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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

GIS and CAD converge: interview with Autodesk’s Paul McRoberts

December 8th, 2014 by Susan Smith

In an interview with vice president, Infrastructure at Autodesk, Paul McRoberts at Autodesk University 2014, GISCafe Voice discussed the convergence of GIS and CAD technologies at the company.

The InfraWorks 360 Model Builder cloud service allows users to select a city-scale area from a map of the world in order to generate 3D city models in minutes.

The InfraWorks 360 Model Builder cloud service allows users to select a city-scale area from a map of the world in order to generate 3D city models in minutes.

McRoberts talked about the “common environment “ that is “not just alive and well but thriving” at Autodesk.

“We’re really advancing quite rapidly in being able to take information and aggregate it together and be represented in the context of the world,” noted McRoberts. “Once we have that we can start applying it.”

The need to fold GIS data into the very engineering-centric Autodesk has been evolving for several years. The company takes the large scale of GIS data and CAD and graphics and brings them together. Where once the products had names like AutoCAD Map, they now have more infrastructure-based names like InfraWorks or Civil 3D.

City of Vancouver InfraWorks

City of Vancouver InfraWorks

“This allows people to envision the future with concepts of the real world, but also with real data moving forward into design, construction and management,” said McRoberts. “So we’re seeing a lot of uptake from both the design community and the owner community – it’s taken 10-12 years on architecture to get Building Information Modeling (BIM) fully adopted, with the idea that you bring the promise to life. These designs are being generated by our design consulting customers – no sooner are they being designed and developed than the owner is saying ‘I want the model because I can now use it for my asset management. I can tie it into my ERP systems and maintenance systems.’ It’s GIS and CAD coming to life at the same time. They’re seeing it immediately and they’re getting it.”

This process, McRoberts says, is happening within a year or two year now, with the owners and the customers seeing the value. They’re winning business and approvals faster and they’re getting projects done faster.

 Field Assets for InfraWorks 360 empowers field staff to work more effectively by providing easy access to the infrastructure asset data they need based on their location.

Field Assets for InfraWorks 360 empowers field staff to work more effectively by providing easy access to the infrastructure asset data they need based on their location.

“Some of these projects hang around for twenty or thirty years and they’re never really being done,” said McRoberts. “Being able to explain to the public what exists today, what you’re doing tomorrow and then providing analysis was done around the value of the project is huge.”

Public agencies can get funding for these projects much faster now.

I asked about the importance of InfraWorks, which is Autodesk’s product for creating civil infrastructure design models. Is it helping to facilitate the movement forward of the projects?

McRoberts says it’s not just the InfraWorks environment but the fact that Autodesk is “agnostic” about where data comes from. “It could be aerial imagery, it could be ‘pick your favorite’ GIS data environment, it could be a Revit, or Bentley environment. As long as the data is able to be represented from a pure coordinate perspective. We’ll also take point cloud information, or aerial imagery capture to what level of data you want or any scale you want in order to understand what things look like today. The biggest thing we’ve established is that folks want to know what does it look like today. We’ve taken it a step further –- what do we want it to look like tomorrow? We have layered in analytics to say whether or not this is the right decision – around traffic, airport, water systems, etc. Is it the right decision being made today for the future?”

One of the problems of communication, McRoberts says, is the lack of decision making is generally because of a lack of information or lack of understanding.

“We’re improving the understanding so decisions can be made.”

Projects are moving forward at an alarming rate, says McRoberts, who has never seen anything move more quickly. Civil infrastructure customers want to talk about them, where they never wanted to talk about them before.

In talking about 3D Cities, McRoberts says that the disruption during construction is a huge factor in determining how infrastructure will be built and when.

“We have a analytical environment right now that does multi-modal transportation, with a company we acquired called Azaleant,” says McRoberts. “What got us interested in them, is exactly that: I have the train, people, car, bus — all these ways to get from Point A to Point B. Instead we look at how the person gets somewhere – I take the train, ferry and then I walk…”

“How long does it take me to get to these things?”

In Singapore they started a game-like environment where if you get off the train earlier and you walk, they will give you points for walking as part of the game. You trade those credits in for more transportation vouchers to use in other places. This has gone viral now.

This as well as other data sources, are changing the way we look at information.

“We used to have GIS and maps, and surveyors. Now we fly down the road with a drone or an aerial environment and collect exact information that is there,” says McRoberts. “With sensors we can tell the exact amount of traffic. I can layer all these things to advise me about the traffic of the future.”

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Categories: 3D Cities, 3D PDF, asset management, AutoCAD, Autodesk, Big Data, climate change, cloud, cloud network analytics, conversion, crowd source, data, developers, drones, Esri, field GIS, geomatics, geospatial, GIS, GPS, image-delivery software, indoor location technology, iPhone, laser radar, LBS, lidar, location based sensor fusion, location based services, location intelligence, mapping, mobile, remote sensing, resilient cities, satellite imagery, sensors, UAS, UAV, urban information models

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