Home / Tech / Hackers/Makers / FunGIS spreads spatial data awareness

FunGIS spreads spatial data awareness

A conference of spatial experts in Queensland’s far north has showcased the multifaceted world of mapping technology Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

The Far North Queensland GIS Group (FunGIS) held their 27th annual conference at Cairns’ Pacific International Hotel on June 4-5th. Titled “Keeping It Spatially Simple” (KISS), the conference attracted roughly fifty attendees and focused on practical examples of GIS.

While a layman example of the technology could start and end with “Google Maps,” FunGIS Chair George Corea said GIS offers multiple applications.

“As soon as you say GIS or mapping people think of Google Earth and creating a simple map, but it’s much more than that,” Corea said. “Initially it was used a lot for disease analysis, when you saw clusters of disease in a certain area you could then focus in on that area and figure out what’s in that area that’s causing that issue.”

GIS can capture and present all forms of spatial data, and amongst other applications can represent topological data (i.e. slope and aspect) as well as sociological information. For example, America’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion currently uses GIS to monitor data on heart disease and stroke mortality rates, with data types ranging from geographical, gender and ethnicity.

KISS included live demonstrations of drone, or unnamed aerial vehicle (UAV), data capture platforms; recounts of how the technology was used in the Nepal earthquakes’ disaster response; and examples of cloud-based mapping tools such as Queensland Globe (an updated Google Earth add-on).

Among the event highlights, Corea lists a presentation on “Hype Cycle” research methodology and spatial activities from eCommerce supplier Pitney Bowes’ Managing Director of Geospatial Industry Solutions, Joe Francica.

Corea also describes two separate presentations on drone applications, one discussing the hidden challenges of home-made “hobby drones,” and the other demonstrating CR Kennedy’s professional UAVs with a flight around the hotel’s pool area.

“What you see in the demonstration [on hobby drones] was him talking about how difficult it is,” Corea said. “Yeah you might save some money, but it takes so much time to put together.”

“If you’re playing with it that’s one thing, but if you really want something done you need to spend the bucks and get it done by a professional,” he said. “People go out of conferences … [and wonder] why companies charge so much, but in that demonstration you really saw why you’d want to go to a company to get that done.”

KISS featured demonstrations of both hobby drones and CR Kennedy UAVS (main). Photos: FunGIS

KISS featured demonstrations of both hobby drones (above) and CR Kennedy UAVS (main). Photos: FunGIS

The founder of spatial innovation and experiential travel company GetBack2Basics, Corea is also a FNQ startup mainstay; he ran the Tablelands’ first Startup Weekend and has been a part of every winning SW Cairns team. He has worked as a GIS Officer for the Tablelands Regional Council, where he modelled disaster related data such as bushfire, flood and radio propagation.

Corea has also managed community development and conservation programs in Sri Lanka, where he operated natural resource mapping in recovery projects after 2004’s Boxing Day Tsunami, and project level risk mitigation during an armed conflict.

According to Corea, FunGIS was, “basically formed as place for people working in the spatial industries to get together and talk about what issues they’ve had”.

“So we’ve had a history of punching above our belt in the sense of it’s a small organisation based in Far North Queensland, but we’ve in the past run the biggest [remote sensing technology] Lidar conference in Australia,” Corea said. “We’ve also done very different types of conferences, we’ve had conferences out on the reef.”

“Cairns has one of the best marine training institutes in Australia,” he said, referring to the Great Barrier Reef International Marine College. “They have a virtual reality system up here, you can create a snow storm in the harbour and put up icebergs.”

GetBack2Basics has also been running GIS training programs, the next two of which will be held at Atherton’s Destiny Cafe June 25th and 26th.

About Chris Woods

Chris Woods (@tophermwoods) is the Tech Street Journal's Editor-in-Chief. He lives in Brisbane, has worked in places like Sydney and New York (State of), and will someday update his media-news blog.