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December 08, 2008
Geospatial News from Autodesk University 2008
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on GIScafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
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 GISCafe.com. 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!

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

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, Top News of the Week, Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances, Announcements, People, New Products, and Events Calendar.

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

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

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
www.autodesk.com/landxplorer or
www.autodesk.de. (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:
  • IT and OT (operational technology) convergence

  • Mobile

  • Real time enterprise

  • 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

  • Web 2.0 applications are valuable for utilities, said Williams. Some information management issues include information overload, no single version of the truth, and lack of quality and consistency to keep up with the exponential growth of operational data.

    “Enterprise information management (EIM) data is becoming nearly as important as the system itself,” said Williams. “Design matters – it’s the birthplace of assets.”

    Recommendations included –
  • Include business trends as part of your planning process

  • Cut down business issues to those for your world

  • Prioritize in time frame

  • Map business trends to your projects.

  • Facilities Management

    Facilities management is one of those topics that settled somewhere in the AEC industry, but recently GIS is getting into the picture. Another name for FM could be asset management, except that it truly is focused on the facilities within the asset.

    The consulting company Avatech has been implementing facilities management since 1985. Their business commenced with Duke University as their first FM customer, and has branched out to include mostly higher education and government clients. Today, according to Peter Costanzo, director of sales, facilities management for Avatech, facilities management is worth taking note of on the geospatial side, as there is an increasing demand for mapping integration in the area of FM.

    FM users didn’t have mapping integration until recently. CAD FM, or CAFM systems have not traditionally included geographic capabilities, as they would generate reports of facilities information from existing CAD drawings. Integration with GIS data gives buildings and facilities a geographic context, allowing for more extensive analysis. CAD files can be georeferenced, which gives FM managers the ability to see just how buildings and related infrastructure can fit together. The combination of GIS, CAD and FM provides valuable information on utility routing, property details, slope conditions and parking inventory. “We are doing lots of lower level, basic ESRI and Google
    Earth integration,” said Costanzo. GIS and FM are coming together in applications such as emergency callboxes for utility companies, in corporate real estate, healthcare, government and educational institutions.

    Avatech does some interesting things with FM. They use Autodesk FMDesktop for “simple CAFM” implementations of one or two users, however, Autodesk FMDesktop doesn’t integrate with AutoCAD Map, which makes it less than ideal for FM.

    According to an Avatech white paper, Autodesk MapGuide can ingest facilities management information from an FM system and combine it with geospatial information to offer an integrated facilities view that can lead to a spatial analysis for professionals dealing with asset tracking, maintenance, space allocation and emergency preparedness.

    For large implementations Avatech have set up a system using the Online Spatial Information System (OSIS). OSIS stores information centrally to provide a complete picture of facilities and infrastructure business. A third party application, OSIS extends a CAD program that has just recently made itself known to the GIS market, ARCHIBUS. ARCHIBUS recently announced a direct integration with ESRI, which Constanzo said is a “more direct” integration with ESRI files, the GIS format Avatech deals with most often.

    These solutions are cost effective for their clients who have slim budgets, but still want the mapping integration capability and easy to use solutions.


    Much of the technology showcased at AU was speculative and related to design, green building and manufacturing. What may be directly applicable to geospatial remains to be seen. As the demand for geospatial information in infrastructure increases, however, the need to be able to accommodate CAD and BIM files in GIS grows.

    In a press conference, CEO Carl Bass addressed the drop in the company’s revenue as “fairly uniform across all businesses.” There were, however, geographic trends, such as a tremendous drop in numbers in the UK, with the rest of Europe fairing very well.

    Bass said to look forward to Autodesk continuing to make small and medium sized acquisitions. They may scale back because of the downturn, but he reminded the audience that the company has $1 billion in assets and no debt, well positioned to weather economic strife.

    For more coverage of Autodesk University 2008, see this week’s

    Top News of the Week

    Infoterra Ltd has launched LandBaseTM, its new high definition land cover mapping product. LandBase combines the latest object based classification technology and digital aerial imagery to provide an unrivalled land cover product, allowing viewing down to 1:5000 scale/property level. This enables the extraction of meaningful land cover data for a range of applications including; environmental and habitat management, change detection, flood modeling and infrastructure planning.

    North American cities have been documented at speed using StreetMapper, an accurate laser mobile mapping system. StreetMapper, which uses vehicle mounted laser scanners to capture highly detailed and accurate measurements at speed, was developed and supplied to Terrametrix, LLC a high precision surveying company located in Omaha, Nebraska by UK based 3D Laser Mapping. Using StreetMapper Terrametrix completed a 3,690 mile, 6 city tour in just eight days, capturing highly accurate 3D models of urban highways, interstate, trolley routes and a prestigious international sporting venue and even taking part in a national competition to collect highway asset information.

    RapidEye announced the “opening” of their new Image Gallery on their
    website. The Image Gallery will feature high resolution satellite images taken from around the world by RapidEye's constellation of five spacecraft. RapidEye plans to update the Image Gallery regularly as new, exciting images become available.

    Trimble introduced its next generation of durable, lightweight field computing devices with integrated Global Positioning System (GPS) technology -- the new Trimble(R) Juno(TM) SB and Juno SC handhelds. These pocket-sized devices are packed with features and functionality. In addition to integrated GPS, both models include wireless LAN (WLAN) and Bluetooth(R) connectivity, a 3 Megapixel camera, a 533 MHz processor, 128 MB of onboard memory, a MicroSD/SDHC memory card slot, an all-day battery and a 3.5 inch display.

    Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances

    Wilson & Company, Inc., Engineers & Architects announced that it had completed its acquisition of Western Air Maps, Inc. of Overland Park, Kansas. Western Air Maps is a successful photogrammetric and geospatial mapping firm, and has been in business since 1960.

    The acquisition expands the services of Wilson & Company’s Survey, Geospatial, and Remote Sensing Division with three new office locations and 50 additional staff members. A total staff of 125 surveying and mapping professionals are now available to serve clients from 17 office locations across the U.S. The acquisition brings Wilson & Company’s total staff count to 520 firm-wide.

    GeoAnalytics Inc., an IT consulting firm that specializes in spatial intelligence systems, including the planning, design, and implementation of enterprise class, spatially enabled information systems, announced a new partnership with Orion Technology, a Division of Rolta Canada Ltd., to implement the industry leading OnPointTM solution. OnPoint provides a web-based, geospatially integrated view of critical information and work processes for clients around the world.

    VUEWorks, Inc. and Springbrook Software have formed a technology partnership to help local government agencies increase efficiency and accountability by linking their financial, asset management and GIS systems.

    The two companies are integrating VUEWorks’ GIS-enabled asset and work order management solution with Springbrook’s accounting and CIS software, and will develop joint solutions that allow organizations to track the true cost of owning and operating individual assets.

    Pictometry International Corp. has signed an international technology license agreement with CIVIS Information Technologies of Ciudad Victoria, Mexico. CIVIS is an emerging aerial survey, geospatial and IT solutions company focused on Latin American and Caribbean markets as well as multiple subsidiaries across the region.

    Trimble announced it has acquired the assets of privately-held Rawson Control Systems based in Oelwein, Iowa. Rawson manufactures hydraulic and electronic controls for the agriculture equipment industry, including variable rate planter drives and controllers, variable rate fertilizer controllers, mechanical remote electric control valves and speed reducers.


    Location-based services (LBS) in Asia-Pacific are expected to see strong growth in the next five years, with wider adoption in the more advanced and saturated mobile and mobile data markets.

    New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Asia Pacific Location-based Services Highlights, finds that the mobile LBS market covering 13 Asia-Pac countries earned revenues of US$383.6 million in 2007 and expects this to reach US$2.8 billion by end-2013, at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 39.3 percent (2007-2013).

    The recent launches of GPS-enabled smartphones with touch screen interfaces such as Apple’s iPhone, the BlackBerry Storm, the T-Mobile G1, Nokia’s 5800 XpressMusic, and Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X1 are fueling interest in handset-based navigation and location based services (LBS) despite the worsening economic climate. In turn this drives both third party LBS application development and the roll out of LBS infrastructure by carriers to support the much needed Secure User Plane Location (SUPL)-compliant Assisted GPS functionality.

    The ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension lets ArcGIS Desktop users easily use, share, and distribute data in different formats. To become more familiar with how to use the extension, tune in to the next ESRI live training seminar, Introduction to ArcGIS Data Interoperability.

    The seminar will air December 11, 2008, at
    www.esri.com/lts. The times will be 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. (Pacific standard time). A few weeks after the live presentation, the seminar will be archived and available for viewing on the
    ESRI Training and Education Web site.

    Research and Markets has announced the addition of the "
    The Potential of Mapping Mashups" report to their offering. Mapping mashups are the most recognized mashup in the consumer world, and it is no surprise that they are starting to make an appearance in the enterprise domain as well. The most common types of mashups – like those that link Google Maps with another data source – offer new possibilities for both consumers and businesses to visualize, display and
    analyze many types of geographic information.


    DMTI Spatial (DMTI) has announced the selection of Christina Kwan as Controller effective immediately. As an integral member of the senior management team, Christina is responsible for managing DMTI's finance organization including the supervision of daily accounting functions, cash flow, payroll, and administration. Christina is in charge of annual budget and financial statement preparation, year-end audit, internal control, financial analysis and decision making, managing income tax returns and other government filings and submissions.

    Tele Atlas has named Charles Cautley its new Senior Vice President of Operations.

    A member of Tele Atlas’ senior management team, Cautley is responsible for all data sourcing, database production, program planning and product management functions. He reports directly to Tele Atlas CEO Bill Henry.

    New Products

    Snowflake Software announced the release of its GML loading tool - GO Loader 1.5. With enhanced support and progressive functionality, the tool is now positioned to address even more international GML schema. And, with major performance improvements of up to a 50% increase in initial load and change only update, GO Loader continues to lead the way in GML loading.

    Intermap Technologies has launched NEXTMap
    TerrainOnDemand, an online data store to support customer access to their growing NEXTMap digital mapping database. The enhanced data store provides immediate access to the Company’s NEXTMap USA and NEXTMap Europe data. NEXTMap TerrainOnDemand allows access to the Company’s unique national datasets created with unprecedented accuracy and detail that includes precise 3D digital elevation models, orthorectified radar images, contours, and optimized TIN models.

    Smart Data Strategies, Inc., a provider of GIS software products and services for local, state, and federal government agencies, announced the official launch of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s web-based Right-of-Way Management System. The system, known as the Integrated Realty Information Service (IRIS) replaces the legacy system that was originally developed in-house.


    Date: January 12 - 15, 2009
    Place: Jakarta, Indonesia

    PT McElhanney Indonesia (PTMI) will be offering a 2-day Introduction to  MapInfo Professional course, and a 2-day Intermediate MapInfo Professional course in Jakarta, Indonesia. With the "Introduction to MapInfo Professional" course you will learn how to navigate, label and query maps, create thematic maps, use images, geocode address and use basic GIS analysis techniques. 

    You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.