Esri and the 3rd dimension

With Esri’s ever expanding software stack it is sometimes difficult to keep track of the variety of software solutions available. One of the main areas of growth is Esri’s collection is its answer to 3D GIS. Fully utilising the extra dimension has come difficult to the GIS sector in the past (which is historically mostly two-dimensional in terms of application). Esri’s recent focus on developing a 3D stack which fully embraces three-dimensional analysis, content generation and visualisation with the emphasis on sharing 3D scenes with non-technical users has led to mainly two desktop applications, ArcGIS Pro and CityEngine. This blog post will have a look at both of these applications by discussing the capabilities and when to use them through a typical use-case for an area around central Johannesburg.

Intro
CityEngine or ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Pro:

ArcGISPro

ArcGIS Pro allows users to seamlessly integrate traditional two-dimensional GIS with 3D data in a single application interface. Using the 3D Analyst extension a user can perform various 3D analysis on GIS data including line of sight, volumetric calculations, viewshed calculations as well as working with LAS datasets, as well as the traditional GIS analysis methods like proximity, overlay and statistical analysis. For more information regarding the 3D Analyst extension visit: http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/extensions/3danalyst.

The image below shows a Johannesburg scene showing 3D textured buildings, analytical representation of trees and extruded polygons showing the various zones and height restrictions of the buildings. This gives the user the ability to quickly see which building exceed their height restrictions.

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Overlay 3D buildings and zonal restrictions in ArcGIS Pro

Next we need to calculate how the shadows in the city change over course of a specific day, and share the result with external users.

Use the Sun Shadow Volume geoprocessing tool (3D Analyst) to calculate the shadow volumes. In the example below the analysis were done between 08:00 and 16:00 for every two hours.

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Sun shadow volume tool

The resulting multipatch represents the shadow volumes created by each building at a specific time. ArcGIS Pro has the ability to cycle through these time-enabled data to create a seamless animation of the shadow movement.

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Shadow movement over the course of the day

Share the scene to either ArcGIS Online or Portal with ease. An example web scene for of the shadow analysis mentioned above can be viewed here.

*The next blog post will focus on the various 3D sharing techniques available in the ArcGIS Platform

ArcGIS Pro is a powerful tool for performing 3 dimensional analysis on GIS data. However, although ArcGIS Pro has 3D editing capabilities, its primary function is not 3D content creation. CityEngine on the other hand was designed especially for quick content generation on a large scale.

CityEngine:

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CityEngine’s ability to dynamically create and compare urban scenarios quickly makes it a favourite among urban developers, local governmental authorities, township planners as well as the entertainment industry.

The key behind CityEngine’s quick content generation is its own procedural scripting language called CGA. These scripts or rules are basically a set of sequential tasks that guides the software to create accurate 3D geometries.

By applying different rules to the same datasets, we are able to generate various 3D representations. In the example below, we can see that in the larger view a more realistic scenario is generated displaying textured buildings and highly detailed trees. The inserted image shows the same datasets represented differently to produce a more analytical scenario of the data.

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Using CGA rules creates multiple scenarios quickly using the same data

In another example, an urban designer might want to compare scenarios for a redevelopment project. In the image below CityEngine is used to compare high rising buildings, office spaces and apartment building designs.

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Comparing redevelopment strategies in CityEngine

A CityEninge scene can be easily shared in a variety of ways. These include:

A CityEngine webscene is a static version of the CityEngine scene. All models, terrains and networks generated in CityEngine is compressed into a single .3ws file. This file can then be added as an item in ArcGIS Online or Portal, and when opened creates a browser based 3D environment that allows user-driven navigation and interaction. An example of the CityEngine web scene can be found here.

The image above shows examples of:

  • comparing real-world and analytical scenes (top left)
  • comparing redevelopment scenarios (top right)
  • adding HTML embedded attributes such as Google Streetview (bottom)

Datasets can also be exported to a Scene layer package. A Scene layer package has the ability to publish hosted scene layers which represents 3D data as a feature service, when added to either ArcGIS Online or Portal.

CityEngine also has the ability to share a scene as a 360 Virtual Reality experience. This creates a .3vr file which can be shared to ArcGIS online. Using a Samsung Gear VR headset along with the ArcGIS 360 VR app from Esri Labs, you are able to explore scenes in a fully immersive 3D virtual reality.

Find the Johannesburg 360 virtual reality scene here.

VR

For more information about creating a 360 VR experience in CityEngine go to the Esri CityEngine Help.

Insights for ArcGIS – A new spatial Business Intelligence (BI) tool in ArcGIS 10.5

ArcGIS 10.5 is on its way, with the planned release scheduled for mid-December 2016. One of the big changes coming is a new product being unveiled called Insights for ArcGIS.

So, what exactly is Insights for ArcGIS? I would like to look at it as a map centric BI tool. It allows you to perform analytics which helps you uncover secrets about your data. The data in this app is displayed on “cards”. On each card a user can display a map, chart or table with data.

I have played around with the app at pre–release stage and thought it would be nice to give you a preview before the app is released officially. I summarised some important things to know about insights as well as of my favourite things about the app.

The important things about Insights for ArcGIS:

  • It is only available with ArcGIS Enterprise 10.5.
  • It is a premium extension to Portal for ArcGIS with an additional cost.
  • It is a web application and can be accessed through a web browser.
  • You need to have an identity (Username and password) to use it.

Now for some of my favourite features about the app

1. Location is key

In most BI systems, the map card is there just to visualise data. With Insights, you have similar “mapping & visualisation” power as you would in your ArcGIS Online map viewer. This means you can create heatmaps, change symbology, set transparency etc.

In the example below I have added a card that has carjacking data collected at police stations in Gauteng over 10 years. You will note that smart mapping options included in Insights.

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Within the card, I could change several things. The attribute field I choose to style my data by, the symbol type as well as the symbol style. With points data, you can also easily create a heatmap.

2. Multiple data sources

The real power of Insights for ArcGIS is that it allows you to pull data from multiple data sources into one dashboard view.

Currently supported data sources are:

  • Web maps and feature services from your organisation portal.
  • The Esri living atlas
  • Databases (SAP HANA, MS SQL, Teradata …tbc)
  • Excel spreadsheets

Insights is only available on Portal for ArcGIS. One of the limitations for now is that you cannot pull data from your ArcGIS Online organisational account into a card. This may well be on the future development path of the product. We will have to wait and see.

3. Document, share and re-run workflows

This is one of my favourite features on this app. Insights gives you the ability to document and share your analysis workflow with other users.

Remember model builder from ArcGIS Desktop? Insights has a similar tool. The only difference is that the workflow gets created for you. Below are 4 cards with different visualisations, analysing crime in September 2016 around the Johannesburg area.

As you create your visualisations, all your steps are being recorded in the background. You can switch to workflow view to see your workflows. The workflows can be shared and re-run. There is an update button that gives you the option to update the model. Here you can replace data and click update. When you switch to Page view this will then update the graphs and chart on your cards.

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 4. Questions that guide your spatial analysis workflows

As I was doing my analysis, I noticed a button at the bottom of my active card. It’s called an action button, circled in red in the image below this tool makes spatial analysis easy. The tool asks a geographical question, and uses geoprocessing tools to then answer the questions. This puts geoprocessing tools in easy to understand everyday language.

Picture3.png5. Easy to use

What I love the most about Insights is the ease of use. I love the fact that tools and functionality are contextual. It’s very modern and uncluttered and has this drag and drop functionality that makes all analysis easy because it suggests tools as you pick data.

In conclusion, we live in an era where timely business information is critical to success. For a lot of our clients, ArcGIS is the system of record and business critical to their operations. Insights for ArcGIS offers a configurable BI tool specifically adapted to combine Esri’s spatial analysis platform with other record systems in your operation.

How does one get access to Insights for ArcGIS? You will need to have ArcGIS Enterprise licensed and installed on your premises. For more information regarding licensing and prices do not hesitate to contact your account manager.

 

 

Adding a Custom Widget to the Web App Builder

The Web AppBuilder from Esri has already proven to be a powerful tool for creating new web mapping apps incredibly quickly – for us and many of our users. One challenge we keep coming across is that ‘it provides us with 80% of what the users actually need’. So, how do we go about giving them the last 20%, without building a new app from scratch with the SDKs? Well, the answer is to create your own custom widgets – this is fairly well documented by Esri (see link). But what if you have Portal for ArcGIS in your organisation and want to embed the widget in there? Well, let’s walk through the steps on how to go about doing this.

Please note the official stance from Esri: “Enabling custom widgets within the embedded version of Web AppBuilder in Portal for ArcGIS is NOT a supported workflow.”

For detailed instructions and screenshots of every step, please click on the link below to view the pdf documentation:
Portal Widget Install Guide rev02

P.S. Please remember to make a backup of all the files we will be editing in these steps.

Step 1:

First copy your custom widget with all its files into the following widgets directories:

“<install_location>\ArcGIS\Portal\apps\webappbuilder\stemapp\widgets\”

“<install_location>\ArcGIS\Portal\apps\webappviewer\widgets\”

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If you are uncertain about the structure in which your widget should be, have a look at some of the other widgets in these directories.

Step 2:

Next you will want to add your widget to the config.json files:

“<install_location>\ArcGIS\Portal\apps\webappbuilder\stemapp\”

“<install_location>\ArcGIS\Portal\apps\webappviewer\”

 Widget_Picture02

  • Set “widgetManifestsMerged”: true

  • Add custom widget to the “WidgetPool”\”widgets” section

Step 3:

Add your widget’s manifest to the widget manifest file “widgets-manifest-builder.json” to the following locations:

“<install_location>\ArcGIS\Portal\apps\webappbuilder\stemapp\widgets\”

“<install_location>\ArcGIS\Portal\apps\webappviewer\widgets\”

To save time you can copy one of the existing widget’s manifests and change the details accordingly.

Step 4:

Congratulation, you are all done!

Now all that is left is to restart Portal for ArcGIS or JavaScript Application Builder and you will be able to use your custom widget in your app builder.

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