GeoWorld October 2011

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BUILDINGTHEGEOWEB E The Battle Lines for City Models are Drawn sri's recent acquisition of Procedural Soft- ware, a 3-D city-model technology, says volumes about the coming battle between visual presentation and semantic models. Procedural is more than a visualization company, but it has made visualization the core of its offer- ing, and its value proposition clearly rests on impressive visual performance. Note that the 3-D data formats BY RON LAKE supported all are in the visual domain (e.g., Collada, .OBJ, etc.), while the inputs are Shapefiles and DXF. There's no commitment to intelligent models such as Industry Foundation Classes from Building Smart or CityGML from OGC. This places them in the opposite camp from the competition, including Autodesk (with BIM products such as Revit) and Bentley, which is stressing the development and management of intelligent infrastructure. Which approach will win? Differing Directions Will engineering, design and construction companies shift from Autodesk and Bentley products to Esri for the design of buildings, roadways and transit sys- tems? If not, will we see ever-growing and complex efforts to glue design tools (e.g., Bentley, Autodesk, etc.) to downstream Esri 3-D GIS? What will motivate this development? Will design companies capital- ize on their evident strength in the engineering and design side to fully and truly embrace collaboration and sharing that the Esri GIS represents? Esri has a dominant position globally in 2-D GIS. Ron Lake is president, Galdos Systems Inc.; e-mail: rlake@, blog: www. archives/category/ media-center/blog. 30 The word GIS, in fact, now is no more than code for Esri—a transparent code at that. How can the company grow? Esri has no choice but to enter the world of 3-D if it's to develop and protect its current position, especially in municipal environments. When talking of city models, however, it's not only about 3-D and certainly not only about 3-D visualization. City models imply a comprehensive character to maintained information—ultimately integrating everything that's known about a city (e.g., what exists now and what's planned for the future) and design as well as operations and management. GEO W ORLD / OCT O BE R 2O11 Is Market Share Enough? Esri will try to capitalize on its dominant position in 2-D GIS in the municipal environment. It will argue that it already controls most of the information, and it just needs to extend it into 3-D. This argument isn't without merit, but there's a lot of detail that's not captured in such GISs, especially with the extension to 3-D, in which every significant building is a "GIS" in itself. Will Esri be able to extend its existing municipal GIS offering? Note that while 2-D map presenta- tions and analysis (the core of Esri's strength in the marketplace) are hardly irrelevant in the city-model world, they're a long way from being the keys to a solid city-model platform—necessary, but far from sufficient. One thing that Esri understands (perhaps better than its competition) is the importance of aesthetics. Perhaps this is an outgrowth of its long experience in map making, but the company has shown the ability to always produce presentations (e.g., maps, graph- ics, user interfaces, etc.) that are nice to look at. Compare the ArcGIS Flex component, for example, with that of its competitors. Its functionality and usability clearly are the most attractive. Esri understands this appeal to customers and potential customers. The acquisition of Procedural is another step in this approach. Strengths vs. Weaknesses Where Esri has a weakness, however, is in creating the city model itself. So far, this has been seen as an after-the-fact process driven by conventional aer- ial photography, LIDAR, satellite images and street- level photography. For a "visual" city model that focuses primarily on visual planning, this is at least adequate. For a city model for the better engineering of a city, this falls remarkably short. It offers nothing in terms of collaboration among the players in the city's building, design and construction. It's also very hard to keep up to date. In a real city, things are designed and changed from one day to the next. This happens through a well-defined business process of "drawing" submission and approval. The information isn't mere Shapefiles or photo-textures—it's engineered build- ing structures, highways and transit stations. Here the design companies have an advantage— this already is the currency of their daily business. They just need to embrace the technologies for shar- ing and collaboration, and show the way forward to an enterprisewide information system for intelligent infrastructure: the intelligent city model of the future. The battle lines are drawn. The fight and ultimate outcome wait to be determined.

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