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Astun Conference 2018

In late September and October Astun hosted two regional conferences in Bristol and Leeds.
In the current environment it isn’t easy to persuade people in Local and Central Government to take a day out of their schedules and travel to to a conference, so getting over 70 delegates over the two days was a strong indication of the value that Astun brings to its clients.
After a brief welcome from Steven Feldman (Bristol) or Dan Ormsby (Leeds) Mike Saunt, Astun’s founder and MD, gave a keynote entitled “Much ado about Mapping”
Mike Saunt's keynote address
Mike talked about Astun as a passionate company, passionate about geo, passionate about open, passionate about the cloud and fanatical about support. He ran through the way Astun’s offer had evolved in the last year with new features, an improved user experience, simplified administration, more automation of cloud deployment and most importantly major investments in testing, quality enhancement and reducing technical debt.
The future of iShare Maps
Then Mike moved on to the direction of travel for Astun, Matt Walker gave a brief demo of the next generation of iShare Maps in the Cloud which will have a new user interface and simpler administration. Mike also talked about QGIS in the Cloud, a new service from Astun that leverages the capabilities of Amazon’s platform to deliver a high performance QGIS instance via a web browser avoiding the need for any local installation or hardware upgrades.
Mike then took us on a journey from command line interfaces, through GUI’s and mobile to what he sees as the next stage VUI’s (Voice User Interfaces) although I’m not sure that acronym will catch on! He concluded with a short video featuring Dan Ormsby talking to Alexa to find out about local recycling services and to get an update on a planning application.
Then the delegates heard from three Astun Customers:
Nick Brenchley of the Environment Agency shared their journey from metadata chaos to a pan DEFRA solution based on GeoNetwork 3.4 implemented by Astun. Nick stressed how essential metadata was to data sharing across the DEFRA network and how the initiative from former Secretary of State Liz Truss to publish 8,000 datasets within a year had been one of the key drivers behind their roll out.
Metadata - the labels on the tins of food!
David Renn of Stockton talked about “Transforming local government services with iShare in the Cloud” and had the audience in chuckles thanks to some imaginative slide graphics. Stockton have moved from a file based system to a cloud hosted spatial data warehouse accessed through web services and applications. David explained that “GIS isn’t the solution to transforming local government services but it can provide the missing piece in the jigsaw”.
Some entertaining slide graphics!

Mark Wilcox
of Exactrak talked about his experience of working on a bespoke project with Astun to develop a routing tool for winter gritting vehicles. Mark spoke very positively about the agile and collaborative working model that Exactrak had with Astun which delivered a releasable solution against challenging time lines. The Map-a-Route solution is now being implemented “in cab” within gritting vehicles delivering cost savings and improved safety for road users in the aftermath of a snowfall.
Mapping winter gritting routes
The morning session concluded with a demonstration  by Andrew Bailey of some of the new features in iShare GIS including feature editing, snapping and combining, metadata search, creating iShare print templates in QGIS and high definition printing (300dpi) in the cloud.
Complex geometry capture using iShare 5.8 Feature Builder


In the afternoon session the delegates got a chance to go “hands on” with iShare GIS and QGIS in the cloud: digitising a historic site boundary, creating a print template in QGIS in the Cloud complete with images and historical data, uploading it to iShare GIS and then generating a high resolution pdf output. The results were very impressive and Michael Brutsch and Gillian Hobbs of Rhondda Cynon Taff and Matt Fisher from North Lincolnshire council were awarded prizes for the best results on each day.
Workshop delegates hard at work

Andrew Bailey (right) and Matt Fisher (left) who won the Leeds workshop chocs ...

... for digitising Kenilworth castle using the iShare Feature Builder and pulling together an impressive print template! 


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