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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
New Autodesk 2009 Geospatial Tools Drive Data Accuracy
By Susan Smith
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Topobase comes with Map 3D included, allowing users to get the best of CAD and GIS while working with geospatial data in Topobase.
Users of AutoCAD and Map will find the transition natural, as the interfaces are the same as what they are used to. Accessing other GIS data formats for overlays and analysis is automatically possible because of the variety of data providers available such as bringing in a base map from ArcSDE and using Topobase Water to maintain water utility data.
The last two products to make up the new Autodesk 2009 portfolio are Autodesk Topobase 2009 and Autodesk Utility Design 2009.
Built upon AutoCAD Map, which is built on AutoCAD, the two products take advantage of the enhancements resident in AutoCAD 2009. Brett Smith, internal public relations manager for the Geospatial Solutions Group, Rob Laudati, senior product manager for utility design products, formerly with GE, and Jerry Labay, senior marketing manager for utility products, spoke about the latest functionality in the two products.
The bottom line is that Autodesk is increasing its focus on the utility market, by addressing specific needs and trends of that industry. One of the areas in which they are doing this is in Intelligent Grid support, primarily by providing accurate information in a timely fashion. Smart grid activity customers say they don’t have accurate data to support their OMS & EMS systems. These Autodesk tools help drive that data accuracy and right sizing of the network plus accurate maintenance and updating of the systems.
Autodesk Utility Design (AUD)
Basically, Utility Design is an advanced design product specifically for utilities, built on the AutoCAD platform, with the sole purpose to improve the efficiency of that utility network design process.
According to Labay, upwards of 75% of designers in the utility space are using some form of CAD for their design process. “Bringing advanced tools like AUD to these users who already have CAD experience is a real benefit, makes training very easy and allows them to leverage their existing skills,” explained Labay. The ability of AUD to integrate engineering calculations such as power flow analysis, flicker analysis, cable pulling tension, pull loading, etc. “all the things engineers and designers have to do to make sure their design is sound and will work in the real world” have been integrated on top of this CAD platform to provide seamless integration between the two. Finally, the ability to order the materials. “Once you’ve laid out the devices in your CAD system, you’ve done the engineering analysis to make sure that you have the right type of devices, the right size of transformer, AUD provides the tools to then generate that bill of materials and send off to your inventory system or work management system to make sure the right materials get on the truck for the construction crews to build it the way it was designed.”
In addition, said Labay, the ability to leverage those engineering tools really allows AUD users to improve the network reliability of the segments of the network that they’re designing. AUD can be configured to support standards that the utility may have, but also allows you to do what-if analysis – and build the network to not only account for what’s in place today but also for what’s likely to be built in the future.
An important part of the focus of AUD takes into account the aging workforce in the design world. “As the very experienced engineer retires, the folks who are coming in to do design work typically are not design engineers,” Labay pointed out. “They may be computer savvy and they likely have a CAD background, so they need help with this aspect of the design process." The utility’s capital and operating budget can also be optimized when the utility is designing the right sized network and can account for future load growth, which means less money spent over the lifecycle of that design.
These decisions made at design time can impact operational spending in the order of hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.
AUD can preset the right set of tools and materials so a designer can pick the right tools to fit the job, and the application can be tailored to fit specific use cases. This makes it easier for the new, inexperienced designer to get it right the first time.
Another great feature of AUD is data integration. Designers need pieces of the as-built network to start their designs from. At the end of the design process they need to publish that data back into the GIS, spatial repository, or work management system and also provide the data to the construction crew in either paper or digital form. Because AUD leverages AutoCAD and Map, it comes with SDO built in and can be used to access data in a live way, but can also be able to publish data back to that asset repository, providing a complete round trip process.
New Features for 2009:
“One of the main areas we worked on for AUD was bringing it up to the current Autodesk Map platform,” said Laudati. “That allowed us to do work in two major areas – 1) being able to leverage all the AutoCAD user interface enhancements (capabilities to tailor the job type. Workflow is an example.) and taking advantage of all new enhancements in AutoCAD 2009 likewise FDO. FDO has been developed quite a bit in the last year or two, and we have a new set of providers including Smallworld so you can now access data from a variety of different systems to start your project and then also to be able to send data of that completed design back through an FDO provider to the target system. 2) The other major area of work was around our engineering calculations. It is a key part of the value proposition. In response to some of our customers, including Southern California Edison and Arizona Public service, we have taken in some of the requirements they have around local standards and specific capabilities that they require and provided them as part of the standard product. Finally along with that, we’re really targeting users who may not be experienced engineers. We’ve worked to present the information that comes back from an engineering analysis in a much simpler and readable way for the non-engineer, because they need to know whether they’ve built a sound design. We’re providing the level of usability around engineering so you can get a basic report out.”
Autodesk Topobase 2009
Topobase is Autodesk’s network asset management product, whose job it is to integrate design data built with AUD and bring it through the as-built lifecycle of the facilities and bring it to the operational state. Topobase also has an increasing number of data management and analysis tools that are purpose built for the different verticals in the utility – electric, gas, water and wastewater.
“One of the clearest benefits to our customers is the ability to take that CAD data of the utility and bring that through in a simple CAD based application, but managing it in the corporate Oracle repository,” said Labay.
Topobase’s key features include the fact that it is built on AutoCAD and Map. “Autodesk is not trying to deliver generic GIS technology,” said Smith. “We are really focused on the utility market and providing tools that meet the specific needs of users in that utility enterprise for all the different verticals. One of the interesting things, is the ability for Topobase to work in a “workflow paradigm.” I think of it as the wizard approach you might use one of your Microsoft tools for. Topobase has that same capability in terms of guiding users through a particular asset management exercise.” In an example, Topobase provides the step by step instructions through the process using a water/wastewater inspection tool to make sure they’re entering all data correctly and meeting all the standards of the utility.