We are constantly collaborating with our customers to optimise processes using GIS. The latest result of this collaboration is a new tool that will soon be coming to GIS.Box: usable area.
This is a tool that allows you to speed up the process of assessing a plot (or group of plots) for the construction of a photovoltaic farm. It involves quickly calculating the area suitable for development based on constraints (e.g. watercourse, power lines, lone trees). Simply select the plots, indicate which data you want to take into account when calculating the area, and click 'Calculate’. As shown in the GIF below:
The main benefit of using the Usable Area tool is that it saves time, as the plot analysis can be done in less than a minute by a person with very basic training. The process does not need to involve a person specialised in GIS who will count the buffers, do the plotting and calculation in a dedicated software.
A detailed description of the operation is provided in the documentation.
The latest version of the GIS Support plug-in will be enhanced with features integrating the plug-in with GIS.Box – a tool to develop your GIS with a browser-accessible component.
See video: First steps in GIS.Box
QGIS is fantastic software for professionals who acquire, process data, and provide information and knowledge to an organisation (Situation 1 from the figure below). As the use of GIS in an organisation increases, issues arise that QGIS alone cannot handle. This is, first and foremost, a multi-person job. Every (well, maybe almost every) GIS professional wants their colleagues to be able to access the data they have prepared in a simple and convenient way.
This is when GIS specialists look for solutions. For starters:
These are good ideas, but they have one drawback: it is very difficult to persuade non-GIS people to use QGIS. In order to view a map with a network and customers, a BOK employee, board member, or salesperson has to open a program with dozens of buttons, connect to a database, and be prepared for some problems with coordinate systems… This very rarely works well. People are simply scared. And that’s not surprising.
Naturally, ideas arise on how to prepare a browser-accessible solution for these users. And that’s when GIS professionals find:
OK, if a GIS professional has admin and programming knowledge, this will work. Unfortunately, in the short term, as the requirements for data maintenance and the complaints about speed will only increase.
Additionally, issues relating to the following may arise:
Quickly and very effectively. Technically, GIS.Box is an application installed on a server with access via a web browser. This is where the data, user accounts with their permissions are kept and where the easy-to-use user and administrator tools are located. This data can be accessed from QGIS via the Plug-in. Everything is easy to configure, and the layout is pleasing to the eye.
In summary, with GIS.Box we can get situation 3 from the figure below:
The transformation from a simple solution (Situation 1), to a GIS.Box-based solution (Situation 3) is shown in the video below.
You can test how it works right now. Using the plug-in you have in QGIS, you can connect to a demo version of GIS.Box and download data from there. Would you like to test it in your company? Feel free to contact us!
In the following story, any resemblance to real persons and events is coincidental 🙂
Discover more stories about Fabian, who solves problems using GIS.Box.
Fabian’s company – a real estate consultancy – has decided to participate in the energy transition. And to make money from it.
The energy transition is happening now. One of its effects that we see every day is the photovoltaic farms that are popping up like mushrooms after the rain. You can see them from the windows of trains, and cars. Of course, the construction of the farm itself and the production of green energy is the last part of the whole investment process, which consists of:
The most important, and not mentioned, element of this process is of course the financial model of the whole undertaking, because the transition has to pay off. Every company has a different approach: some look for sites for large developments, others for smaller ones, but at the end of the day the financier’s Excel sheet must always be in the green.
Whether the financier’s spreadsheet is 'in the green’ and whether it ultimately gives the 'green light’ for investment depends on a plethora of factors, much of which depends on the situation on the ground, on the map. You won’t find information on the map about energy prices a decade out, or the price and delivery time of panels, but you will find plenty of data that will influence the profitability of investments. First and foremost:
The corporation’s board of directors decided that land scouting would be handled by a new unit, a start-up whose main purpose would be to search for land for investment (screening), reserve land, and obtain permits (permitting). The land, ready for the construction of the farm, was to be further sold to international investors, specialised in the exploitation of the farm.
The task seemed fairly straightforward:
After the grand opening, the day-to-day began. The task actually seemed quite simple: „Go, search, deliver great sites!” Teams sat with their noses in their computers all the time, occasionally someone would go to the other end of Poland on a business trip, and lots of spreadsheets were created. Someone was constantly sending PDF files with formats of potential sites to someone. Operational management was entrusted to the team leaders. John would supervise the start-up in a meeting with Magda and Karolina once a month.
After two quarters, the startup’s sponsor, i.e. the corporate board, upon meeting the teams from Central Europe, asked for a presentation, a report on the startup’s performance. The presentation was to be made by Karolina. Fabian was not particularly interested, but he was eventually in the room during the presentation.
It did not go well…
Karolina showed a map of Poland with some dots and potential locations. On the next slides, there were a lot of screenshots from geoportal.gov.pl with lines drawn in Corel, some tables, and some lists. It failed to give the impression of success. To make matters worse, the questions began:
The board had been left with an impression of chaos. In addition, John, who knew the financial results, had no reason to be happy:
The result of six months’ work turned out to be a few Excel sheets and several hundred PDF files containing some data…
Fabian had already guessed halfway through the presentation what the source of the problems was. He knew how to help. After the presentation, he approached John and offered his help in changing the way the startup operates. He knew this was a place where GIS would bring great value.
To start with, he wanted to know the whole story. So he gathered as many people involved in the startup as possible for a meeting/workshop:
He asked them simple questions:
What he found out did not surprise him at all:
In summary: nothing new. This is happening in many places. How to solve this issue?
First and foremost, Fabian did a workshop with Magda, Karolina, and John. The aim of the workshop was to plan the change.
Fabian naturally suggested using GIS.Box, which he was familiar with and liked. He figured that all the necessary products could be created from a standard tool. But there were counter-proposals:
– How about using QGIS? – suggested Karolina. The suggestion wasn’t bad: it’s free software, and half the team uses it anyway… Fabian replied:
– QGIS is a good option. You mentioned the advantages, however, it has a lot of disadvantages: it’s professional software: people might be afraid to use it: too many icons: and they are afraid they will mess something up. Plus: we have a high turnover, and training takes time and can be expensive, and we would benefit from 3% of the possibilities QGIS offers.
– How about some CRM, then? – John suggested. We want to collect owner information anyway. Maybe we can adapt something that is on the market?
– We can’t do it without a map. That’s not the way to go…
The workshop ended late in the afternoon. After the presentation and workshop, they each had dozens of unread emails, so they said they would meet in two days. Fabian had a full day to think through the ideas and configure GIS.Box.
Fabian uploaded the following data into GIS.Box:
Everyone was to have access to this data. Updating this data proved to be a major issue. At a later stage, it turned out to be a full-time job for one person. Łukasz, a man from Magda’s team, became the company’s data administrator and instead of searching for sites, he regularly searched for data on the operators’ websites and obtained information on planned upgrades and construction of power grids.
This was a challenge! It turns out that looking for plots of land is not that simple. Depending on the investor’s business profile, it turned out that everyone is looking for something different:
This is where the new GIS.Box module – Site Finder – came in handy, along with tools such as Create New Object with Plot Geometry. Fabian prepared data sources with relevant vocabularies and devised procedures for the teams to:
This is where it was the easiest, as basically nothing needed to be done. GIS.Box had everything. Monthly meetings on Teams with John were basically a virtual tour of the country to check on the progress of documentation acquisition and to solve current problems, estimate risks, and make decisions. Using an interactive map along with full information from the inventory and context from public data, there were no questions that could not be answered.
Establishing procedures and configuring the System, however, is only part of the success. The key element is to make sure that everyone in the team understands how the procedures work and respects them. How did this happen in our start-up?
After the successful implementation, Fabian was rarely interested in the startup and RES. In fact, he was heroically solving other problems that his corporation was facing… All current issues were solved by Magda and Karolina together with the Team.
Very quickly it became apparent that GIS.Box had become the primary source of information and the GIS.Box tab was constantly open even with John showing specially prepared data at meetings with investors. He didn’t ask anyone to prepare presentations, printouts etc. He was well aware that the data was always up-to-date and correct.
Another small but eagerly awaited improvement by certain users. I think we have reached our full potential 🙂
From now on, you can
Can this functionality be developed further? If you have something in mind, please leave a comment.
In the June update of GIS.Box, another long-awaited feature has been added: ULDK attribute mapping.
In a nutshell: the idea is that from now on, parcels added with the „Create new parcel geometry object” tool will also assign attributes (e.g. ID, number, precinct, municipality, county, and province) in addition to geometry.
Details are explained in the video below:
Does GIS.Box use ULDK?
Thanks to the existence of the Land Parcel Location Service, it is possible to create very useful services used by thousands of people (such as some of the tools from the GIS Support Plugin). And what does this look like in GIS.Box? One by one:
The tools are constantly evolving, so the article will be out of date after a while 🙂.
GIS.Box is developing rapidly. In addition to continuous optimisation and bug fixes, new functionalities are being added. In the latest versions of the System, it is now possible to set a 'profile photo’ for an object. It can be a photo from the National Park as in the attached screenshot, but more often it will be:
available in full size, with one click on the object card.
We strive to make GIS.Box a tool that is simple to implement. We are keen that the time to train a user to use the system freely should not exceed a few hours. This requires us to create intuitive tools (we are trying 🙂).
An extension „SQL Query” has been available for some time, which extends the object selection tools with the possibility to enter any SQL query (including all PostGIS functions). This makes it possible to select objects based on the spatial and attribute relationships of all the data that is in the System.
For more convenient handling, queries can be saved (added to favourites).
This makes it possible to query, for example, parcels of land that are in a buffer of, 2000m from the main supply point and expand the queries with further conditions.
The tool is intended rather for advanced users, who are more comfortable with spatial SQL than clicking out results manually.
One of the basic functionalities needed in a good GIS System is the object search engine. GIS.Box is a tool thanks to which a GIS Specialist can easily share data and tools with colleagues without coding, so you can never have too many tools like a search engine… To:
a new Object Finder has been added, which is configured by the Administrator based on the layers in the system. The search engine is available without having to open the Attribute Table and is really easy to use. Your colleagues will definitely like it because it is easy to use and configure.
Learn more about GIS.Box. Explore use cases
The Object Finder will be available on all instances during the next update. The decision to enable the tool and configure it will be up to the Administrator. If you have any questions, please contact the Customer Relationship Manager 🙂