsors

    VMware

    Revera

    Information Leadership

    TIMG

    Fujitsu

    Vodafone

    Exhibitors

    The list below is confirmed exhibitors. There are still plenty more to come:


    MAGIQ Software

    Advanced Security

    Xeperno

    Vodafone

    InfocentriK

    Fujitsu

    ManageEngine

    Kaon Security

    Noel Leeming Commercial

    Catalyst IT

    SMX email

    Kepner Tregoe

    Lexel

    The Testing Consultancy

    BEarena

    TRL leasing

    Redman Solutions


    VMware

    Datacom Payroll

    Datacom

    8x8

    Information Leadership

    Kaspersky

    Deptive

    SAM for Compliance

    NOW NZ

    TIMG

    Master Business Systems

    Go Council

    Desktop Imaging

    Telesmart

    Amazon Web Services

    Objective Corporation

    SSS

    Adobe


  • 27 Sep 2018 4:27 PM | Jordan Dempster (Administrator)

    Every day, thousands of customers are interacting with councils across the country. Whether it's over the phone, or through your web presence, it's important to know what they experience.

    ALGIM's web audits, and customer experience mystery shop tell you just that. Packed with information gathered by our researchers over several months, these reports are here to keep you up-to-date on what you're doing well, and what you could be doing better.

    To find more about them, and order your report, you can click here for the Web Audit, and here for the Customer Experience Mystery Shop.

  • 4 Sep 2018 2:07 PM | Jordan Dempster (Administrator)

    ALGIM's Spring Conference is a great event, and it wouldn't be possible without the support of our great exhibitors and sponsors. Make sure to visit them at the event and see what they have to offer.

    MAGIQ Software

    MAGIQ Software provides a Cloud deliverable finance and administration software platform. The Company has more than 500 customers spread across New Zealand, Australia, the USA, the UK, Singapore and South Africa with a strong focus on the public sector and related service agencies. 

    More than 220 Councils throughout New Zealand and Australia enjoy using MAGIQ every day.

    The MAGIQ Enterprise Platform features six Suites of contemporary, easy to use software. Each Suite can be deployed individually, or together as a single unified Platform.

    · MAGIQ Council

    · MAGIQ Finance

    · MAGIQ Payroll

    · MAGIQ Performance

    · MAGIQ Documents

    · MAGIQ Mobile

    Ease of use combined with a careful and efficient implementation process delivers excellent staff take-up and great business outcomes for customers. Our team of more than 100 staff deliver local support and development from offices in Napier, Auckland, Christchurch, Melbourne, Sydney and Los Angeles.


    Squiz NZ

    Squiz helps councils harness digital technologies to deliver services online.

    Used by local government in NZ, Australia, Europe, the UK and USA, our platform for building out council services online:

    • integrates into any environment
    • includes council-specific workflows such as consultation management
    • supports council innovation and utilisation of emerging technologies such as IoT and AI.

    PNCC Contact Centre

    The PNCC Contact Centre operates one of the largest shared services in local government, providing 30 councils with a multi-channel service offering to take the stress out of after hours.

    14 years of experience handling day to day local government issues as well as answering the call when Emergency strikes.

    Today, we are addressing the challenge of what to do with social media after hours.

    Piloting a service for 3 months with a handful of councils we are shaping a Facebook monitoring service to share with any council. Is this an issue you are facing and how are you tackling it today?

    We’d love to hear your take on it.

    Bottomline Technologies

    The ability to pay and get paid is critical for every business. But business payments are inherently complex and getting more so every day, making it difficult for organizations to create a business payments strategy that helps them be successful.

    Bottomline Technologies, an innovator in business payment automation technology for 30 years, eliminates that struggle by helping companies make complex business payments simple, smart and secure.

    Enghouse Interactive

    Ensure you visit Enghouse Interactive at stand 9 and enter the draw to win an Amazon Echo and join us for a game of darts. Enghouse Interactive develops award-winning communications software that streamlines the customer journey across multiple channels, maximising the value of every interaction and enhancing the customer experience. 

    A comprehensive portfolio of integrated customer interaction management solutions includes a range of omni-channel contact centre applications, such as knowledge management, vocal and visual self-service, quality management, call and screen recording, customer interaction survey, real-time speech analytics and workforce management. 

    SilverStripe

    SilverStripe is passionate about the limitless possibilities of the web.

    We share a vision: to create platforms that help people work together better. As well as supporting the community that helps grow the open source project, we work with a number of clients across government, banking, utilities and telecommunications.

    Buzz Channel

    Buzz Channel is a leading customer research and community engagement business. We help councils engage with, listen to and understand your customers and communities in a way that delivers actionable insight, to inform and direct business success.

    The concept underpinning all of our work is that of ‘co-creation of value’: The more a council listens to, understands and works with its customers to co-create services, the more that organisation will succeed.

    We provide ongoing Customer Experience Management (CEM) programmes to a number of council teams, to help them listen to customers and take appropriate action - to improve services and systems, and build trust and advocacy.

    We have a highly skilled team with a wealth of experience in working with local government to deliver customer insights. By combining specialist research and engagement expertise with world class technology, we can help you design and manage an effective ongoing customer feedback programme.

    Contact Ben on 09 379 8920

    Redman Solutions

    When engaged people, blend the best process, with the right technology, they produce consistently great outcomes. That's what we've found when we deliver solutions built for local government that combine strong technology partnerships with tailored consulting services in digital planning and building approvals, community engagement, and information management. Find out more at www.redmansolutions.com.au.

    Cyclone

    Cyclone is a New Zealand owned ICT company that provides IT procurement capability for NZ All-of-Government agencies, councils, tertiary institutions and commercial organisations.

    Datacom

    Datacom has an unmatched track record of delivery, local collaboration and leveraging the best technology — in a fast moving world. Our value to customers lies in doing things right, openness in how we do it and proof of promise in what transformational intelligence can deliver.

    Datacom provides a range of solutions that will transform your organisation and enhance your services to the community. Our complete Local Government solution, Datascape has been designed with an Enterprise Resource Planning system at its heart and encompasses core council services and two-way community engagement on a digital platform. The complete solution includes: Customer Relationship Management, Financials, Rating, Regulatory, Human Resources and Payroll, Facility Management, Online Services, Payment Gateways, Websites, Business Intelligence and Mobile Engagement.

    Monsido

    Monsido is a leading web governance software platform used by Local, State and Federal Governments to better monitor and manage website issues. Monsido’s one-stop platform addresses content issues, readability issues, compliance violations and much more. The platform is an internal tool for content, communications, and web teams to improve efficiency and save time. They are offering a free website scan to all Local Governments attending the 2018 ALGIM Spring Conference. Visit their exhibition space to get a report on your council's website.

    Catalyst

    Catalyst is a global team of open source technologists. We specialise in the design and development of enterprise content management systems, leveraging the power of Silverstripe CWP and Drupal CMS.

    We are passionate about how open source software and an open standards approach can help local governments have the freedom to innovate and make sound business decisions around digital content and systems. These systems are robust and powerful, yet won’t lock you into costly licences for years to come.

    As well as this, we are a supplier on the web services panel, and can host your CMS on New Zealand’s own cloud infrastructure Catalyst Cloud or the Common Web Platform. Our reputation speaks for itself, with a portfolio of successful solutions across clients in local and central government, crown institutes, and the private sector.

    Telemall

    Telemall is the smart choice when it comes to working with a professional team who know their trade inside and out. A key element in our service to you is the importance we place on message planning and strategy. We ensure that the tone, frequency and actual message will be a positive experience for your audience. With over 30 years in the industry, you can bet we have perfected our approach to crafting the perfect message.

    CCiNZ

    CCiNZ operates as an incorporated society, established in April 2009 by Contact Centre professionals, for Contact Centre professionals. Our purpose is clear: to support, educate and engage Contact Centre professionals in New Zealand.


  • 25 Jun 2018 3:44 PM | Jordan Dempster (Administrator)

    4 extras to enhance your ALGIM Spring Conference experience

    1. Each Spring Conference we arrange a great set of site visits to innovative companies in the host city. These will be taking place on the Tuesday afternoon from 2pm, and include Auckland Council's contact centre, Auckland Transport's innovation lab, ASB, Housing NZ, and Auckland University's digital team. Best of all, there's no extra cost - site visits are included as part of your registration!

    2. Make our awards dinner even more exciting by getting your award entry in now. Whether you've got a colleague you reckon would be a shoo-in for CX Professional of the Year, you think your council has the Best Digital Service, or you want to nominate for any of our other awards, get your entry in and add some extra excitement to your night.

    3. Working as a team is crucial, and an important part of being a high-performing team is having trust and connection. Jo Shortland, Team Transformation Specialist will be running a pre-conference workshop on Sunday 9 September, to show how you can boost your team work. You can select this during the registration process for the conference. There is a small extra fee for this - but it's totally worth it!

    4. We keep our prices low because we want to make it as easy as possible for local government professionals to access professional development opportunities. To make it even easier, we've added a multi-registration discount. If your council purchases three or more full-conference registrations, use the multi-delegate discount registration option and you'll get a 10% discount!


    Want to know more about the conference including the programme and accommodation options?

    See more info

    Already know that this is the conference for you?

    Register now


  • 7 Jun 2018 9:36 AM | Jordan Dempster (Administrator)

    As we move towards a truly digital business environment, councils are discovering opportunities to adapt and change, in order to embrace innovations and offer better services to customers. One of the initiatives that’s helping government agencies do this is the New Zealand Business Number (NZBN). Jo Tarleton from the NZBN team explains.  

    The NZBN makes doing business easier 

    The NZBN makes it faster and easier for councils to interact with their business customers, and access accurate, up-to-date information about these businesses. An NZBN is a globally unique identifier for every business in New Zealand that links to the information they’re most often asked to share – like a trading name and phone number. By using the NZBN, councils will improve customer experience and reduce duplication. And it’s not just for your business customers – think about your interactions with suppliers too. Using the NZBN right across your organisation means businesses won’t have to repeat the same information multiple times when dealing with you and other government agencies, saving everyone time and money.    

    How does it work? 

    Information about businesses is held securely on the NZBN Register, which can be accessed at nzbn.govt.nz, or plugged into your systems directly via an API [Application Programming Interface]. This information is provided by the business itself and can be updated at any time, so you can be certain it’s the most accurate information available. When a business you work with makes a change to its information, you can be notified instantly, and choose to update your records also.  

    How could your organisation benefit? 

    Central government agencies are already building the NZBN into their systems and processes because it speeds up interactions and helps link information togetherBetter data about your business interactions can provide insights that in turn inform your strategy, policy and investment. 

    Your organisation could use the NZBN to: 

    Streamline transactions. Use the NZBN to speed up interactions with your customers or suppliers – e.g. to pre-populate fields in online forms. 

    Connect information. Use the NZBN to connect internal or external data sets. By automating the process and cutting back on manual handling, you can spend more time doing the work that matters. 

    Consider new services. Explore ways the NZBN could allow you to optimise and innovate, such as providing new tailored services to your customers. 

    Future-proof. The NZBN should be considered ‘part of the process’ when a business or technology change is proposed. Add an NZBN section to your business planning or new initiative documents. 

    It’s time to get involved 

    In an increasingly digital environment, the NZBN will become central to the way we do business in New Zealand. With over 94 central government agencies involved in NZBN implementation, now is a great time for local government to begin exploring the benefits and opportunities the NZBN can offer. There’s support available from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s NZBN team, including workshops and tailored advice. Visit nzbn.govt.nz or get in touch to learn more.  

    Jo Tarleton, NZBN Principal Implementation Adviser 
    Email: Joanna.Tarleton2@nzbn.govt.nz 


  • 28 May 2018 4:52 PM | Jordan Dempster (Administrator)

    The world spends billions of dollars on cybersecurity protection technology and services each year, yet one of the most effective attacks on an organisation is a simple phishing email. These phishing emails are frequently the precursor to ransomware attacks, as many organisations around the world have discovered.

    So how did we managed to turn email, an essential part of any business environment and a core part of our personal lives, into the most commonly used internet attack precursor mechanism.

    The internet, as we know it, was born in November 1977 when the first internetwork connection was made.

    This fledgling internetwork primarily used the US Defence Department Arpanet network, and because the underlying infrastructure was secure, little consideration was made with regard to security of the transmission protocols. This lack of inherent security continued into Internet Protocol version 4, that’s the version that most of the world uses today, when it was released in 1981.

    In 1982, the specification for the simple mail transport protocol, or SMTP, was released, again, without any security specification.

    Some changes were made to the protocol in 2008, but fundamentally this basic SMTP protocol is still the means by which the worlds email systems exchange information.

    It is now possible to secure the transmission of email across the internet using encryption, but this only prevents the interception of information in transit and it does not fix a fundamental flaw that has been there since SMTP’s inception.

    The flaw lies within the From field. This flaw makes it possible to easily change the content of the From field to anything the sender likes, and the underlying transport system will still deliver the message. This first led to the rise of SPAM, and then later on to the massive growth in phishing attacks. These spammers and phishing attackers simply change the From field to make it look like the email is coming from a valid source and then send the email out.

    We are now in a situation, in 2018, where our email communications are using a thirty five year old insecure email protocol, together with an thirty six year old insecure transmission protocol over an inherently insecure network.

    So why didn’t we just fix SMTP?

    The challenge here is that the world is so dependent upon the core SMTP protocol that we can’t simply switch to a new email system. All we can do is append controls to help resolve the inherent vulnerabilities.

    Over the years a number of things have been done to help the situation.

    Sender Policy Framework was the first step.

    Now eleven years old, SPF is a simple system that allows email receivers to check that incoming email is being received from a mail server authorised to send email on behalf of a specific domain.

    Domain Keys Identified Mail, DKIM, takes this one step further by adding an encrypted key to outbound mail which the email receiver can validate against a public key held within the organisations’ public DNS records.

    The real breakthrough comes with DMARC, which uses SPF and DKIM, and adds specific instructions to email receivers as to how to handle email that doesn’t pass the SPF and DKIM checks. DMARC is now the subject of a worldwide awareness campaign being run by the Global Cyber Alliance as part of its mission to reduce systemic cybersecurity risk.



    DMARC stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance. It’s like an identity check for an organisation’s domain name. A DMARC policy allows a sender to indicate that their messages are protected, and tells a receiver what to do if one of the authentication methods passes or fails – either deliver the message, or reject the message.

    With over 85% of consumer email accounts in the United States, and 70% across the globe capable of being protected by DMARC, it is now the turn of business, government and any other organisation sending email under their own domain name to do their part.

    The United Kingdom and United States Governments have mandated that DMARC be implemented on all government email domains. The UK Government is already seeing the benefit of implementing DMARC with hundreds of thousands of falsified .gov.uk emails being prevented from being delivered to unsuspecting recipients.


    source: UK National Cyber Security Centre, February 2018

    Now is the time for all New Zealand Government departments, local authorities and businesses with their own email domains to implement DMARC. It protects email reputation, improves deliverability, and helps reduce the incidence of phishing.

    It is easy to start on the DMARC path and the Global Cyber Alliance provides free tools and training materials to help you along the way. Visit dmarc.globalcyberalliance.org for more information.

    Author

    Tony Krzyzewski FIITP is one of New Zealand’s best known cybersecurity specialists. SAM for Compliance Ltd, run by Tony and his wife Jackie, became the first Australasian member of the Global Cyber Alliance in 2017. Tony is an active participant in Global Cyber Alliance awareness programmes and was one of six cybersecurity specialists presenting at the Global Cyber Alliance / Verizon ‘Cyber Trends 2018’ event hosted by the Lord Mayor of London at Mansion House in April.


  • 27 Apr 2018 2:21 PM | Jordan Dempster (Administrator)

    The finalists for our GIS and IRM Project of the Year Awards have been announced. Congratulations to the below nominees. If you haven't already registered for the conference - don't miss out, register now.


    Our 2018 Autumn Awards Finalists

    Information and Records Management Project of the Year

    The Mother of all Migrations - Ashburton District Council - One of a few councils that hasn't implemented their own EDRMS, ADC took the lessons learnt from their local government colleagues and provided a migration solution that worked well beyond expectations.

    Project Jarvis: MDC's Journey to a Digital Workplace - Manawatu District Council - This project has been described as a 'unicorn', a project so rare to be almost mythical. On time, under budget, hardly any upheaval within the organisation, and it actually met all its objectives.

    Pahiatua Photographic History Preservation Project - Tararua District Council - An opportunity, a passing remark, a blossoming idea, a burgeoning plan, a not negotiable timeframe, a hot potato budget and a once-bitten/twice doubting community. These were the ingredients for a small but extremely impactful project. 

    GIS Project of the Year Award

    New Plymouth Digital District Plan - New Plymouth District Council - A cutting edge regulatory tool, NPDC is the first council to create a district plan drafted directly into a property-based e-plan. The e-plan not only allows for more efficient and effective planning practice, but starts the process of demystifying planning information and equips people with the tools to start adopting a planning mindset. 

    An Enhanced Picture of Water Allocation in Northland - Northland Regional Council - NRC's newly implemented Water Allocation Tool has provided greatly improved accuracy and capabilities. Not only did the increased accuracy improve the usefulness of the tool for decision making, resourcing and planning, it has also provided data reliable enough to be presented to the public using an online map viewer.

    The Time of the Drone is NOW! - Tararua District Council - Being a predominantly rural council, with a fairly small ratepayer base, there's the impression that technology might pass TDC by - not so. Drones are not just a fun distraction for TDC – they are the working tools of a brand new role: Projects Specialist. They expect that drones will become a core part of council business and they're making it happen now.


  • 23 Apr 2018 10:28 AM | Jordan Dempster (Administrator)

    This article is a republishing of one printed in the August 2017 issue of our Network magazine.

    Unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned aerial systems, remotely piloted aircraft system – whatever you want to call them (and those names do have slightly different meanings), there’s no doubt that most people just call them drones.

    In the not too distant past, the term drone conjured up images of a missile laden aircraft circling over a combat zone. Now though, as they have become more commercially available, the drone is starting to change the way we interact with the world around us.

    The Autumn GIS and IRM conference featured drones heavily, but the fascinating aspect was the many different perspectives presented by our speakers. To give an overview of the latest thinking and applications for the ever-growing number of remotely piloted systems, we bring you the highlights from three of these expert speakers.

    Drones in the disaster zone

    In the hours after a disaster hits, getting a clear picture of the situation is crucial. For New Zealand Fire Service’s Craig MacAlpine, the Edgecumbe flooding in early-April demonstrated the power of drone imagery.

    As he ran through the presentation at conference, the high-resolution images of the flood zone were quite stunning, with the audience clearly able to see where the barriers broke as the water surged through. Just as surprising was the fact that he had the drone with him, in a pouch that could’ve been mistaken for a DSLR camera bag.

    Available for just a few thousand dollars at an electronics store near you, this drone was just a test run for the Fire Service, but it certainly proved the worth of drones. The team were able to set the drone’s course, and let it go, as it set about documenting the flood zone from the air.

    Carried out over several days, and overlaid onto spatial maps, this gave the emergency response team the ability to see detailed imaging of the area, and how the situation changed over time. With new, bigger drones on the way, the Fire Service is looking at much bigger range of applications, including the placement of FLIR cameras to identify hotspots after wildfires.

    That’s fantastic, but there are some important considerations to make when using drones. The key one is data. What are you wanting to use it for, and how are you going to transfer it? When you find yourself in the field, with limited internet connectivity, transferring several gigabytes of image files is not always the easiest. Getting low-resolution data out quickly is doable, but the detailed images will take longer. So take this into consideration when looking at how you’ll use your drone.

    The drone data deluge

    Speaking of data, Dr Catherine Ball believes that drones are just the platform. The real excitement comes with the information they gather, but we must be prepared to handle the fire hose of data these devices can produce. In other words, the data is where you find the “power and the pain”.

    If local government starts to get into drones, and there is every indication that will happen (you may have already started), then having a way to store, manage, and archive this will be critical. It can also bring a lot of benefits for the council, with data available to be sold to commercial companies, or provided to ratepayers as a goodwill gesture, especially in rural areas.

    The collection of this data also sends us flying into a potential minefield – that of geo-ethics. Just because we can collect data doesn’t mean we should, and we do, it needs to be done with consideration to the owners of the land. This is especially important in New Zealand, as councils respect the right of private land owners, and partner with tangata whenua.

    Emergency situations also provide an occasion for getting tangled in the ethics of drones, as we weigh the balance of getting excellent and valuable imaging, with the potential of invading the privacy of those on the ground who may be injured or dead.

    Before you think it’s not all doom and gloom, be assured that the future of drones is a bright one. Dr Ball has a passion for involving drones in humanitarian purposes. Some innovative uses include checking coral bleaching on the great barrier reef, and locating feral pigs in Northern Territory to help indigenous rangers bait and hunt them in a safer, more effective way.

    To finish on a quote from Dr Ball, “If you use the right drone and the right payload, you can get unbiased, beautiful data.”

    Drones and AR: For when normal reality just isn’t good enough

    Knowing what you want to do with drone data has been mentioned several times as a key consideration. If you ask Simon Yorke from Aurecon, the question is closer to ‘what haven’t you done with drone data?’

    An experimenter with emerging technologies, Simon and his team have one foot squarely in the future. Perhaps the most impressive example is the modelling work conducted on the massive slip in Sumner, caused by the 2011 earthquake. You’ve probably seen images of the slip – the road lined by shipping containers to protect traffic from falling rocks.

    Managing the slip, and getting a good idea of how it was changing, was a challenge for the geologists. That’s where the drones came in. After creating a 3D map of the slip, Aurecon deployed a drone to snap every possible angle of the slip, with a level of detail that allowed you to see the marks where the diggers had scraped the soil.

    Next, these images were overlaid on a 3D map, giving the geologists access to an unprecedented detail. Not only did they find new things about the slip they hadn’t known, they also got to see the site as it changed, and carry out regular rockfall simulations.

    That’s not where it ended though. Using Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, the map was viewable in augmented reality (AR), allowing the map to be projected onto a flat surface, so people could walk around it, examine it from all angles, and zoom right into an extreme level of detail.

    This is just one aspect of the work they are doing, and there are plenty more amazing things on the horizon. The team are now experimenting with spatial sound. Take the example of an AR map designed to show contractors where pipes, powerlines, and other crucial services are located. As you move around the map, or zoom in, you will hear the chirp of birds on the power lines or the gurgle of water rushing through pipes, all working to immerse you in sound and provide aural feedback to your actions.

    We are still in the early days of drones, and this can be an exciting time as people experiment with new and innovative uses. However, as our speakers remind us, there are many aspects – from safety to ethics – that we need to consider before our unmanned companions take to the sky.


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