New Municipal License Subscription Program Makes GIS Work for Infrastructure

Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! In a press conference this week, vice president Bentley Geospatial, Styli Camateros, announced the company's new Municipal License Subscription (MLS) program, which offers municipalities “all the software they need for the mapping and engineering of all their infrastructure” for a fixed annual fee, based on population: the number of people in a local government area. What this program addresses is the distinct need of local governments to be able to manage all the diverse information for their assets from the same environment, by having all the software available to them promptly, in the same interoperable, package deal.

Also read about the highlights of this year's GITA 29 Conference held in Tampa April 23-26 in this week's Industry News. Hope to see many of you there.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor



Industry News

New Municipal License Subscription Program Makes GIS Work for Infrastructure
by Susan Smith

In a press conference this week, vice president Bentley Geospatial, Styli Camateros, announced the company's new Municipal License Subscription (MLS) program, which offers municipalities “all the software they need for the mapping and engineering of all their infrastructure” for a fixed annual fee, based on population: the number of people in a local government area. What this program addresses is the distinct need of local governments to be able to manage all the diverse information for their assets from the same environment, by having all the software available to them promptly, in the same interoperable, package deal.

“What we've noticed in the last 3-5 years is, GIS is widely implemented and has solved real problems,” said Camateros. However, the manner in which it has been applied to infrastructure has left a lot to be desired. The problem lies in the fact that infrastructure exists for a long time, and the information about its design, operation and maintenance must be accessible to those who need it during its lifecycle.

What this means, according to Camateros, is that the planning, designing and building of infrastructure generates a lot of information that has to endure for that asset's lifecycle. The information must be organized so that it can be used as the asset is managed. “There is work to do to make GIS work for infrastructure,” he noted, and Bentley has earmarked five drivers for that change as follows:
- diversity
- 3D
- multi-disciplinary projects
- openness
- engineering users
Diversity

There is a huge amount of disparate information in infrastructure that is not strictly GIS information. “GIS systems have fallen short of being able to consolidate that richness and present to the user a way of finding that information,” said Camateros. “20% of the time on a project can be spent looking for what has been done before or what is in process. Making sure people can find information thirty years from now is critical.”

A lot of Bentley's inspiration for organizing disparate information comes from Google. Google's “federated information management” concept, i.e., indexing information rather than trying to transform it, has revolutionized the way people retrieve and find information. This ability can be applied to GIS for infrastructure, so that a system can manage both GIS data and other types of data such as design and operation and maintenance.

3D

3D has become very cost effective, said Camateros. “Some of our big local governments build models of their cities, and are seeing returns-on-investment that are quite considerable, as they avoid errors in design and construction using 3D. We need to think of GIS in a 3D context, and get away from symbolization that 2D maps represent. Those 3D models are more interpretative, communicating with citizens what their environment will look like.”

Multi-disciplinary projects

Local governments are actually owner/operators of assets, and possess the most diverse assets of any market segment in geospatial. “They must manage buildings, space, water networks, parks, cadastral information, etc., so they need very large multi-disciplinary teams that work on these projects,” said Camateros. Fortunately, software companies have realized that asking customers to adhere to one vendor is not a viable solution. “The idea is to put in place a technology architecture that allows people to work in their best-of-breed tools, but also allows them to share and synthesize information.”

Openness

Open standards and interoperability are key to being able to function in that environment. The OGC, GML, WMS and WFS are all vital to this effort, “but we also need to look at de facto standards,” Camateros pointed out. “I place Oracle 10g in that category, as a large vendor of databases. It has a spatial database that is standard, in the sense that if you put information in that database, anybody can write an application to use it. Looking at openness in that sense, your data investment is really protected. This will become truer as infrastructure related projects increasingly count on Oracle 10g to be that standard platform that they can all work from.”

Engineering users

There is a lot of engineering in infrastructure, and a lot of friction has been created between those who design and build the asset and those who manage the asset. Camateros attributes this friction to the fact that engineers adopted CAD platforms, which focus on design. When relational databases were developed about 20 years ago, people promptly built GIS systems on top of them. Those in the planning and facilities management roles used the databases to manage their facilities, but it created a gap between themselves and the engineers working on CAD as these two technologies required different work processes, yet each needed some information from the other. “What we should be doing is creating environments where someone can plan, model, design and do facilities management from the same environment.”

Geospatial represents 30% of Bentley's total revenue. Bentley has been in the local government market since its flagship product, MicroStation, was partly owned by Intergraph. “Those who have a municipality don't just do cadastral mapping, they do public works, civil engineering, architecture, or plant design,” noted Camateros.

MLS

With the MLS program, Bentley has looked closely at the types of problems municipalities have. Local governments are plagued by silos of disparate data, slow procurement cycles which translates to slow starts on new projects, need for cross-departmental workflows, slow adoption of new technology, a need for web publishing.

The MLS portfolio includes integrated geospatial and engineering solutions for:
- Surveying, site and terrain modeling
- Land management
- Mapping, imaging and document conversion
- Road and highway design, rail and transit system design
- Water and wastewater management
- Architecture and facilities management
- Communications network design
- Plant design and operation
- Urban visualization, Web publishing, and much more
The MLS program aims to increase the quality of service to community and citizenry. The fixed price subscription is invoiced once a year, which means lower administration costs. The program allows for an unlimited number of users across many different platforms.

Many times administration costs are daunting for municipalities. Just administering all the different software licenses and licensing agreements can be time consuming and expensive. The MLS removes that headache. “We are able to deploy all the software a local government needs for GIS and engineering functions from one vendor,” Camateros said.

The aggressive pricing model makes it possible to have as many licenses as they need to be efficient. Customers who are already using MicroStation or ProjectWise can leverage their investment and try out the additional Bentley softwares. As part of the MLS subscription, customers can use the Enterprise Training Subscription (ETS), which provides all the training they need to get their new software deployed quickly.

15 customers have signed up for the MLS already, according to Bentley. Among them are City of Edmonton, City of Helsinki, Amherm (NL) and Kotka.

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