December 03, 2007
Geospatial at Autodesk University 2007
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Geospatial at Autodesk University 2007

by Susan Smith

At an industry presentation at AU 2007 in Las Vegas this past week, Geoff Zeiss, Autodesk director of technology, introduced the topic, “Designing the future – the Geospatial Value Chain.” He noted that 80% of any business processes are associated with some kind of location, i.e. spatial information.

Bruce Cullis, vice-president of enterprise innovations for CH2M Hill, outlined the successes of CH2M Hill – the company has grown since its formation in 1942 as a water-wastewater engineering company to a full service engineer-constructor firm encompassing transportation, power, nuclear waste, industrial and high technology. Its services range from program management, design-build, the engineering through construction process, operations and maintenance, and research and development.

In 2006, the firm reported $4 billion revenues, with an additional $½ billion from joint ventures.

Cullis spoke about today’s enterprise “islands” and the “vision alignment” shared by Autodesk and CH2M Hill. That vision alignment includes a focus on

  • IT adoption 101

  • reframing spatial IT for enterprise adoption

  • There are cultures associated with various functions in an organization, which need to be considered when planning to integrate spatial into an existing IT department, Cullis pointed out. There has been a long belief that in some way GIS is “special,” Cullis said, but that is all changing. The reasons for adopting GIS or geospatial are similar to those for adopting IT.

    “The same technical lifecycle is relevant to IT,” he said.

    What may make a difference is that BIM and GIS are “disruptive technologies,” according to Cullis, “they cause a chasm between those who are innovators and those who are laggards, or want others to try things first before trying them. I feel we haven’t yet reached the tipping point on how to use these technologies.”

    Cullis cites several phases for organizations to go through to successfully adopt spatial technology…or any technology:

  • business assessment
  • personal wins
  • problems faced
  • IT innovation to address needs

  • Sometimes people confuse adoption with implementation. Implementation doesn’t equal adoption. Adoption is long term process, and reframes spatial innovation. “You need to ask yourself, a year or two later, is this technology being used?” questioned Cullis.

    Three new tools are:

  • enterprise architecture
  • IT governance
  • IT portfolio management.

  • A definition given for enterprise architecture is as follows: a business blueprint for change; business tools and technical tools into a single architecture.

    The problem for many organizations today is that they don’t have an organizational chart, and don’t know how their organization is run today. Without this knowledge, they can’t leverage new tools.

    For example, an asset may impact how you want to do business in the future. In the spatial IT industry, an image becomes an investment, and sharing it affects many big processes.

    IT governance involves attention given to the business case, how it stacks up compared to other areas of the organization. Spatial IT must be rendered in business terms for executives. IT governance is the capstone to making sure the investment continues.

    Cullis cited a U.S. Air Force installation where they had five GIS systems managing the “same piece of dirt.” “There was no innovation matching to needs,” he claimed. “They bought the solution first, then thought about the problems later.”

    Their system was over-customized, not scalable and not sustainable. CH2M Hill advised them to stop using GIS while they figured out how to get the job done better. Now, their Geobase follows the enterprise architecture framework. They use Topobase, which Cullis said is “the first product I’ve seen that’s able to bring into an integrated environment different solutions to get the job done.”

    Autodesk senior product manager Charlie Crocker and technical evangelist Pete Southwood reminded attendees of the $15.8 billion loss due to interoperability in the U.S., plus the fact that $2.3 trillion was needed for retrofitting the deteriorating infrastructure.

    The list of current Autodesk Geospatial solutions includes:

  • Map 3D
  • Raster Design
  • MapGuide Enterprise
  • Topobase
  • Utility Design

  • Southwood demonstrated enhanced tool tips in Map 3D which can give you more information such as data source, and the number of layers using information. AutoCAD tools can also be used to copy GIS data, and you can also build common expressions such as spatial filters.

    You can create more complicated fields and change the size of parcels and recalculate. You can do a split/merge of GIS data just as you can using CAD tools, which allows you to work seamlessly between CAD and GIS.

    In Map 3D, you can assemble maps, turn on more layers, and publish out to MapGuide. MapGuide Studio allows you to make different templates for others in the organization who may need them.


    In an industry presentation entitled “Autodesk Government – Next-generation Government Design and Collaboration,” Tom Igou, national director of state and local sales, stated that Autodesk Government is responsible for over $2 billion in annual revenues. The division is fairly new and encompasses facilities, utilities and road design.

    Attendance at the event was evenly split among federal, state and local representatives. There were many first time Autodesk attendees in the audience as well.

    New to the company, David Kingsbury, global senior industry manager, recounted what was said in an earlier keynote by Autodesk CEO Carl Bass: there is an infrastructure boom going on. Critical utilities issues include integrating the full utilities lifecycle.

    Some important takeaways from this presentation were:

  • moving to additional lifecycle workflows for as-built
  • preserve data accuracy and integrity
  • integrate CAD and GIS into precision data
  • add finance data as well

  • Transit and Transportation

    Steve Stanfield, P.E., PLS and David Fagerman, PLS, RPLS spoke about transportation and the Civil 3D solution.

    Stanfield cited Transit and Transportation Trends as follows:

  • 75% of the market is rehabilitation and improvements
  • we need $2 trillion to get where we need to be
  • everything is to occur at a fast pace
  • design-build projects
  • field-to-finish (integrate with GIS and construction)

  • Stanfield asked the question, why use Civil 3D?

    In answer to that question, he replied that Civil 3D is a freely integrated product, integrating with Map 3D and AutoCAD. It intelligently links:

  • survey
  • design
  • production drafting
  • construction

  • Its project file management is

  • permission-based
  • multi-site capable
  • revision-friendly
  • able to partition data
  • able to facilitate working as a team

  • With Civil 3D you can

  • access ESRI shapefiles.
  • determine right-of-way takes
  • use objects to recognize changes
  • automate parcel creation
  • generate legal descriptions
  • create right-of-way plats
  • draw with plain AutoCAD, which automatically recognizes and computes take areas

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    You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.


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