Autodesk Moves into GeoDesign; Enhances Utility Design Offering

In a webinar for the press today Autodesk showed off two new products: Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler 2012 (AIM) and AutoCAD Utility Design 2012. I'm going to focus on the former since it's more broadly relevant to GIS users than the more industry specific Utility Design offering. Per the press release:

Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler 2012 is a conceptual design software solution for infrastructure that helps industry professionals quickly develop convincing project proposals for faster stakeholder buy-in and more confident decision making. Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler helps users to create models that represent the natural and built environment; evaluate multiple conceptual designs for projects all in one model; and communicate visually rich proposals to stakeholders.
If that's a bit much, let's try this: it's a tool for professionals to whip up visuzliations based on real models and show them to clients and the public. The presentation started off with "what if you could model a whole city in an hour" which of course was ludicrous unless you already had the various datasets and models. And, that's really the point of this tool. It can "pull in" all the data, models etc. and visualize them, examine, evaluate and tweek them with client or public input. That said, a pro seems to need to "drive" the software and sketching, but the visuals are quiet interpretable by citizens. The magic of data access is provided by Autodesk's feature data object technology (FDO) and the products data storage is via SQLite. Despite the insistence on all the data types that could be used, the only ones listed were from Autodesk. There are FDOs to access to other formats (there's a list in this FAQ (pdf)), but not to my knowledge, geodatabses...yet.
The other side of the coin, that is the sketched, tweeked and updated designs made in AIM can be output back the appropriate design or analysis tool: AutoCAD Map, Civil 3D, Revit, NavisWorks and other Autodesk platforms. I guess that's also done via FDO. That confirms the role of this tool for sketching and visualization; those other products continue to do the "heavy lifting."
Whie Autodesk's presenters did not use the term "geodesign," that is what kept going through my mind during the demo. Many of the ideas (like features that have "time knowledge" and appear or disappear based on their demolition date) have popped up in geodesign discussions I've attended. The selling point seems to be that single tool can redefine how evaluation is currently done. One quote noted the time frame to develop a plan shrunk from two weeks to two hours.
"AutoCAD Utility Design software is a model-based design solution for electric utility distribution networks that combines design and documentation with standards-driven workflows and analysis." To me the demo looked like all the other "ruled based" design apps I've seen over the years. It comes with I think they said 300 rules, but they are customizeable. I'm sure that's something utility designers appreciate.
Both products are available now (pricing was not discussed and is not immediately available on the Web) and are part of the Autodesk Building Information Modeling (BIM) for Infrastructure portfolio. They complement the Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite 2012. I'm not sure anymore what those portfolios and suites are, but the names of these products and the suites and portfolios suggest Autodesk's focus on traditional GIS continues to weaken. Or, said another way, GIS is "in there" via AutoCAD Map and that's sufficient.

Published Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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