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June 28, 2004
Interactive Decision Support for Communities
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on GIScafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each GIS Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry, GIS product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by GISCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly!When CommunityViz was first founded, it was designed for rural America, where small towns don't have their own GIS departments and must depend upon consultants or councils of governments. The founders didn't anticipate how it would grow into such a useful tool for big cities developing community scale projects and for counties. The programs are now used additionally by several federal agencies, consulting firms, and a growing academic market.

This week we take a look at the latest release of Scenario 360, a second generation GIS-based decision support software program from CommunityViz, designed for planners and resource managers.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, New Products, Going on Around the Web, and Upcoming Events.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at
Managing Editor

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Interactive Decision Support for Communities

By Susan Smith

CommunityViz is a program of the Orton Family Foundation (founded in 1995), a nonprofit organization based in Rutland, Vermont, that is dedicated to helping communities make decisions about their futures. The most recent tool CommunityViz is shipping, Scenario 360, is a second generation GIS-based decision support software program for planners and resource managers.

This ArcMap extension adds interactive analysis tools and a decision-making component to ArcGIS that allows you to view, analyze and process potential impacts and alternatives to community planning by creating alternative visual scenarios that can be compared side by side.

When CommunityViz was first founded, it was designed for rural America, where small towns don't have their own GIS departments and must depend upon consultants or councils of governments. The founders didn't anticipate how it would grow into such a useful tool for big cities developing community scale projects and for counties. The programs are now used additionally by several federal agencies, consulting firms, and a growing academic market.

Half the usership of CommunityViz applications are community planners who need to make public presentations and the other half are those who are stakeholders in a project who need to look at alternatives, such as team leaders. The products do not require that you be a GIS specialist or programmer. With just a rudimentary understanding of GIS, users can create scenarios and formulas, and illustrate various alternatives side by side.

I spoke with Marcy Allen of the Boulder, Colorado CommunityViz office this week, who took me through a web demo of Scenario 360.

The Demo

A Scenario 360 toolbar is displayed in the ArcMap environment allowing for different functionality, just like the ArcMap toolbar. There is also a Sitebuilder 3D toolbar, for the 3D component, built by MultiGen Paradigm, that integrates with Scenario 360. There are two different tabs: Setup and Analysis. The Analysis tab at the bottom left of the screen next to the display and source tabs is intended for the end user. The Analysis tab is to be used by the person who might want to look at impacts that changing different assumptions cause, or simply wants to look at charts and reports or look at side-by-side maps.

The Setup Tab is for the person actually creating the model. “In the 3.2 version we realized a lot of people didn't know how to make a model and didn't know how to make alternative scenarios,” explained Allen. “They had a vision for what they wanted to do but didn't know how to go about it. We've created a workflow model that is easy to follow and allows the user to input the data they need to set up a model. The workflow says: first you input your data, then you create variables (which would be like cost of road per linear foot), then you create scenarios.” Allen showed an analysis with two different scenarios (“data frames” in ArcMap terminology).
“We can activate a rural scenario and
another one which shows a village scenario - both these alternative scenarios have the same data layers. The things that make them different are their assumption values and features.”

Then the next step is to make dynamic attributes. Dynamic attributes are attributes that are automatically updated as changes are made in the analysis. The attributes are driven by formulas. Dynamic attributes are indicated by a unique icon. “If we open up the attribute table for proposed buildings, there are features that are dynamically driven by formulas, such as distance to bus stop, scenic rating, distance to cover, wetlands impact, etc. These are dynamic -- they change on the fly, as the user changes assumptions or features,” explained Allen.

The next step is to create indicators -- value measures of your project. “You may want to know: What is the total projected sewer use for a proposed community? Maybe there are different varieties of houses in this community with different sewer needs. Maybe some are single family. Maybe some are mixed use with retail and apartment above. You may want to sum the sewage uses of all the single family houses or you might want to sum the sewage uses of all the residences on road X. With your indicators you can actually filter data and sum individual components. There are also alerts that are formula driven. If you've created your budget and want to be warned if you exceed it, or if you
have restrictions on where you can place fill out."

Once you've set up the analysis, there are multiple ways to look at it using the Analysis tab, which even a non-GIS end user can use to play around and experiment with assumptions and alternatives. The Scenario 360 editing tool allows you to easily choose to edit a particular scenario vs. the process of when you start editing in ArcMap and it shows you numerous geodatabases or folders to that are available to edit, which can be confusing to a novice user. "This allows you to work with multiple scenarios and work with what is intended to be manipulated," explained Allen. "So if you go in the 'village' scenario you basically now are in ArcMap editing mode, and the idea is the same -- you're
in editor, select, create new feature, target, and the target drop down list will be only those layers that are dynamic in your scenarios."

In previous versions of the product, charting was "a little raw," according to Allen. "You can now turn many different charts on, move things up to the top, filter, click on one kind of chart, like environmental, andevelopment, an alert will pop up to tell you when you've done something that is against your pre-set rules.” Allen gave this example: “Joe Smith comes to the planning office and says, 'I want to put in this mixed use building on my property.' The planning department could actually draw in freehand where he's going to put the building, then show the acceptable uses for that site, and pop up a list of forms he will have to d open it up. With a right click you can make
that chart a
full screen for presentation purposes. You can show previous values if you've just changed something, or clear the previous values, or even make the charts 3D. This is great for people who want to quantify things. You can simply right click, and you have a chart image, and it will let you put it anywhere you want, including in external reports, etc. You can also view all the assumptions that influence a particular indicator chart. Before, the assumptions were individual slider bars. Now we have more of a dashboard view, where you can see multiple assumptions at one time. Assumptions can also now be drop down lists or radio “yes/no” buttons."

“There is now a reports wizard, which automatically generates reports about a project. There are three different reports in existence right now and we're actually building on that. The first type is a summary of the analysis, which is really basic. It gives you a description of the analysis and scenarios, and a list of assumptions, indicators, attributes and alerts. The second report is a detailed scenario comparison report, which a community would use to post on their website. The third report is a dependency report. Basically if the project changes, for example, if I give you a project on a CD, I can also run you a dependency report, which says I used this data layer and it was
located in x location."

The scenario comparison report is created by a wizard that walks a user through creating the scenario description. You can load two side-by-side views of the different alternatives, you can take screen grabs of the 3D and load those in, and you can also load photos or drawings, such as architectural drawings of the proposed development. Then you have your charts that compare your alternatives side by side. If people perhaps want to look at the numbers, you have the assumptions for each scenario and the total value for each. A third option is to add in any alerts or violations that have occurred.

“A lot of people didn't know how to put the work they had done out there in a format that was both educational and communicative of the project they were working on,"noted Allen. “These reports help automate that communication.”

To create a model, you use data, assumptions, dynamic attributes, indicators, charts and alert buttons on the 360 setup tab. Data can be added either by using the Scenario 360 data entry button or the one in ArcMap. You have some ArcCatalog functionality within the Scenario 360 extension which allows you to create a new data layer, and you can easily find out what attributes within that layer are dynamic.

With assumptions, when you create them, you create properties for them. You can create new categories, you can decide what kind of format they are going to be, and you can also create custom labels and put in alerts.

The product allows you to do side-by-side comparisons with different layouts, and it has basic functions such as zoom, pan, and global view. You can link multiple scenarios as you're zooming in and out, and you can load different chart views and map views, which makes it a great presentation tool.

A function of SiteBuilder 3D is draping. You can create a TIN and drape an orthophoto or anything else on top of it that is georeferenced. It is useful for viewshed sensitivities, and different land-use designations, such as wildlife areas. “You can toggle between the more realistic ortho view scene and the analysis layer. If you are doing a viewshed sensitivity analysis, you can toggle between the 3D and a drape of the sensitivity analysis. Then people can see visual areas of high sensitivity in a 3D model. They can understand that if you develop in certain areas, everyone will be able to see it.”

There is a Get Data button in Scenario 360 which allows you to get data for a scenario or an analysis. CommunityViz partners with MapMart to offer orthophotos, DEMs, and TeleAtlas Street Data.

Future Directions

Scenario 360 is CommunityViz's core product and it will work with multiple 3D tools, both modelers and viewers. ArcScene is similar to SiteBuilder 3D, and when Scenario 360 releases its Arc 9 product it will be compatible with ArcScene. “Our plan is to work with multiple 3D tools, meaning real-time scene views and also some of the modeling tools that are out there,"said Allen. “We already work with Multigen's ModelBuilder 3D (which is different from ESRI's Model Builder). There are also other great tools out there for modeling, like SketchUp. More people are buying modeling tools to be able to customize site location, for example, if our Model Library doesn't have the style of
house that's
most popular in that area, or perhaps they have a completely new development with architecturally rendered drawings that they want to be able to place into the landscape. We are also planning to develop decision tools, like our upcoming Build-Out Analysis tool. In addition to Scenario 360, 3D tools, and decision tools, we hope to integrate with external industry-specific models that are very detailed, thorough applications which can be imported into CommunityViz in order to look at a larger community picture.

Allen said that within their goal to provide more data education and base requirements, she would like to work more on getting some data models released, which they hope to work with other companies to promote.


Scenario 360 and SiteBuilder 3D can be purchased together from CommunityViz or purchased separately. If you purchase SiteBuilder 3D from Multigen-Paradigm, it doesn't integrate with Scenario 360. In addition, the CommunityViz version has a robust 3D Model Library which has houses, street signs, bus stops, etc., specifically designed for community planning. There is also an exportable viewer included in the CommunityViz SiteBuilder 3D software. With the viewer, Allen said, “I can take a scene and export it to you and as long as you have a computer that's fast enough and has a video card in it, you can interactively fly and walk through the scene.”

From the CommunityViz website:

Name Scenario 360
Description Dynamic GIS analysis software that supports land-use decision making through quantitative analysis and 2D visualization
Required Software ESRI ArcMap™ 8.3 (ArcView, ArcEditor, or ArcInfo) with Service Pack 3
Price (includes 1 year of Technical Support & Maintenance) $2,500.00 for one seat

$250.00 for a lap-top add-on (allows you to use the software on a laptop in addition to your regular computer)
Technical Support & Maintenance Plan $625 per seat per year

$750 for one seat plus lap-top add-on per year
System Requirements
- Windows 2000®, NT4.0, Service Pack 6a, or XP

- 256 MB RAM

- 450 MHz Processor

- 1 GB hard disk space

- 2-button standard Microsoft® mouse

Summary (also from CommunityViz website):

With Scenario 360 you can:

- experiment with hypothetical scenarios

- measure economic, social, environmental, and visual considerations

- challenge assumptions on the fly

- view impacts of proposed changes

- make holistic, informed decisions

Common uses of Scenario 360:

- Comprehensive planning

- Site selection and evaluation

- Build-out analysis

- Development proposal analysis

- Cost estimating

- Visual impact analysis

- Land evaluation and sustainability analysis

- Environmental impact statements

- Forest management planning

- Wildfire risk assessment

- Habitat fragmentation evaluation

- Water quality management

Around the Web....

Record Breaking Ice Core May Hold Key to Climate Variation, Scientific American, June 10, 2004--Scientists have successfully drilled through an Antarctic ice sheet to extract the longest ice core ever recovered, according to a report published in the journal Nature.

Simulation Software vs. The Terrorists, Business Week Online, May 25, 2004 - Homeland Security Special Report -- Software simulating the aftermaths of terrorist attacks could grow from less than a $100 million market today to $10 billion a year, estimates Charles Foundyller, CEO of Daratech, a Cambridge (Mass.) consultancy. To reach that size, though, the government must first require owners of high-rise buildings and other structures to create electronic schematics of their buildings. These digital floor plans could then be used for more detailed and elaborate training drills.

Communicating Through A Crisis, Business Week Online, May 25, 2004 - Homeland Security Special Report - The Homeland Security Dept. budgeted $500 million in 2004 just for assessing infrastructure, including telecommunications systems' vulnerabilities and how to remedy them. All told, the department has allocated $8 billion to make sure the different communications networks used by various agencies can work in harmony.

Upcoming Events...

ESRI GeoInfo Summit

Date: June 28 - 29, 2004

Place: Chicago, IL USA

Discover how GIS technology provides a cost-effective solution for understanding, serving, and growing your customer base by helping you better organize and visualize existing data.

XXth Congress of the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing

July 12 - 23, 2004

Istanbul, Turkey

"GeoImagery Bridging Continents" is the theme of this conference. The use of ?GEO-IMAGERY? will play an important role in our future professional activities. New technological developments, particularly in computers have significantly influenced the theory and practice of photogrammetry, remote sensing and SIS.

GML Days 2004

Date: July 25 - 29, 2004

Place: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

GML Days 2004 is the third annual conference on the OGC Geography Markup Language (GML) and Web Services for GIS.
"GeoImagery Bridging Continents" is the theme of this conference. The use of ?GEO-IMAGERY? will play an important role in our future professional activities. New technological developments, particularly in computers have significantly influenced the theory and practice of photogrammetry, remote sensing and SIS.

You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

To read more news, click here.

-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.