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Written by David Eagle, FME Division manager, 1Spatial 

Every year since 2011 there’s been an FME World ‘Tour’ where Safe Software and all their global partners pack their bags and hit the road.

As a Platinum Partner of Safe ourselves, the 1Spatial FME Division heads out each year to show prospective clients and existing users the new capabilities of the latest major release of the FME Platform.

We also give our most innovative customers the option to present their latest and greatest usage of FME… the ‘win’ they had in the last year, where FME saved the day, or where it removed the need to spend precious budget on a task that FME could do instead. But last year, at the 11th hour we had to empty our bags and return to our desks to deliver the event online. In May this year we didn’t even bother packing our bags, because we knew we were going to be delivering the event virtually.

The FME World Fair spanned a fortnight in May where around 100 sessions were delivered in the timeslot and wrapped around the clock, by using an assortment of time zones. Our colleagues in Australia delivered some sessions whilst we were sleeping, and we delivered two sessions when their desks were vacant. We split our sessions into two defined themes, a customer focussed session first, followed by a session that was intended to deliver more of a technical training experience for those that joined us.

‘User stories and effective plate-spinning with 1Spatial’ on May 7th was where we looked at the current trends we’re seeing in the market around how the FME Platform is being used. It included a review of how people tend to build their business case for growing their capacity for data integration, we looked at subscription pricing models, typical technical deployment approaches for FME Server and we even had a peek at how ‘Dynamic Engines’ actually work… we also heard from two of our Engineering customers; Mott MacDonald and Atkins to add a flavour of real-world context to our session. 

The session from Gwilym O’Donovan at Mott MacDonald was all about automating the management and availability of project documents with FME, to ensure project collaboration was using the correct most up to date content. Immediately after Gwilym, Jenny Willbourn from Atkins focusses her session on bringing disparate data sources to life to help visualise the risk of vegetation encroachment on the UK rail network. For this project Jenny explains how FME helped them manage the processing of a huge volume of LiDAR data. 

The session was then wrapped up by Sam Anstice who explained how using FME, they structured, validated, and enriched raw data containing tens of thousands of borehole records to produce ‘analysis ready information’. They also transformed the information into diverse formats for broad user access, creating multiple bespoke outputs that provided greater land intelligence for better and faster decision making.

‘Circus Tricks, juggling your data challenges with 1Spatial’ on May 12th was definitely focussed closely in on the more technically minded users and it was pitched much more like a training class, where we take a specific topic and dig deep under the covers. We’ve been doing a lot of online FME Training over the last 18 months so we’re very versed in this kind of session. 

I used my slot to cover some of the new features of FME 2021 in some more detail but I was merely warming people up for the main sessions which were on Webhooks with Simon Green and Regular Expressions from Mary O’Brien. So, if you’re interested in finding out more about those two topics or need to perform string pattern matching or automatically message people using Microsoft Teams in your next project, you’ll want to check out the recordings! 

…and speaking of recordings, both event recordings are available if you go to our On-Demand page on our website, where you can access the sessions in full.

So, what was previously a ‘tour’ became a virtual ‘fair’ in 2021 and the community gathered in an enormous big-top on a hosted virtual platform and the collaboration continued. We all shared the same enthusiasm we had back in 2011 at that first Tour event, but it’s definitely a different experience to attend an event virtually. 

At 1Spatial we do our best to keep things fresh and interesting, but online there are so many more things competing for your attention, so it’s more challenging for both the audience and the speakers. But, could we ever have predicted 10 years ago that our vocabulary would have changed to include regular usage of terms like “lock-down”, “self-isolation” and “pandemic”? Probably not. ‘Virtual’, at least for now, is safer and certainly, virtual is much more sustainable. 

We shouldn’t forget that virtual is also arguably more inclusive, because people don’t have to travel to get involved and we also have recordings available, so that you can watch at your own pace. However, in-person sessions ‘can’ sometimes be more fun, so we’re certainly sorry we weren’t able to deliver that tour-like experience with the usual drinks meetups afterwards. We missed them just as much as you, because we’ve made many friends on the tour in previous years, not just professional relationships. So, fingers crossed for 2022 and in the meantime, enjoy using FME!

If you’d like to find out more about FME, please get in touch.

David Eagle is the FME Division Manager at 1Spatial and leads our team of Certified FME staff, who do battle with data challenges by day and deliver automated data connectivity solutions by night! (not really, FME does the work at night 😊). The FME World Fair was a global event that happened in May 2021 hosted by Safe Software and all of the sessions from the event are hosted on the FME World Fair Playlist on Safe’s YouTube account.