Geospatial News from Autodesk University 2008

Welcome to GISWeekly! Between December 1st and December 4th I will be attending Autodesk University in Las Vegas. Hope to see you there.

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Industry News
Geospatial News from Autodesk University 2008
By Susan Smith

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Autodesk CEO Carl Bass

Autodesk University generally focuses on architectural and engineering design, and this year was no exception in that respect. What did stand out at this event was the push toward blurring the lines between Autodesk products, and most particularly for geospatial, providing technology that can maximize the data accumulated from both GIS and CAD and combine it in ways that give it more value than it can possibly have on its own.

The event, which drew an audience of just under 10,000, was down from last year’s 12,000. A central Main Stage for the Tuesday morning General Session made it possible for more people to sit up front and get an eyeful of some very impressive exhibits, generally from the manufacturing side.

Digital Cities also was shown during the morning General Session on Tuesday, hinting at an impressive new geospatial product that spans the breadth of GIS and infrastructure.

Some weeks ago, GISWeekly reported on Autodesk’s Digital Cities initiative, with a focus on the first pilot city for that program, Salzburg, Austria. At that time, much news was pending, awaiting the announcements that were made this week at Autodesk University.

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Launched since that conversation was Autodesk’s infrastructure modeling offering, LandXplorer, which derives from the acquisition of 3D Geo GmbH of Potsdam, Germany, the privately held maker of intelligent 3D urban modeling software. An out of the box product, LandXplorer allows a city to create a city or infrastructure model in a very short time, according to Doug Eberhard, senior director and industry evangelist for Autodesk. A 3D infrastructure model can be created within 30 minutes. In addition to supporting AutoCAD products, LandXplorer brings in 3ds Max for buildings and texture mapping.

The Autodesk vision for Digital Cities forms around four basic ideas –
- As an intelligent and interoperable digital visual model of a city, its communities and its infrastructure,
- It is a digital platform that allows users to aggregate or synthesize, analyze, simulate and communicate both existing and proposed environments.
- Offers improvement to the workflow that allows agencies and developers designer professionals and the public to better communicate, coordinate and collaborate around proposed projects,
- Provides a smarter way to plan, design and deliver sustainable projects for cities by incorporating CAD, GIS and BIM and design visualization models.

Notable is how complementary LandXplorer is for governments and utilities – it brings in ESRI shapefiles, which are the most often used file format in those industries, and is able to integrate disparate data together.

Currently, LandXplorer also can be used with the Google Earth Publisher capability to publish out an encrypted view of the model. Data can be encrypted within the 3D model, wherein the user can turn on and off various options, enabling publishing of city models on Google Earth.

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Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski

Early next year, Autodesk will announce a LandXplorer “model server” type product, which will have a zero web client. It will enable users to set up specific views, and manage how the user wants to present a model. The advantage of this will be that users can build the model with their own data, and own the data, rather than in the current Google Earth configuration where Google Earth owns your data. This is expected to break down data silos as data will be ingested in native formats yet anyone will be able to access it with any program. Users will be able to publish internally, as they would in Google Earth, but with the added advantage of having control of their data.

Not only does LandXplorer appear to offer some real value to both CAD and GIS users, Autodesk is hoping that it will alter the mentality of users by allowing them an expanded level of data sharing. GIS departments can manage the data easily without a steep learning curve, and users of varying degrees of expertise can access the data. The product supports CityGML natively, and CAD users can add BIM via IFCs, with complete interoperability between data types. The product could become a deal breaker for building and maintaining entire infrastructures for networks and utilities.

LandXplorer is definitely an ambitious attempt to merge these different worlds into an interactive picture of infrastructure that has not been possible before. Autodesk’s history of providing tools for infrastructure has always been impressive, but the problems of interoperability have stood in the way of combining data from CAD and GIS. Other city and land planning tools have attempted this from the GIS standpoint, yet most of them have proven very difficult to use and although the intent was to have city planners and other stakeholders access the data through them, they fell short of that objective. In contrast, Autodesk shows its stuff in this product, paving the way for more productive conversation and data sharing between internal agencies as well as the public.

More information and a free 30-day trial of LandXplorer Studio Professional is available at or (The trial version is available to users worldwide;  and both Autodesk LandXplorer Studio and Autodesk LandXplorer Studio Professional are available in Central Europe now from Autodesk authorized resellers.)

Utilities Keynote

Brad Williams, research director of Energy & Utilities for Gartner, gave a presentation on the state of utilities. Key to the future is the challenge of an aging workforce, coupled with the challenge of new, dynamic young people who are comfortable with technology. How do we access the knowledge of the aging workforce and apply it to the world of the young people who will push it forward? asked Williams.

Technology trends cited included:

  1. IT and OT (operational technology) convergence
  2. Mobile
  3. Real time enterprise
  4. Web 2.0

Williams said OT is driving some IT functions. Many utilities are currently using mobile devices and technology, and report 35% gain in efficiency for uses such as street level routing, asset condition assessment and inventory optimization. “Advanced meter infrastructure” is a communication system that is implemented globally.

Williams talked about “enterprization,” where GIS and design tools are strategic to utilities. The trend he sees embody an increase in geospatial information across the enterprise. Geospatial and IT areas of importance include:

  • Mapping
  • Design and engineering
  • Maintenance inspections
  • Vegetation management
  • Joint use attachments
  • Environmental assessment
  • Customer connectivity
  • Right of way management
  • Scheduling
  • T&D cost analysis
  • Real Estate management

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