December 08, 2003
Autodesk University News
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each GIS Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry, GIS product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Message from the Editor

Welcome to GISWeekly! Buzz phrases for this year's Autodesk University in Las Vegas included “lifecycle management” and CAD + GIS interoperability. The need for emergency response solutions is driving both of these developments, with the idea in mind that if you start with digital the data should stay digital throughout the lifecycle. Read our Industry News for the full report on AU.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Alliances/Acquisitions, Announcements, New Products, Going on Around the Web, and Calendar.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Autodesk University News

Wednesday's MainStage presentation at Autodesk University in Las Vegas, Nevada is a time that attendees look forward to for a series of keynotes, customer presentations and a look at future technology directions. The theme this year, “See What's Out There” attempted to encourage users to think outside the box.

CEO Carol Bartz was notably absent to give her usual talk about how the company is doing. She was presenting at another conference, I was told. Instead, a video of her giving an abbreviated address on the way things are going for Autodesk, reminded us of the fact that last year's release cycle was the most ambitious yet.

Buzz phrases for this year's conference included “lifecycle management” and CAD + GIS interoperability. Autodesk Evangelist Lynn Allen was the moderator for the entire two hour presentation, interspersing her talk with some funny cuts from Monty Python's Holy Grail.

Autodesk announced in the past couple of weeks that revenue for its fiscal third quarter ended October 31, 2003 totaled $234 million, a 10 percent sequential increase, compared to $212 million reported in the second quarter of fiscal 2004. Compared to the same quarter in the prior year, revenues increased 24 percent, from $189 million. Other news stated that the company plans to cut 20% of their workforce. This perplexing bit of news didn't dampen the enthusiasm of AU attendees, and in fact, attendance seemed to be up this year from last.

Carl Bass, Senior Executive Vice President of the Design Solutions group, talked about why we build software. Bass cited three ideas that are key to how we build software: power, simplicity, and community. Computers as tools for augmenting human intellect, can do more today than they could twenty years ago and are definitely cheaper and faster, but more needs to be done as far as making software better. “We are going to add software that can truly improve design and engineering…software that better captures and displays design intent,” said Bass. “Start with digital and keep it digital throughout the lifecycle. It takes more than just raw power to be
productive.” Unfortunately, software is complicated, and needs to be simpler.

“We still err on the side of making software too apparent - we want software to disappear into the background. Using the 'principle of least astonishment,' it does what you expect it to do,” Bass summed up.

Some of the improvements that Autodesk has introduced are the ability to send your error reports in, which gives the company a statistical evidence of what they need to fix. Next year, the reporting will include the ability to know the status of where those reports are, and the ability to get the appropriate updates and fixes to the user who needs them. The subscription program has added a number of new features. This is part of developing the 'community' that Autodesk envisions - all those who teach, write, and develop on top of Autodesk products are part of that community. Afterwards, speaking to those manning the subscription booth, I learned there was a high demand for subscriptions at
the conference.

Although Bass expressed that the company wants it to be possible to maintain all aspects of lifecycle while adopting a new release, this ability is still very far away for most users that I spoke to at the conference.

Emergency Responsiveness

An emergency response demo was given by John Hansen, a new employee of Autodesk, formerly Fire Chief in Oklahoma City for 27 years. Oklahoma City, Hansen reminded his audience, has hosted two of the largest disasters, Alfred P. Murrah Bombing on April 19, 1995 and the tornado of May 3, 1999.

As in the case of many disasters, the first arriving units to the Oklahoma City bombing had a nonscientific pre-fire drawing of the building in their first instant command vehicle. The scope of the damage was huge, with nearly 800 structures damaged. Coordinating the rescue effort was very difficult because they had no actual CAD drawings of the buildings to begin with. By Day 4 or 5, a Bell Telephone employee remarked that there must be a CAD drawing of this building somewhere. By Day 6 building plans from GSA were tracked down and some AutoCAD occupant maps were generated, showing just where the last known locations of workers were in the buildings. From this they were able to deduce
where the victims might be located.

In the tornado, over 3,000 homes were destroyed. There were multi-jurisdictional issues and problems with data sharing. GIS was used to generate maps quickly. There was “up to a mile of total devastation, and there were no landmarks,” explained Hansen. It took approximately 1,000 hours to get to recovery mode.

New emergency response tools will make a difference and save lives, according to Hansen. Firefighters plan everything. Now you can have a floor plan of a building, and can send people into the building with a better knowledge of what they might find. Using renderings of the buildings you can look at the interior of a building and see where a person might be concealed, or what potential hazards might exist.

One important thing that Hansen imparted: “This CAD/GIS technology will save lives. We all become emergency responders when the unexpected happens.”

Lifecycle Management

CTO Scott Borduin has made some important predictions in the past and this year spoke on “Turning Data into Information,” which was essentially a talk about lifecycle management.
To turn data into information, Bordoin said we need to understand data is a collection of facts about the world, and information is data which is used to make decisions, solve problems, move the process forward. To make data useful you must trust data, find data, review data, comment on the data and pass it on, track data, update data and manage data in the design process.

Technology is needed to create data, manage data, communicate through the company, and collaborate data with other companies.

Bordoin said there will be some significant enhancements to DWF in the future, but he could not divulge when. What he could say was that Express View will be available to Mac users and….

Managing drawings in sets is another promised enhancement talked about by Bordoin. If you want to plot a set out, or publish whole set with one click of the mouse, you will be able to do this, plus review, create markups and communicate them back.

Other AU Highlights:

The Autodesk Design Awards for ISD were awarded to Seattle Public Utilities and Pima County Arizona.

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.

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