Autodesk 2010 Geospatial Products

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Industry News
Autodesk 2010 Geospatial Products
By Susan Smith

In a webcast last week, Autodesk announced their 2010 product releases, with new functionality across the board. Those products that focus on geospatial, namely, AutoCAD Map 3D, Autodesk MapGuide and MapGuide Enterprise, and Autodesk Topobase, have undergone changes in the user interface and embody some of the changes that were seen in the previous version of AutoCAD.

AutoCAD Map 3D 2010

click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]
Probably the most noticeable difference in AutoCAD Map 3D 2010 for existing users would be the different user interface that was actually part of the AutoCAD 2009 release. Since AutoCAD Map 3D is based on AutoCAD, the enhancements to that product impact Map 3D. Along those lines, the following are new features of AutoCAD 2010:

- Free-form design - This feature allows users to design "almost any form imaginable," according to press materials.

- Enhanced PDF Support - PDF Import and Underlay plus enhanced publishing features have been added.

- Parametric modeling capabilities which, used in tandem with drafting, keep information parallel and are used as a data aggregation tool.

-3D Printing capabilities make it possible for users to produce physical 3D models and prototypes by connecting to 3D printing services or personal 3D printers, much as they would with paper printing.

-Dynamic blocks make it possible for users to block author and edit, display action objects and test blocks while leaving the block editor open.

- New DWG File Format that includes a SaveAs Command to use to access DWG files created in older formats.

Primary new features in AutoCAD Map 3D 2010 include:

  • A ribbon like interface that is also part of some Microsoft Office products.
  • Functionality around incorporating survey data captured by GPS and more analysis functionality including overlay functions.
  • New Windows workflow framework

Because Map 3D is used across a variety of industries, namely utilities and telecommunications, there has been a challenge to create accurate as-built information stored in their infrastructure model or their GIS. The new 2010 version specifically targets this audience, so that any information captured through survey or GPS devices with handheld GPS can be used to update plans, drawings, database, GIS or the infrastructure model. In the past, this task has been accomplished by using a third party application or writing a custom piece of code.

More analysis functionality has also been added to Map 3D in 2010, with a whole set of overlay functions, which include being able to overlay polygons over polygons, points over polygons, and polygons over lines to accomplish overlays, intersects, cuts, clips and other typical spatial analysis functions.

Based on Windows Workflow Foundation is a new workflow framework, utilizing some code released by Microsoft. Using a visual editor, customers can build a series of tasks and run them at the click of a button. This can be used to automate a lot of repetitive steps without having to go through the user interface.

Mark Christian, product marketing manager, Geospatial said that AutoCAD 2010's parametric modeling capabilities can be used as a way to edit spatial information. "Ultimately the reason users are using Map is because it’s built on AutoCAD and they’re going to do some kind of drafting work,” noted Christian.

Over the past three years, developers of Map 3D have been building a set of analytical tools, knowing that overlay tools were much in demand. Christian said this was the last big piece they needed which is now in 2010. The overlay function is based on FDO data access technology which means “you can aggregate date from many different sources, it could be information that you have in Oracle database, or from an ArcSDE database, data that’s in an ESRI shapefile, and Autodesk SDF file, so you can bring it together thru FDO and run these overlay functions on that information.” This capability shows promise for other industries outside those that Autodesk primarily serves.

Autodesk MapGuide Enterprise 2010

For MapGuide Enterprise 2010, performance is the big enhancement. Because this product falls under the purview of Open Source, the Open Source community has become very involved and provided numerous benefits to the product. The best example of this, according to Christian, is a project called Open Layers, which is a Javascript library that allows you to take data from different sources and do a mashup. The Open Source community also combined MapGuide Enterprise and open source so that an open source developer can use the Open Layers library to integrate Google Map data along with proprietarily owned data to overlay and create a mashup. Christian said a lot of progress has been made within the Open Source community with this technology this year.

Autodesk Topobase 2010

Arnab Ganguly, Autodesk senior technical marketing manager, reported that the primary new feature in Topobase is their extension to Map 3D and MapGuide. This provides an infrastructure model management platform that allows users to maintain all the data created through Map 3D that users might want other users to access using MapGuide Enterprise on the web. It also gives users a set of tools that helps them work with the database at the same time.

Topobase 2010 makes management of the Oracle database very simple, according to Ganguly. Inside Topobase are specific vertical data models of vertical applications that allow users to get started quickly with a predefined structure in the database. There users can store poles, conductors, transformers, etc. created in Map 3D. Topobase can have different points of access, so Autodesk has set up enhanced security in that environment to define how much information different types of users have access to.

Topobase does come with vertical modules that address specific industries including water ,wastewater, gas and electric, also Land, a new vertical module specifically for Europe. Land can be a starting point for almost every single industry that works in the geospatial mode. Other enhancements include features around display models. The database contains all the users' infrastructure model information, and allows the user to dynamically generate drawings, dynamically generate the content seen on the screen based on a certain type of display style. For example, an engineer’s view might be very detailed in terms of everything seen in a network. This may include text that identifies the type of hydrant, the depth of pipes that feed into that hydrant, etc. The data can be color coded and dynamically generate information that an engineer would want to see. “It leverages the Map 3D thematic mapping capability so you see that little link between what the user really gets exposed to, it’s just their AutoCAD to Map 3D in terms of usage, but in terms of power it is dynamically database driven content that is shown to you onscreen,” said Ganguly.

Another new function in the 2010 release of Topobase is what is known as Smart Assembly. This feature allows users to create a pole with all things on it such as connectors, cross arms, transformers, and make it a single entity. This way when the user opens the pole, it will automatically add the appropriate cross arms, transformers and other geometries.

For engineers, this enhancement may take the challenge out of moving engineering data over to a GIS environment. Using the Map 3D environment with Topobase saves any data created in a system of record so that they can keep their GIS synchronized with updates in engineering. This also makes it possible for others in the organization to benefit from the vast amount of data generated in AutoCAD and Map 3D.

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Rating:
Reviews:
Review Article
  • Incorrect information October 16, 2009
    Reviewed by 'Johann Creuyff'
    The article was generally good. However, there is some incorrect information.
    The statement: "More analysis functionality has bee nadded to Map 3D in 2010..." Is partially true. All of the polygon overlay analysis has been available in AutoCAD Map for several years using drawing base polygon topologies. The "NEW" analysis tools come in the form of operating on FDO data sources.
    Network, polygon and point topologies together with powerful analysis functions have been available in AutoCAD Map for manu years. This was limited to drawing based objects. This meant that in order to work with data that comes from, say a GIS database, it was necessary to import the data rather than connect directly to it through FDO.

      One person found this review helpful.

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