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July 28, 2008
New Autodesk 2009 Geospatial Tools Drive Data Accuracy
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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 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!

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Industry News

New Autodesk 2009 Geospatial Tools Drive Data Accuracy

By Susan Smith

click to enlarge [

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.

Additionally, Topobase comes with a web capability built on MapGuide that allows the utility to deploy spatial data throughout the enterprise. Autodesk suggests that in the future, there will be fewer mapping and GIS professionals in the industry, but people still need geospatial information, and not necessarily in the GIS department only. Today, more people need geospatial information in customer service, marketing and other areas of business. With Topobase Web, a utility can provide all sorts of levels of intranet access, all the way from simple maps to very sophisticated analysis through a web platform.

“One of the aspects of Topobase is it’s focused on specific utility workflows but underneath it has a very flexible and open API,” said Smith. “We find customers and our partners are extending the product to meet the specific needs of utilities. If customers need more sophisticated and complex analysis tools, they can develop those with the API.”

New features in Topobase 2009 include:

This release is dubbed “the utility release,” although the product also handles a few asset management tasks such as land management and cadastre. Over 50 utility enhancements are included in this release, for example:

The water/wastewater inspection tool. Through Topobase you can now generate and manage schematic diagrams. There is also the concept of Station internal, where you can map and have connectivity between your outside distribution or transmission network look inside substations or switch cabinets. This is live design data that can be connected topologically to the outside network. The other major enhancement is lowering the cost of ownership of spatial capability.

Other areas in this release include vertical modules that users can buy separately in the future. What’s new is that customers who don’t have an enterprise license of Oracle are able to use Topobase now. In the past Autodesk has supported the Oracle Spatial module which required customers to have the Oracle enterprise license. For the mid-tier market, which is the sweet spot for Autodesk, that sometimes represents a big financial decision but now Autodesk can support any version of Oracle that has the simplified Locator technology. “We’ve made Topobase more Windows like and supports that look and feel just like AutoCAD, leverage that user experience we find in
the utility partners,” explained Labay.

This enhancement represents the “democratization of spatial technology.” What this means to Autodesk is “We’re trying to make our software for more people in the utility, and also occasional users, provide ease of use, purpose built tools and being able to work on all forms of Oracle,” said Laudati.

Topobase allows customers to integrate data with other products outside Autodesk products, and also facilitates the integration of CAD and GIS data so that data is available as soon as engineers create it, making the as-built database more precise. FDO provides seamless data integration which is available in both Topobase and AUD.

Besides making sure you can design exactly what you need for the utility market, another sustainability issue addressed by Autodesk is the management of distributive generation devices on the network to make sure you have the right amount of grid to support someone who wants to build solar panels on their home, for example.

Top News of the Week

Trimble introduced a significant advancement in high-accuracy, in-the-field mapping with its new Trimble VRS Now H-Star service. This service provides instant access to H-Star corrections throughout Germany, Great Britain, and the Madrid region of Spain. A subscription to the Trimble VRS Now H-Star service gives users working in utilities, local government, natural resources, and land management the ability to obtain real-time, decimeter level accurate positions consistently and directly at the job site. With instant access to H-Star corrections on demand, field workers can be more efficient and high-accuracy mapping projects can be up and running in minutes to
increase productivity.

Infoterra Ltd, sole distributor for ERDAS desktop software products in the UK and Ireland, is pleased to announce that Compass Informatics Ltd will be its reseller in Ireland from 1st August 2008.

Compass Informatics, based in County Dublin, provides a suite of integrated spatial & information management services focused primarily on environmental and natural resources management, location and planning applications.


Safe Software, leaders in spatial ETL and the makers of FME, together with WeoGeo, known for its marketplace and cloud computing expertise, announced that they have partnered to bring the powerful data transformation capabilities of FME technology to the cloud. This combined offering will make it easier than ever before for spatial data to be accessed when, where, and how it's needed.

eSpatial, a global enterprise geospatial software and technology company and Ação Informática, a leading Brazilian Distributor, announced the signing of an exclusive Reseller Agreement. Under the agreement, Ação Informática will act as master distributor for iSMART, eSpatial's leading GeoSpatial software suite for development of integrated, enterprise grade spatially enabled applications, throughout the Brazilian Marketplace and South America Region.


The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) has issued a Request for Quotes/Call for Participation (RFQ/CFP) for the OGC Web Services, Phase 6 (OWS-6) Interoperability Initiative, a testbed to advance OGC's open interoperability framework for geospatial capabilities. The RFQ/CFP will available at
http://www.opengeospatial.org/standards/requests/50 after 18:30 EDT, July 21.

The Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC) has held its biennial election and two new directors, Lisa Campbell and Dr. John C. Curlander, have been elected to the Board of Directors.

Lisa Campbell is vice president in charge of Autodesk’s Geospatial Solutions. In her role at Autodesk, she is responsible for the company’s vision and strategy for geospatial technologies and solutions serving the Utility, Telecommunications and Government markets. Dr. John C. Curlander is internationally recognized for his work in synthetic aperture radar (SAR) systems and data processing. His research led to many of the operational techniques currently used in today’s SAR processors.

The Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC) announced that PCI Geomatics has upgraded its membership level from Principal to Principal Plus. PCI Geomatics' decision to participate at this new level underscores its commitment to geospatial interoperability, the geospatial industry, and the OGC. PCI Geomatics (as PCI Remote Sensing) was one of the eight charter members of OGC at its founding in 1994.

The Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC) announced that on May 15 and 16, 2008, more than 40 researchers, members of the GEO (Group on Earth Observations) Secretariat and representatives of the European Commission met at the GEO offices in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss concepts, ongoing activities, and requirements for future progress in the domain of Sensor Webs (
http://www.opengeospatial.org/ogc/markets-technologies/swe). Organized by GEO Task DA-07-04 (Sensor Web Enablement), led by the Meraka Institute in South Africa and supported by the GEO Secretariat, the workshop was also supported and endorsed by: the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Pretoria, South Africa; the European Commission through the SANY and OSIRIS integrated projects; and the Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC).

Snowflake Software will be reporting on an innovative pilot project the company has been implementing with the UK Met Office during GeoWeb 2008. The pilot project was a response to the needs of the UK’s highways’ authorities to respond to continuously changing weather conditions on the roads. This is particularly important during the winter months, when awareness of possible adverse conditions is of utmost importance: not only to ensure the dispatch of gritting trucks and snow ploughs as needed; but also to ensure that they are not needlessly (and expensively) deployed if not required.

The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) is now accepting submissions for participation in the 5-year anniversary of the GEOINT Symposium. This call for papers invites entries on topics including emerging technologies, the geospatial intelligence tradecraft and industry perspectives. Details are available at

ERDAS Inc. has announced support for WorldView-1 satellite products in ERDAS IMAGINE and LPS. By supporting WorldView-1 imagery, ERDAS IMAGINE and LPS will empower ERDAS users such as GEOINT and military analysts, state and local governments, civil organizations, first responders and non-governmental organizations to transform the satellite information into timely, relevant and accurate geospatial intelligence.




ESRI Canada is pleased to announce that Jim Wickson has joined ESRI Canada in the newly established position of Vice President of Sales. Mr. Wickson will provide leadership and vision to the company’s sales organization in serving the rapidly growing enterprise GIS market. He will have the responsibility of overseeing the regional offices, as well as the sales support groups including; technology strategy, proposal support, business partner management and business development.

Peter Eredics, forest industry solutions manager at ESRI, brings a spatial technology perspective to the Forestry and Natural Resources/Environmental Management and Protection (FNR/ENVM) Advisory Council at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo, California. The university's natural resources management graduates are employed throughout the world in careers related to the protection and management of our forests and natural resources.

URISA is pleased to announce the results of its 2008 Board of Directors Election. Kathrine Cargo, GISP (New Orleans Parish Communications District) will become President-Elect of the association and Clare Brown, GISP, Michael Lovett, GISP and Karen Stewart, GISP will begin their three-year terms as members of the Board of Directors, at the close of URISA's 46th Annual Conference in New Orleans this October. See

New Products

Caliper Corporation is pleased to announce a detailed data product for Australia. These data allow the creation of maps down to local level areas for anywhere in Australia. This product is free with software orders shipped to Australia, or costs US$195 internationally.

The Australian Data Disk ships with a Map Library that makes it easy to quickly create attractive maps for any location. Also included is a single nationwide layer of the 300,000+ Australian mesh blocks, the smallest geographic area available, allowing you to effectively map population, households, and land use.

WhiteStar Corp. unveiled its Enhanced Unlimited Grid Access (UGA) mapping product, which supplements the Standard UGA map database by filling in land boundary gaps in the U.S. Public Land Survey. WhiteStar will offer new and renewed subscriptions to Enhanced UGA at the original Standard UGA rate until Sept. 30, 2008.

TDC Group, Inc. announced release of its Freeance AVL 2.0 for ArcGIS Server 9.3 software. Freeance AVL 2.0 allows organizations to rapidly create custom AVL applications for ArcGIS Server 9.3 using their existing GPS devices, wireless laptops or BlackBerry smartphones.

mobilePeople, a global leader in local mobile search and advertising solutions for directory publishers, announces its latest collaboration with Yell.com. The new application based on mobilePeople’s liquid MAPs+ product will significantly enhance Yell’s existing suite of free-to-use mobile products by providing map-based information which allows users to locate different businesses and services throughout the UK on their mobile devices.

A powerful, compact and affordable field controller – the FC-120 – has been unveiled by Topcon Positioning Systems (TPS). The FC-120 is available with TopSURV, Pocket Layout or Pocket 3D — Topcon's survey, layout and 3D site management software packages.

LizardTech, a division of Celartem, Inc. announced the release of Express Server 6.1 for distribution of massive geospatial image datasets via the Internet. Express Server 6.1 furthers interoperability with support for third party products including ESRI ArcGIS Server, ArcGIS Image Server, and Google Earth. In addition, Express Server 6.1 now supports NITF imagery and streaming JPEG 2000 (JPIP).

Around the Web

Where's the Data? GIS Helps Answer Enterprise Questions, Says NASCIO July 23, 2008, Government Technology

Date: August 2 - 5, 2008
Place: Marriott Hotel & Marina

San Diego, CA USA
Meet with members of the worldwide GIS education community during this one-of-a-kind forum. Hear from your peers about ways GIS technology enhances learning and provides solutions across disciplines and around campus. Explore how to use GIS software in your field, maximizing teaching, understanding, and managing with innovative applications.

Date: August 2 - 5, 2008
Place: San Diego Convention Center

San Diego , CA USA

Join more than 400 surveyors and engineers in exploring the possibilities of GIS technology. See how GIS software integrates with surveying and engineering tools to provide more complete business solutions and field processes. User presentations, access to ESRI experts, and a wide range of session topics are geared to meet the needs of all attendees, regardless of GIS experience.

Date: August 4 - 8, 2008
Place: San Diego Convention Center

San Diego, CA USA
Join us at the 2008 ESRI UC, where GIS users from industries worldwide come to discover solutions, share information, and learn best practices, tips, and tricks. Whatever your industry, position, or GIS experience, you will come away with ideas, insight, and inspiration to launch or grow your GIS projects. The ESRI UC brings together more than 14,000 professionals who work with or are interested in GIS solutions for their organizations or communities. Come see how ESRI technologies can help you meet your goals. We look forward to seeing you in San Diego.

Date: August 12 - 15, 2008
Place: Asilomar Conference Grounds

Monterey, CA USA
Be part of a community focused on conserving natural resources and cultural heritage with GIS. Join ESRI at the Society for Conservation GIS Annual Conference, where GIS users will gather to explore how geospatial technology is addressing contemporary issues facing conservation efforts at all levels. Discover solutions and share your ideas during this active, enriching forum that focuses on our changing world.

Sanborn LIDAR seminar series
Date: August 14, 2008
Place: Albany Marriot Airport

189 Wolf Road, Albany, NY 12205 USA
Please be our guest! Sanborn would like to invite you to our first annual LiDAR Seminar Series–featuring a brief introduction into the basics of LiDAR, it's latest technological developments, and a comprehensive overview on application trends. We will also be hosting a live software demo for customizable 3D and cross section viewing.

We are very excited and are confident your attendance will bring you nothing less than a valuable, informative experience. There is no charge to attend this event and a continental breakfast will be included. I would like to announce the location and time for the last two seminar events.

The seminar in Albany NY will take place on August the 14th from 8-11 AM

Date: August 19 - 22, 2008
Place: Las Vegas, NV USA
Start making plans now to join us next August at the exciting Venetian Hotel Resort Casino in Las Vegas. Join hundreds of Accela users and staff, government leaders, and special guests for an educational and fun-filled opportunity to connect with the people, products, and trends at the forefront of the government technology industry.

Date: August 19 - 21, 2008
Place: Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC)

Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia
The Asia and Pacific region is the largest developing region in the world in landmass, population and aggregate income. Its 48 countries have nearly three fifth of the worlds total population. Each country in the region abounds in rich natural capital and has comprehended the true potential of Geospatial information in leveraging this capital to its utmost economic viability.


You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

To read more news, click here.

-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.