Sorting out Swindon — In a day?

by Dave Barter on

Every month at Nautoguide we put aside a day to carry out some research and development, challenging ourselves to push our product set forward as a result. Last month we signed up to become a partner of Cadcorp with a view to integrating our web based offerings with their SIS/GeognoSIS product set. As a result we decided to use our December “office hack day” to build a service designed to make paper based consultation more interactive.

We are based in Swindon, a bustling town with a deep railway heritage that has yet to find its modern identity. Our borough council is aware of this and have many plans to regenerate and promote the town through the Forward Swindon initiative. Forward Swindon present a vision for the town centre regeneration in their delivery plan, which includes an overview map describing the key elements of their strategy (page 7 and header of this article).

I like this map as it makes it clear to residents and businesses which area the surrounding text is focused upon. However, it has a huge drawback in that it offers no opportunity for the reader to comment upon it directly. If I want to stick my oar in I need to read the rest of the document, navigate to an external consultation portal or send in my ideas/diatribe by post/email.

Let’s change that. Let’s make this piece of paper interactive using a combination of Nautoguide and Cadcorp technology to pull the reader in and get their views immediately.

And so we challenged ourselves to make this happen in a day. Here’s how it unfolded.

Flipchart

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First we gathered around the flipchart and sketched out our vision. A new version of this document would contain a QR code/URL printed upon the page. This would “invite” the reader to comment immediately by taking them straight into our Geovey consultation portal and showing them the very same map where they could add their comments and feedback.

We’d create this map view using Cadcorp Map Modeller and Ordnance Survey Mastermap Satellite layer imagery. This map would then be published via the Cadcorp GeognoSIS server and consumed by our Geovey client. We’d modify Geovey to support a new comment pin style mirroring that of the Forward Swindon document, this would require the creation of a new map control to display the short title and deal with the offsetting of these from the pinned location.

Tasks were allocated to the five of us taking part and off we went to our workstations to begin hacking.

Creating the Map

This task fell to Dave and Duncan. Dave installed Map Modeller on a virtual machine running on his Mac (old habits die hard) and within a few minutes had a satellite image layer visible on screen. Creating the cut-out was a bit more involved but a rapid email exchange with the Cadcorp support guys saw us on track. We created a mask polygon layer and then an additional polygon on top and used this new polygon to cut from the mask and create the cut-out effect. Styling the layer was simple and Duncan (our designer) took over from Dave to create the end result.

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Publishing the Map

Dan had been beavering away in the corner on GeognoSIS. He created a Windows Server 2012 instance upon a spare PC (we have plenty since moving to AWS) and installed the GeognoSIS server. Publishing the map was as simple as opening the WKD file saved by Dave from Map Modeller in GeognoSIS and a little bit of configuration.

Now we need to be able to view the map within our Geovey consultation portal and additionally only show this layer when the user is viewing this particular consultation. Paul and Richard broke out the code editors and forked our MOHO web client code base. We use this to develop all of our public facing services. Richard created a new map component that displays a WMS layer based upon an attribute of a map feature.

Then pizza arrived and we downed tools for a short while to make it all disappear.

Office Pizza from Nautoguide on Vimeo.

Interacting with the Digital Map

Geovey supports user interaction with any element of a consultation making it easy for users to add their comments via a one click registration process. Paul worked on another map control within our MOHO toolkit that mimics the style and layout of those within the Forward Swindon document. This would allow us to pin comment spots upon the map and use them to capture user comments in real time. These spots could be repositioned to ensure that the map looks clean and neat. Duncan added some of his design flare to these comment spots and within a few hours we’d added a tasty new feature to Geovey.

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After another short brainstorm we came up with the concept of a printable link panel that could be dragged into any artwork and used to link the print and digital worlds. Duncan developed the design below and we’ve created a component that will allow this to be exported from Geovey in SVG format, compatible with most leading print design packages.

This is how it would look within a paper/PDF document and I hope you agree that has a decent balance between grabbing attention whilst not distracting from the map.

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Conclusions from the day

Admittedly the title of this post was a little glib, Swindon probably needs a little more than a day to sort it out. However, we really enjoyed our time and gained a deeper insight into the Cadcorp product set and the company that build it. We received excellent and timely phone/email support through the day from Ian. Map Modeller is certainly a very powerful tool and we only scratched the surface of its full capability. It integrates well with GeognoSIS server and I don’t we’ve ever published a WMS service so quickly. Integrating with Geovey was a breeze and we are confident that pushing map data to/from Cadcorp would be simple and make the online consultation process seamless.

Within a day we’ve created a powerful proposition for anyone wanting to keep the public informed and gain their feedback.

  • Use Map Modeller to create a map that reflects your proposal EXACTLY rather than a set of markers upon a Google Map.
  • Push this map to Geovey and interact with the public using our comment spots and integration with social networks.
  • Bring the public to this map through our QR codes and short-links via both traditional print and digital means.
  • Analyse your feedback in Map modeller via heat mapping

But we’re not stopping there. This ability to change the underlying map layer based upon a feature selected opens up a whole new realm of future opportunity. Anyone needing to push detailed mapping information to mobile workers and gain their feedback can use our partnership to deliver it. Here’s just a few examples as to where this could be applied:-

  • Create a complex site map in Map Modeller and ask for street worker comments in Geovey
  • Publish a set of walk boundaries to mobile workers and request data from them in return
  • Survey defined areas for anti-social behaviour or other characteristics
  • Easily and effectively crowdsource the annotation of local plans

The outputs of our day are now making their way into our Geovey product set give me a shout now if you want to learn more, or maybe you have an idea for our January office hack day?

Sorting out Swindon — In a day?

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