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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Intelligent Cities, Intelligent Campuses
By Susan Smith
Recently we have seen the proliferation of companies offering 3D mapping data for cities such as the last issue of GISWeekly's story on Skape Takes on 3D City Scapes. One of the 3D geospatial information systems such offerings are designed for is the focus of this week's feature story.
Richard Zambuni, Global Marketing Director - Geospatial and Francois Valois, Bentley's Product Line Manager Desktop, Geospatial spoke with GISWeekly about new breakthroughs announced recently in 3D GIS software “to support the design and operation of intelligent cities.”
It seems that the phrase “intelligent cities” derives from the term “intelligent models,” which is what Bentley has spent its company life creating in the form of building information modeling (BIM). Intelligent cities or intelligent campuses (another step removed) take this idea even further by offering a way to incorporate intelligent data from BIM and other sources into one intelligent infrastructure model. 3D is an area that Bentley has 20 years of experience in, so the confluence of these two concepts, intelligent cities and 3D, come together here in 3D City GIS.
The goal here is to offer lifecycle support across “all classes of intelligent infrastructure, including land management, power generation and energy delivery, water and wastewater networks, roads, bridges, rail, communications networks, and buildings,” according to the press release.
The just-released V8i (SELECTseries 1) versions of Bentley Map, Bentley Descartes, Bentley Geospatial Server, and Bentley Geo Web Publisher add to the V8i portfolio new 3D City GIS capabilities. Announced at the same time is the integration of Bentley Map and Safe Software's FME technology.
According to Zambuni, the integration is “part of the wider strategy we've had of supporting full interoperability of file formats where our users have many different types of formats in their workflows. We know our users work with lots of different file formats, and it's important for us to support that interoperability and deliver open workflows - we don't believe in proprietary file formats, or closed workflows or data silos, so the whole FME strategy fits into that philosophy.” By enabling the import/export of about 225 formats into or from Bentley Map, FME certainly helps users chose the best tool to perform their editing work. This enables a workflow where Bentley Map is used for the maintenance of the data, but the data is then shared with other tools used in the industry. Bentley of course supports the defacto standards in the industry such as OGC standards. In addition, the company supports vendors in the geospatial world who are becoming defacto standards such as Oracle Spatial, Adobe's PDF file format, Google Earth, etc. “and we put Safe FME in that classification because they are the leading for ETL (extract transform and load) processes.”
The new integration with FME makes it possible to access almost any file format, not just those that are natively supported by Bentley Map within the Bentley Map interface, without having to run FME separately. If FME is installed on the same machine, users can just access any of those file formats that are not natively supported by Bentley Map while in the same session in Bentley Map.
“Although we offer an API to allow 2D to 3D conversion there is no better tool today than FME to enable quick data conversion from 2D to 3D,” said Zambuni.
Zambuni includes these general points about the Bentley Map/FME integration:
The Bentley Map/FME integration is part of Bentley's wider strategy of supporting full interoperability of file formats in a world full of heterogeneous information
Bentley also has a strategy of supporting de facto standards such as Oracle Spatial, Adobe PDF, Google Earth etc. -including Safe Software's FME in this classification
Bentley creates its own interoperability standards such as i-models which enable the sharing of information across multiple applications making it the perfect engineering information exchange format
The Product Portfolio
Inside Bentley Map is a DGN self-contained geometry all in the same file. “This is useful for using data inside Bentley Map itself, all the tools of Bentley Map work on it,” explained Valois. “The way we create the tools is not using FME support, we use our own library for it, so we use the FME objects to create DGN objects inside our files. For a user of Bentley Map this is a 'must have' to get their data inside their workflow and be able to push it to Oracle Spatial or map it into their existing GIS schema.”
Within the Bentley Map environment users can call on Oracle Spatial data, publish a PDF or publish to Google Earth and access these different file formats this way or within Bentley Map.
Bentley Map's 3D capabilities continue to grow, and that in this latest version there is a 3D smart editing tool for 3D objects where the user can push and pull off surfaces and edit in Bentley Map in a very intuitive way. Bentley Map can work with its own DGN file format or it can be used to work directly with Oracle Spatial 11g 3D.
Bentley products integrate with Oracle Spatial in a standard way so that customers can continue to manage their database as they manage other types of data as part of their framework. Zambuni stressed that this is a plus for Bentley in that the customers' data management remains their own.
Bentley Map is Bentley's standard desktop editing environment for geospatial workflows including 3D objects. On the service side is Bentley Geospatial Server serving as a hub managing the data, that allows structured workflows to have federated information management as well. This means that users can associate unstructured data with the structured data which can be navigated spatially. Bentley Geo Web Publisher publishes information, particularly finished 3D visualizations of a city or any other environment to managers, non-technical users and public consultations.
Questions of bandwidth invariably arise when talking about big 3D models.
“If we connect Bentley Map directly to Oracle Spatial there's no compression going on, the old geometry format is small enough to come across the network rather quickly,” Valois explained. “However we allow it to filter we would filter by view, so people get what they need. If you use Geospatial Server you enable a different type of workflow…you can store you structure and all your structural information, meaning your files, documents but you can also connect it to the spatial database. When you do this you have what we call a 'disconnected editing mode,' meaning that it will generate a DGN file on the server and transfer it to the client.” This is known as delta file transfer. He added that this is much appreciated by large organizations which have heavily trafficked networks. Multiple cities often find that their customer is not able to cope with the bandwidth that direct connection would require so they'd rather work disconnectedly, where they have the file locally they can easily interact with it as much as they want and then return just the changes back to the server.
Valois pointed out that all layers of data people work with are not equal, “if you have street names stored in the Oracle Spatial database, it's not likely that is going to change very often,” he said. “Typically it changes once every month or sometimes even less so by allowing a disconnecting mode with Geospatial Server we can extract out street names into files people can reference easily, and in Geo Web Publisher on the publishing side, we can either go live to the database, or we can also create caches managed on the server. The idea is to fetch data on the database only where it is required by the workflow.”