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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Managing Geospatial Infrastructure with Autodesk Map 3D 2009
By Susan Smith
Autodesk Map 3D is what the company calls its “desktop engineering platform,” meaning it is built on AutoCAD and includes a geospatial toolset. Mark Christian, product marketing manager for Map 3D, said that the product’s primary customers are concerned with infrastructure and infrastructure management, which includes government agencies, public works, public utilities, land planning, “basically anything where you’re managing some type of infrastructure or land, whether it be being the county assessor who is essentially managing parcels to engineering construction firms that are building a lot of the infrastructure, utilities, roads, etc., or small engineering firms.” Added to the mix are also environmental engineering firms. In northern California, many vineyards are using Map 3D for site assessment and planning.
AutoCAD Map 3D approximate install base percentages within each industry are as follows:
- Engineering and Construction: 40%
- Government: 35%
- Utilities: 18%
- Telecommunications: 7%
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Map of the geology of the lower 48 states, USA with an inset map showing California fault lines and major earthquakes. Geology and earthquake data were downloaded from the National Atlas (United States Department of the Interior) in ESRI SHP file format.
Christian describes Map 3D as a very horizontal product with functionality useful to many different disciplines. Civil 3D is built on top of Map 3D, and Topobase solutions are also built on top of Map 3D. Raster Design, used primarily as a raster editing, raster-to-vector conversion tool, is a type of extension to Map 3D. MapGuide completes the picture as the web mapping platform for publishing data out on the Internet or intranet.
Map3D is focused around engineering work process but has been optimized to work with spatial data. “For many GIS customers, we’ll say Map 3D is the tool that bridges CAD and GIS,” explained Christian. “A good 80% of our customer base uses Map 3D because they need an AutoCAD that can work with GIS information, whether that be georeferenced satellite or aerial imagery, information typically found in ESRI shape files, environmental information, zoning information, contour, soil information or any GIS data that is found outside the format of an AutoCAD DWG file.”
Basically people use Map 3D so they can use AutoCAD tools to manage geospatial data, thus, it doesn’t require a GIS-trained workforce, “You can use CAD trained workforce to manage geospatial data,” said Christian. Users can prepare design information for use in a GIS, whether it be an Autodesk GIS platform or ESRI or another one. The product is essentially used to move information back and forth between CAD and GIS.
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Water and Wastewater System Map. Sample map covering the downtown area of the City of Redding, California, USA. The map shows water system infrastructure including pipe sizes.
Feature Data Object (FDO) technology, an open source technology, is embedded in Map 3D, allowing what is called “direct data access.” This eliminates the need for an import/export routine, as users can directly and natively access the datastore. If the datastore is updated, they see updated information in real time on the screen.
Users can use AutoCAD tools to edit this information. In addition, there is a geospatial toolset, which consists of basic GIS tools such as buffer analysis, query (searching information), cartographic tools for creation of maps, and data management tools for databases such as Oracle, where they can create data models. This latter is the newest feature in the product and is not yet being maximized by users.
The most current popular use for Map 3D is to bring information from many different data sources into AutoCAD. Christian noted that since Map 3D is built on AutoCAD, every new feature and function in AutoCAD is also in Map 3D. The focus this year was on the user interface.
The user interface is designed for engineers who may not have been exposed to GIS language, such as what a query is, to perform operations they couldn’t do otherwise. If the user enters the information correctly, he/she can perform GIS or geospatial paths.
Examples of those actions are as follows: the user can browse data in ESRI shapefile format, bring it into Map 3D as parcel information, for example, which is georeferenced data in ESRI shapefiles. In the demonstration given by Christian, making use of FDO technology, 70,000 parcels were brought into Map 3D in seconds. When Christian highlighted over the parcels layer it gave him contextual information such as whether the file is an ESRI shapefile, and what coordinate system the data is in. Available are the data attributes listed in the data source, in this case the land values.
Other feature changes in the 2009 release are around data creation and editing. As a result, the complete AutoCAD toolset works on the FDO access data, so whether the user is accessing data that is in an ESRI ArcSDE managed database, Oracle database or in an ESRI shapefile, etc., the information can be brought into Map3D. The user can use the standard AutoCAD editing command to work on these functions.
Also added to 2009 is functionality around split and merge, so for someone doing land management, parcels, typical operations are parcel splits and parcel combines. To edit that geometry, Map 3D has some functions to help with polygon management.
Other data management capabilities include constraint based attribute creation of data. When drafting a new parcel boundary, all the attributes that need to be assigned to that parcel automatically go across and then by looking in the data model, the user can see a list of land values and then assign land values. “You can not only create the vector geometry which CAD has always been good at, but can also assign the attributes of that data intelligence during the drafting process,” explained Christian.
Commonly, Map 3D is used for data exchange, providing a common workflow through interdisciplinary groups. “Everybody has to deal with DWG files, whether it’s legacy or new files,” noted Christian, “but you have to move data back and forth between these different data types. Map 3D has been a vehicle for that for many years and we have enhanced this in the recent release. A lot of this is around not the vector geometry but rather, bringing attribute data back and forth between the FDO access data stores like ArcSDE, shapefiles, Oracle and SQLServer, and moving it back and forth, moving it into a drawing file so you can send it someone who just has standard AutoCAD so they can work with the information.”
Cartography or map creation is another area that has been updated in Map 3D. Users create maps in AutoCAD and in the past, have used competitive applications with it such as ArcView or even Adobe Illustrator. In the past couple of years Autodesk has developed a better cartography tool.
With cartography you’re creating a map based on underlying information, said Christian. These parcels are just vector geometry but there is a whole lot of data associated with them. “All the information that is associated with a certain parcel is in there, it’s just attributes,” said Christian. “It’s very common in GIS, in the CAD world a lot of times the attributes are separated from the geometry. Map 3D allows you to do things with that information, such as some simple analysis or cartography using these attributes.”