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October 13, 2008
Digital Cities: Where Geospatial and Building Information Modeling Converge
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!

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Industry News

Digital Cities: Where Geospatial and Building Information Modeling Converge

By Susan Smith

Salzburg, Austria, is the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the setting for parts of the musical and film, “The Sound of Music,” starring Julie Andrews. It is also world famous for its "Old Town" which boasts exquisite baroque architecture and is noted as one of the best-preserved city centers north of the Alps, and was listed in 1997 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A city that takes obvious pride in preserving its inherent culture, beauty and history, Salzburg was chosen this summer to work with Autodesk as the first pilot city in its new Digital Cities initiative.

Salzburg will use Autodesk to help them integrate their city data into a detailed 3D model of their city. The model will be comprised of city data coupled with realistic visualization and simulation tools so that city planners can view, and work with the cityscape interactively, plus run analysis of the impact of future urban planning, the effects of economic development and tourism projects before beginning the building process.

“The digital city model will help cities like ours better understand the impact of proposed urban projects,” said Dr. Heinz Schaden, Mayor of the City of Salzburg, when he announced the initiative with Autodesk at the AGIT 2008 conference in Salzburg. “This type of pilot program will help us better understand how we can create an attractive and sustainable future for Salzburg and its people.”

In August, Autodesk announced its acquisition of almost all of the assets of 3D Geo GmbH of Potsdam, Germany, the privately held maker of intelligent 3D urban modeling software. This acquisition will extend Autodesk’s ability to offer software for their “Digital Cities Initiative.”

Doug Eberhard, senior director and industry evangelist for Autodesk, explained that 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.

The variety of software tools that the Digital Cities initiative will include is broad. Particularly in the government space, Eberhard noted, they have a heavy investment in many different tools, data types and processes. “The last thing we want to do is create a new standard,” he said. “This is really about working with existing tools and content in the planning, design and even through asset management space, and creating a better environment to really bring (data) together and use it in a more engaging and interactive way, beyond what we’re getting with Google Earth and Virtual Earth today.” Eberhard is quick to point out that those are “great
tools,” as they have helped to democratize visualization, communication and access to information but they are sort of a “one way publishing environment.”

“They are great for things above ground, but what about infrastructure that’s below ground? Or what about the insides of buildings where we may not need to see doorknobs and the light switch covers, but where we do need more information about building interior spaces or building land use, and then we need to be able to bring in more of the details that are being created by architects and engineers in the design process.”

Much of that information gets thrown out or flattened in the form of CAD files or basic GIS once it gets brought into a more of an enterprise environment, said Eberhard. Even within Autodesk, Eberhard noted that AutoCAD is used as a pervasive standard. Tools like Revit and NavisWorks are leveraging the use of 3D models and intelligent BIM within the design construction. Yet the deliverables that come from those models are still traditional CAD drawings.

“It’s still wet stamped paper drawings that are the contractual deliverables for the industry today,” Eberhard declared. “The models are sort of a means to get to that paper quicker and with less risk. We’re starting to see customers who recognize the value that these building information models have for design visualization models which are exact replicas of visual replicas of the existing or proposed environment.”

Visualization tools like 3ds Max and Maya don’t deal with real world or geospatial coordinates, but are great for visualization. The Digital Cities platform allows heterogeneous 2D, 3D and 4D temporal data to be brought together in a more sustainable way, “not for just an individual project the way it’s done today but longer term throughout an entire city or collection of cities, as you get into more regional information models.”

The potential for being able to share data throughout the workflow is there, but will people embrace an ‘uber model’, or will they prefer to maintain they own databases and only share them when they are paid to do so?

Salzburg is the first city Autodesk can officially announce, where PhD students at the University of Salzburg’s Center of Geoinformation (Z_GIS) are working on pulling together the data that they’ve been capturing for quite some time. They are also teaching and researching ways to work with higher detailed, higher fidelity information models that can be used in city planning and operations. Autodesk is also working with the city IT, facility management, planning and public works departments, where they are helping to guide the development of specific tools and workflows to allow them to better manage their city. The goal is to bring content together and also share that
content between the various departments, which would eliminate the replication of effort and information that occurs in cities today.

“In this case everyone’s looking toward this highly detailed city model that’s a mixture of CAD, GIS and BIM and visualization data that can be brought together and shared across the city enterprise,” said Eberhard. “Being tied in with the local university helps us look at the longer term issue of educating tomorrow’s leaders. We look at gaming technology to bring it all together to help users experience it.”

Eberhard said that as they look toward longer term management of the data, many cities and infrastructure owners have moved over to Topobase as a way to manage their geospatial engineering data that goes into designing and operating the infrastructure.

“The next logical evolution is to be able to manage these 3D assets in the same sort of way where the Digital Cities initiative isn’t going to be the database. Engineering and design information says where it’s created, and that will still happen in Topobase with Revit, Map, and AutoCAD,” Eberhard pointed out. “But the initiative will provide the environment to be able to aggregate that into useable models that can be used for collaboration and communication both with internal teams as well as with the public and other agencies and stakeholders. It’s really building a new platform out that allows all this data that’s being created or managed
in other applications to then be brought together, shared and visualized in a secure but highly interactive way.”

Eberhard said this is a shift not only from 2D to 3D but more importantly to a model based design environment. Usually analysis is done at the end of a project instead of up front. Now, with the ability to bring data together in the early planning stages, effective analysis can be done that informs decision making much earlier in the process.

“If you look at some large public works and infrastructure projects, it takes 20-30 years to build out a major transit system because you’ve got to plan the right-of-way and do early environmental studies, then you’ve got to purchase the right-of-way before you can even let the contracts to do the detailed design,” explained Eberhard. “A lot of that is tied to public or federal funding of the projects, so by being able to bring this rich information together in a more accurate, engaging and sharable way up front, we predict it will help shorten the delivery cycle, while bringing the broader constituency into the process.”

With the city of Salzburg, Autodesk has created the ability for users in a Revit environment to bring that Revit model directly into the Digital City form. “While you look at the MEP and structural systems and all the details – some Revit models are just huge and there’s way more information than you would ever need for a planning exercise or to show a proposed building from within a modeled environment,” said Eberhard. “Part of this is looking to the BIM community in Revit and Civil 3D to see how those models are being developed and organized, and developing the right functionality that allows those models to be brought in without having to translate
them. You also need to be able to filter out the information that would be useful to a city planner or a mechanical engineer, for example. The goal is to create interoperability with those tools but without impacting the core of the business. Therefore, if you want to add a couple of floors to a building – the question is do you do that in the Digital City environment or do you go back into Revit and add those floors?”

The AIA and the design profession as a whole are looking at how to include BIMs as a deliverable, and the language to articulate the contractual liability around the model, issues about ownership of the model, and intellectual property.

Although a client pays for a building, they don’t pay for a digital model of the building, even though that’s part of the process. The Digital Cities environment presents a lot of the same challenges and opportunities to help shape the way the industry works together. “Inevitably it’s going to come down to owners and cities having to mandate at some point, this is the CAD format, these are the layers and standards I want,” said Eberhard.

“The kinds of models cities need for urban planning, emergency response and asset maintenance management are going to be different than the models used in design and construction, class detection, and the quantity take off phase. We’re trying to encompass the broadest community of users of this Digital City ecosystem that involves everyone including the public, the people who use these facilities and pay the taxes to build them.”

Eberhard said Autodesk is working with a number of different cities that already have parts of their city models built out on a variety of platforms. “We’re trying to reveal that there’s already a digital cities marketplace out there today, we just don’t look at it that way,” he said. “Lots of people who build models on the AEC and BIM side, are driving the conversation into the geospatial world. People want to know how to pull models into tools they’re using. We have to talk within industries and industry groups on how they manage their models so they can be shared quickly and efficiently.”

Top News of the Week

A team of expert GIS developers from Belgium have released Geomajas Version 1.3.0. Geomajas is an open source web-based, thin client GIS software with editing capabilities, and support for complex relation models in the browser. The software has an open architecture enabling easy sharing, integrating and updating of GIS data on multiple servers. It can be used either to build web-mapping systems of the kind popularized by Google Maps, or to build total GIS solutions for the analysis and editing of geographic data or to add geographic data capability to web applications. Geomajas 1.3.0 can be downloaded for

Tiltan Systems Engineering is pleased to announce the release of
TLiD-R2 – a second generation of TLiD - Automatic LiDAR data processing product. The main improvements of release 2 are shorter processing speed, power line classification and vectoring capability, building vector improvements and manual vector editing capabilities.

NAVTEQ, a leading global provider of digital map data for location-based solutions and vehicle navigation, announces the development of a new Map and Positioning Engine (MPE) strategy. With this development, map-enhanced Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) can be available to all vehicles, even in cars without an installed navigation system or navigable map. Behind this strategy is NAVTEQ's new MPE reference solution, which accelerates the development of ADAS applications embedded directly in a vehicle's electronic control unit, often referred to as the Controller Area Network (CAN) bus, or electronic sensor.


Infoterra Ltd, a leader in the provision of geospatial products and services, is pleased to announce the acquisition of Imass Ltd, a provider of integrated information solutions for the UK public safety, manufacturing design and utility markets.

Infoterra Ltd and Imass Ltd (headquartered in Newcastle and employing a workforce of 136) will work together as part of the Infoterra Group, within the Earth Observation Division of Astrium Services. Eric Beranger, CEO of Astrium Services, said: "This purchase reaffirms Astrium's continued investment and commitment to strengthen its geo-information services capability."

Blue Marble Geographics and Quarry One Eleven, located in the United Kingdom, have joined forces to promote Blue Marble’s highly accurate and reliable GIS data conversion solutions in Great Britain. Blue Marble’s geospatial data manipulation and conversion solutions are used by thousands of GIS analysts at software companies, universities, oil and gas companies, civil engineering, surveying, technology, enterprise GIS groups, government and military organizations. Quarry One Eleven is dedicated to selling, marketing and publicizing geospatial products in the UK and European marketplaces, as well as the Middle East.


Most glaciers in every mountain range and island group in Alaska are experiencing significant retreat, thinning or stagnation, especially glaciers at lower elevations, according to a new book published by the U.S. Geological Survey. In places, these changes began as early as the middle of the 18th century.

Although more than 99 percent of Alaska's large glaciers are retreating, a handful, surprisingly, are advancing.

The Glaciers of Alaska, authored by USGS research geologist Bruce Molnia, represents a comprehensive overview of the state of the glaciers of Alaska at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century. Richard Williams Jr., an emeritus senior research glaciologist with the USGS, said the 550-page volume will serve as a major reference work for glaciologists studying glaciers in Alaska in the years and decades to come.

NAVTEQ, a provider of digital map data for location-based solutions and vehicle navigation, announced that Samsung, a leading mobile phone and telecommunications equipment provider, will be a Global Sponsor of the 2009 NAVTEQ Global LBS Challenge. This marks Samsung's first time as a sponsor of the NAVTEQ Global LBS Challenge.

Leading government officials and geographic information system (GIS) experts from across the country will be attending the 2008 ESRI Homeland Security GIS Summit to discuss the latest developments in protecting the homeland. Representatives from local, state, and federal agencies, as well as utilities, high-technology companies, and other businesses are encouraged to attend the largest geospatial conference of its kind. The fourth annual conference will take place October 20–23 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Aéro Photo Europe Investigation (A.P.E.I.), the largest and oldest private aerial survey company in France, has acquired a complete Intergraph Z/I Imaging Digital Mapping Camera (DMC) airborne and ground processing system. This implementation marks the first DMC system to be used in France.

New Products

ERDAS announces ERDAS IMAGINE 9.3, the next release of the industry’s leading and most complete collection of software tools designed to manipulate, process and understand imagery and vector data.

ERDAS IMAGINE Professional 9.3 includes joint licensing with ERDAS ER Mapper 7.2, providing both products when either is purchased. This change in licensing allows the ERDAS IMAGINE community to use both solutions simultaneously, easily integrating geospatial information into any organization’s business processes.

ERDAS Inc. announces the debut of its suite of fully connected Geospatial Business Systems. ERDAS Software 2009 includes new and updated versions of ERDAS’ products to author, manage, connect and deliver geospatial information. These solutions facilitate businesses in capitalizing on the geospatial information value chain used to build applications for understanding our changing Earth.

WeatherBug, provider of live, local weather information services, announced the release of WeatherBug Professional StreamerRT for the energy market. With enhanced GIS mapping capabilities, StreamerRT is an enhanced web-based platform which enables energy traders greater customization and improved visualization to quickly analyze existing and potential weather conditions that will likely impact electricity and gas price markets.

Around the Web

Eonfusion: The next generation of geospatial software, by Chris Mazone, Environmental Expert.com

911 fund continues to build, by Brian J. Reed, October 4, 2008, The Daily Sentinel.

Al Ain street signage enters new phase, By Aftab Kazmi, Bureau Chief, October 5, 2008, Gulf News.com


Date: October 14 - 15, 2008
Place: The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay,

San Francisco, CA USA

This event will focus presentations and panels on the Americas region while learning from the experiences elsewhere. An exclusive C-level delegate list drawn from operators, navigation hardware and software, channel organizations, content and advertising companies, financial analysts and press will gain invaluable insight into the future of this sector in the region. Coupled with this will be excellent opportunities to network with existing or future business partners, including the Canalys Navigation Golf Challenge tournament to be held on the exceptional Half Moon Bay course.
Date: October 15 - 17, 2008
Place: Cologne, Germany
GLOBALGAP (formerly known as EUREPGAP) has established itself as a key reference for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in the global market-place, by translating consumer requirements into agricultural production in a rapidly growing list of countries.
Date: October 19 - 23, 2008
Place: Hyatt Grand Champions Resort

44-600 Indian Wells Lane, Indian Wells, CA USA
GIS users in the electric and gas community are encouraged to attend the 2008 ESRI EGUG Conference. This gathering is your opportunity to learn how GIS innovation is helping utilities worldwide address today’s trends and challenges. Explore best practices, discover new applications, access valuable user support, and find out how you can transform knowledge into results in your utility. Whatever your type of business, position, or GIS experience, this event helps
you connect with your colleagues and ESRI staff in an environment dedicated to your most pressing needs.
Date: October 20, 2008
Place: Tavern On the Green Central Park at West 67th Street


If you are an existing MapInfo Professional customer or a GIS specialist, you will not want to miss the overview session on MapInfo Professional version 9.5. Take a detailed view of the new capabilities and functions now available to you. See live demos of the new features such as CAD-like tools, .NET programmability, support for SQL Server 2008, a sneak peak at vector translucency and much more.
Then join the Pitney Bowes MapInfo Product Management team for a session where you will have the opportunity to provide personal and direct input on future product enhancements.
Date: October 20 - 23, 2008
Place: Scottsdale Plaza Resort

Scottsdale, AZ USA

The 2008 Homeland Security GIS Summit, the only geospatial conference dedicated to homeland security. Explore the geographic advantage for your agency and see firsthand how GIS technology facilitates communication among federal, state, local, and private sectors. Join us and learn more about transforming data and information into action.
Date: October 20, 2008
Place: Tavern On the Green, Central Park at West 67th Street

New York, NY USA

If you are an existing MapInfo Professional customer or a GIS specialist, you will not want to miss the overview session on MapInfo Professional version 9.5. Take a detailed view of the new capabilities and functions now available to you. See live demos of the new features such as CAD tools, .NET programmability, support for SQL Server 2008, a sneak peak at vector translucency and much more.

Date: October 22 - 24, 2008
Place: Hilton Garden Inn & Univ. of Wyoming Conference Center

Laramie, WY USA

SWUG consists of users of ESRI software products from federal, state, local governments, as well as the private sector. No other regional conference brings together so many GIS users from such a wide range of GIS specialties.


Date: October 27 - 30, 2008
Place: Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

Nashville, TN USA
The annual GEOINT Symposium, hosted by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), is the Nation’s Premier Intelligence Event. Each year, more than 2,500 attendees visit GEOINT to discover cutting-edge geospatial intelligence technologies, converse with top leaders in the intelligence community, learn from academia, and network with government, industry, academic, and military leaders.
Date: October 28 - 30, 2008
Place: Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre

London, England, United Kingdom
Join us in the United Kingdom for a conference that will reflect ESRI’s vision for the future, where GIS solutions will play an increasingly vital role. Explore how GIS is impacting our everyday lives and connect with other professionals from an array of industries including conservation, education, health care, and public works. Be part of this exciting ESRI event and take away useful ideas, tools, and approaches for your line of work.
Date: October 31 - November 1, 2008
Place: Wrest Point Hotel

Hobart, TASMANIA, Australia

The International Map Trade Association (IMTA) represents the commercial interests of the global mapping and spatial information industry.
Date: November 5 - 7, 2008
Place: Irvine, CA USA

The ACM SIGSPATIAL International Conference on Advances in Geographic Information Systems 2008 (ACM GIS 2008) is the sixteenth event of a series of symposia and workshops that began in 1993 with the aim of bringing together researchers, developers, users, and practitioners carrying out research and development in novel systems based on geo-spatial data and knowledge, and fostering interdisciplinary discussions and research in all aspects of geographic information systems. The conference provides a forum for original research contributions covering all conceptual, design, and implementation aspects of GIS ranging from applications, user interface considerations, and visualization down to
storage management and indexing issues.
Date: November 11 - 13, 2008
Place: Hotel Okura Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The International Association of Airport Executives (IAAE) are pleased to present the Third Annual International Airport Geographic Information Systems Conference, November 11-13, 2008 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Following the first two successful conferences in 2006 and 2007, which drew more than 130 attendees from 25 countries, the third conference promises to be an educational experience you will not want to miss! By attending this unique conference, which has been lengthened by a half-day and includes additional general sessions and an extra luncheon, you will learn from European, American, African and Asian airports how and why GIS is being used at large and small airports, as
well as the ways in which GIS has made airports safer and more efficient. Airports from all corners of the world, new to GIS or experienced with GIS implementation, are welcome to participate!
Date: November 13 - 14, 2008
Place: Classroom Resource Group Learning Center

One Glenlake Parkway, Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30328 USA

This hands-on workshop focuses on teaching the fundamentals of using a Geographic Information System (GIS) for community analysis. Participants will learn to create thematic maps with
Census data, Geocoding (Address mapping) and Spatial Queries. Other features of the workshop are learning to extract Census data and good map layout and design.

You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

To read more news, click here.

-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.