The excitement in starting Vector1 Media for me has to do with the move from technology-centric to process-centric. Process is manifested in projects, and rather than a focus on the role of a specific technology within a project, it’s more about a convergence of technologies that help the project become more efficient and better managed.
As GIS has matured, it has been applied with increasing success in large infrastructure construction projects. Engineering firms that successfully implement a marriage of GIS and CAD tools to manage projects have seen great returns. Parsons Brinkerhoff and CH2MHill are two of the large firms that have illustrated stunning results from this approach, and more large firms are joining them.
The true benefits are realized when the system that is developed for a construction or redevelopment project becomes integral with all phases of the process. It’s set up as a foundation before any work is done, and ingests all drawings and data from any activities that impact the reality of a site.
To start the process, the GIS and geodatabase becomes the repository for myriad data observations about a site (topology, cadastral, demographics, imagery, survey data, etc.). All inputs are added and managed within the geodatabase.
The analysis of environmental impact and other site-preparation work become a part of the system before anything is built. This sets the tone for a collaborative system where everyone works from the same system and feeds their analysis and input into the view that is seen by all stakeholders.
A geodetic control network for the site ensures that data accuracy is meticulously controlled. The site benefits from an always-on network that can feed surveying and GPS-controlled earthmoving equipment for Real Time Kinematic (RTK) accuracy to augment the satellite-based GPS signal.
The geodatabase ingests CAD drawings at all stages of development. A common ground coordinate system is established along with the precise positioning so that all drawing are accurately positioned and easily integrated into the GIS regardless of CAD file format.
The efficiency of this system means that there is far less waste in the construction process, leading to an inherently green outcome. The amount of data captured and controlled is a leave-behind after the project is completed for ease of maintenance far into the future.
The quantitative and analytical character of GIS makes the design of new plans much more explicit. GIS is used to explore the spatial structure of a region, to simulate scenarions, to design alternatives and to communicate ideas with other participants in the planning process. GIS can be used at all steps of the process for evaluation of planning alternatives and monitoring of policies.
Without GIS in the mix, it becomes far harder to evaluate the socio-economic and environmental impacts of a project that are necessary for the sustainable development approach. I see the modeling, management and analysis of spatial information in a geodatabase as critical to achieving the whole concept of sustainable development.