Posted by Davina Jackson on 29 Jan 2013

VANZI Ltd, a not for profit company controlled by the Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Spatial Information at the University of Melbourne, has established a secret steering committee and is changing its ASIC-registered Board members.

Michael Haines, the self-employed CEO of VANZI Ltd, announced these administrative changes during the current upgrade of the vanzi.com.au site – which now contains a password-protected gateway to webpages exclusive for steering committee members.

Haines declined to identify members of either the steering committee or next Board, apart from Board Chair Peter Woodgate, CEO of the CRC Spatial Information.

Recent changes to VANZI’s Board include the arrival of John Mitchell, a building modelling standards expert leading the international BuildingSMART group concerned with interoperability of different software programs, and the departure from NICTA of its VANZI Board member, Stuart Cole.

After organising a series of workshops since 2010 to promote to industry stakeholders a Virtual Australia and New Zealand computer simulations ‘system of systems’, VANZI Ltd now aims to broker links between leaders of the building information modelling and geospatial communities, Haines said.

VANZI’s site also claims it is ‘brokering the Framework for Virtual Australia and New Zealand’.

Both of these missions appear to overlap the goals, frameworks, work programs and/or funding ambitions of existing public sector agencies based in Australia. For example:

> ANZLIC – currently evolving its name from the Australia New Zealand Land Information Council to ANZLIC – the Spatial Information Council – is controlling cross-government development of spatial data infrastructure frameworks for both countries. These will underpin a Virtual ANZ system of systems. ANZLIC involves leaders of all national and state government land information agencies.

> AURIN – the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network, also based at the University of Melbourne – still has two years remaining to spend its $20m Commonwealth funding to set up a national system for modelling solutions to the major challenges of cities. AURIN has begun to operate six expert groups dealing with different urban development ‘lenses’. Its framework also includes consulting and engaging with ‘various research and practice communities’ concerned with geospatial advances in the built environment and urban development arena. Most of AURIN’s key stakeholder consultations were held in 2010, before VANZI Ltd was founded.

> NICTA – originally known as the National ICT Australia research organisation, with a mission to become one of the world’s top 10 research organisations by 2020. Current leaders of the CRC Spatial Information – notably its Chair, NSW Chief Scientist Mary O’Kane – forced NICTA to abandon its NSW Government-supported ‘national and global digital cities research network’ shortly after its public launch in late 2008 – which co-incided with O’Kane’s appointment as NSW Chief Scientist. At that time, O’Kane also was chairing the CRC for Interaction Design, one of three digital urban development CRCs then operating at the Queensland University of Technology. More recently, the NSW Government has cut its funding to NICTA.

> CSIRO – originally known as the Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organisation – is Australia’s oldest science rresearch ‘behemoth’ and would be essential to develop the Virtual ANZ project. It has declined to join the VANZI Ltd Board and some of its leaders are proposing that it should absorb NICTA.

> SMART Infrastructure – NSW’s leading geospatial urban development research agency, based at the University of Wollongong – shares with VANZI the word ‘Infrastructure’ – meaning that it is aligned with the goals of the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure. It is supported by leaders of the department’s small major cities unit, which produces the annual State of Australian Cities reports. These statistics-rich tomes will need replacement with online data visualisation applications, similar to those now operated by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

> PSMA Australia Ltd – a business venture backed by Australian government mapping agencies to deliver digital mapping products to private, public and community customers. Its basic product is PSMA systems, a platform for delivering location intelligence.

VANZI Ltd currently is seeking investors, requiring development of a business plan. It is hosting another seminar in Sydney in late May.

VANZI’s conceptual diagram for ‘using the virtual world to design the real world’ is at http://www.vanzi.com.au/#!linking/ced0