In a recent article on their Infrastructure Reimagined online publication, Autodesk’s Infrastructure Technical Marketing Manager, John Sayre, talks about the recent Esri User Conference in San Diego. During his time at the conference, John learned how GIS can be used to make rich, detailed maps that can help city planners make decisions that affect their communities, allow utilities to keep the lights and communications on, help better visualize the impacts of the changing environment, and more.
Unfortunately, the process of utilizing GIS data for infrastructure projects isn’t always effective. As John noted in his article:
“Typically, in order to maintain an up-to-date record of an infrastructure asset, GIS specialists in a city’s public works department would need to work through field updates and as-built information about the precise locations and details of city buildings, roads, bridges, sewer systems and other infrastructure. At the same time, civil engineers need GIS data to establish a context model for the location of their project. How does the designer get the GIS data today? How do GIS professionals maintain their database? Not very efficiently.“
But that could be all about to change thanks in large part to the alliance between Autodesk and Esri , which has resulted in the release of the Autodesk® Connector for ArcGIS (Connector) – a solution that streamlines how GIS and design/engineering teams work together by creating and maintaining a single source of truth for infrastructure asset stakeholders, from planning and design through construction and maintenance.
Here are four ways that the Autodesk Connector for ArcGIS in Autodesk® InfraWorks® can help civil engineers and GIS specialists work more effectively together to bring better projects to their communities more efficiently from John’s article:
1. Coordinating GIS data requests
There’s no better place to start than at the beginning. When we start a new project, one of our first tasks is to put the site in context. We often walk the property with the owners to get the lay of the land. Where are the utilities? How will water, sanitary sewer, and stormwater be managed? As an engineer, I’d typically need to find the right data for my project, including put in a request to the GIS department of the municipality or utility. The GIS group would then compile the data, convert it from various data formats, and maybe even digitize it for us, or I might need to do this myself. Needless to say, chances are errors are introduced and valuable precision is lost through this process.
Well, that’s all changed with the Connector for ArcGIS. Using the Connector, I would simply establish a connection between the InfraWorks model and the GIS data in Esri’s ArcGIS Online. With this integration, I have a “live” connection to the geospatial data that I need to establish a real-world view of my project’s environment. I can populate my context model with rich GIS features like existing underground utilities, and FEMA Floodplain data. If there’s a sanitary sewer line, I can even learn everything you need to know about it in the attribute data.
The kicker – the Connector also saves me time – I just need permissions to the database to get access the GIS data. And, eliminating the need to convert data from different formats minimizes errors. Instead of waiting days or even weeks, I can get access to more accurate GIS data I want, when I need it.
2. Optimizing designs
So, I’ve got the data I need for my context model and I’m ready to get started on the design of my project. Making the right design decisions involves properly evaluating existing conditions like traffic flow and accident data, environmental sensitive areas, zoning restrictions, and other factors. It’s impossible to optimize designs for existing conditions when the picture is inaccurate or incomplete. Data format conversion processes and manual input can result in inaccurate data. Many times, as an engineer, I would receive data in form of maps or drawings that easily are out of date as they are not part of the live database. The Connector can help.
With the Connector, I can add GIS content directly from ArcGIS Online to my InfraWorks design model by selecting the feature layers I would like for the project area of interest. Bringing in the GIS data directly ensures that I am using the latest data to enrich other existing conditions information in my model. This also gives me more confidence that I am using data that is more accurate. Now, when I base my preliminary designs decisions on existing conditions that reflected up-to-date, real-time GIS data, I know I can make better decisions that help me improve the quality of my designs, reduce risk, and save time and money.
3. Coordinating data from field to office
Ok, so I’m working on design options and alternatives. As I do this, I might need to verify that assets in the field conform to the GIS data I have in my model. What if I find discrepancies? How can that GIS database be easily updated and how can that updated be reflected back in my model?
Fortunately, Esri has a tool called the Collector for ArcGIS. This tool helps designers and field technicians capture data in the field and return that to the GIS back at the office. The Collector automates the typically manual process of identifying, recording, and reporting the proper attributes of assets in the field, back to the office – this can often lead to lost time as a project needs to pause while the GIS data is being updated.
Well, with the integration of BIM and GIS through the Connector, updates that are captured in the field through the field app and updated in the ArcGIS Online database can be easily reflected in my InfraWorks model. Once I know the data has been updated in ArcGIS, all I need to do is refresh my view of my project in InfraWorks and the GIS data is updated in my design model.
4. Syncing GIS and design data as conditions change
Engineers often find themselves in a situation where they need to make updates to the existing conditions data based on what they encounter “on the ground”. For example, as I work on my design I might discover that the pipe showing in GIS is in a different location that what is on the ground.
With the Connector, as I iterate my project design and uncover these discrepancies, I can simply make updates to GIS features from within InfraWorks. I can then save these back to ArcGIS to update the database record without the need for time consuming, error-prone manual processes. So, I can get on with my work more quickly and I’ve also helped keep the GIS database in sync with the built environment, helping enable more efficient operations and maintenance down the road.
The Autodesk Connector for ArcGIS makes it possible to better connect GIS and design/engineering teams. The vision is to enable planners and designers to make better decisions on infrastructure assets that impact their communities and the lives of their citizens.
For additional Information about the marriage of GIS and BIM, click HERE to download the eBook, “BIM & GIS Integration: Transforming infrastructure planning, design, construction and operation.” For additional information on the Autodesk Connector for ArcGIS in InfraWorks, click HERE to access John’s full article on Infrastructure Reimagined, or click PLAY on the video below: