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City of Vancouver Discusses Integration of Multiple GIS Solutions for 3D, Data Management Projects

Thursday, June 14th 2012
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Summary:

The city of Vancouver uses several geospatial software solutions to manage its infrastructure: Oracle Spatial for data management; Autodesk software for 3D modeling and visualization applications; Pitney Bowes Software’s MapInfo Professional for analysis in urban planning projects. We asked the city’s GIS manager, Jonathan Mark, and graphics planner, Dan Campbell, to give us more information about the integration of these solutions.

Directions Magazine(DM): The city of Vancouver uses Oracle Spatial to store its data. Was it a strategic decision from the outset to use Oracle Spatial? What different options do government users have if they are considering implementation of an Autodesk/PBS solution?

Jonathan Mark and Dan Campbell (JM/DC):The city’s decision to implement Oracle Spatial was made in the context of a migration from the VISION* GIS platform to Autodesk Map and Oracle Spatial.  This 2002 decision and subsequent implantation in 2002-2004 was clearly a strategic decision to facilitate a more open environment that focused on the management of the city’s data and access to it.

Both Pitney Bowes Software (PBS) MapInfo Professional and Autodesk products work well with Oracle Spatial and Oracle Locator and they both utilize Oracle functionality.  They can also make use of databases such as SQL Server and PostgreSQL (Postgres), however the city has no experience with them.  AutoCAD Map 3D also includes industry models and related functionality for Oracle and SQL Server that enable users to apply regional and discipline-specific standards for industries such as water, wastewater, electric and gas.

DM: The city of Vancouver hopes the PBS/Autodesk partnership will help decrease the number of datasets it currently manages and stores. How would that work?

JM/DC:While Oracle Spatial plays a pivotal role in storing the city of Vancouver’s data, it is not necessarily the best solution for all situations. For the city’s casual MapInfo users, the simplicity of file-based data sharing ensures straightforward workflows and minimizes the need for support. The city would like to see the ability move a file, without translation, between PBS and Autodesk applications. Equally important is thinking of datasets as being more than just geometry and attributes. Regardless of how one connects to the data, be it through an FDO or Oracle Spatial connection, or through files, it would be desirable to have support for fonts, colors, fills and especially symbols, to ensure fidelity and consistency.

DM: One of the benefits the city of Vancouver looks forward to involves the two companies focusing on their product strengths as opposed to trying to squeeze every possible feature from both sets of products. What would you like to see from the two companies to facilitate this solution?

JM/DC:City of Vancouver staff who are familiar with products from both PBS and Autodesk now intuitively choose the tool that will best meet a specific challenge. Sometimes that will be from PBS, sometimes from Autodesk. Often the task is most efficiently completed taking advantage of the strengths of each. The product users are a really strong resource for the companies to take advantage of. They can provide clear direction to the companies by letting them know what the relative strengths and weaknesses of the products are, and the role they play in their specific workflows.

While both companies will likely always need to provide Swiss Army knife functionality in their respective products, we hope that cooperation will lead both PBS and Autodesk to also develop focused, precision scalpels.
                                              

DM: Building information modeling (BIM) is a key aspect of Vancouver’s data development. What is your vision for BIM and the integration with geospatial technology? What “lessons learned” to this point would you advise other cities to consider?

JM/DC:The city believes that BIM is an important direction moving forward and that it is consistent with the data and information-based directions we have pursued for years (with Oracle Spatial and other products).  That said, it is only a direction at this point, as staff are still learning about BIM and determining the details of moving forward.  Conceptually, just as the city has moved to integrate the design and GIS areas, we want to bring BIM into the fold so that we have a continuous workflow, from concept to as-built, that makes sense.  Although we are still in the conceptualization phase, a lesson learned thus far is that an organization does not “get into BIM” overnight; it takes learning, planning, and time to do so effectively.

DM: How do you envision this partnership solution, utilizing multiple vendors, will lower costs for your city?

JM/DC: It is our hope that the partnership will bring improved workflows (within and between best of breed products) and perhaps the need for less software.  These would result in lower implementation and operational costs but they would be more indirect.

Ed. note: A recent webinar featuring Mark and Campbell covered some of these same topics. 


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