The State of CAD and GIS Integration

Two blog posts prompt me to revisit what at one time was my main work focus. First I saw a post from Tiana Warner at the Safe Software blog:

The top two spatial data formats people are translating are Esri Shape and Bentley MicroStation Design, according to FME usage statistics from 2013. Autodesk AutoCAD DWG/DXF isn’t far behind.

Then I saw a post from Gene Roe at LiDAR News. As Roe notes and I can verify, he was doing CAD and GIS integration way before ArcCAD and other solutions.

I have spent a large part of my career working on the integration of CAD and GIS and unfortunately not a lot as been accomplished. 

My sense is that those two statements reinforce one another. The limited progress on CAD and GIS integration that Gene observes may mean more people are seeking tools to move the from one format to another. I suspect that only a very small percentage of those who want/need/should integrate CAD and GIS tools and data are using one of the existing CAD/GIS solutions: AutoCAD Map 3D, Bentley Map, GeoMedia, etc. Perhaps industry focused solutions (electric, gas, parcel etc.) from Autodesk, Bentley and Hexagon have more users than these horizontal solutions. Esri has most recently pushed CAD integration into the free and strangely name ArcGIS for AutoCAD and details its strategy in this undated document

In the meantime, Esri has transformed its Survey Summit to an AEC Summit and an AEC Hackathon is inviting geospatial folks. That seems to be the extent of energy in this space. Why? Perhaps CAD/GIS integration is just not as important or as potentially money making as it once might have been. Perhaps those who need the two technologies and data formats to work together have found a viable solution. Perhaps energies are focused on new and exciting topics like 3D, BIM, geodesign and LiDAR.

While Roe is optimistic about future integration, I am not. There are too many legacy issues in the history of CAD and GIS that limited the elegance of past and current solutions. Perhaps when we reinvent either or both technologies from the ground up, there will be better integration. I just don't see that happening any time soon.

Published Monday, February 10th, 2014

Written by Adena Schutzberg

Published in

Esri Technology

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