Monday
Dec052011

The Map Goes Inside the Building

You have probably seen one of the hundreds of online stories related to the new capability of Google Maps 6.0 for Android to show floor plans for the insides of buildings.  Finally!

I mean, think about it.  Our buildings represent our largest investments - larger than all the stock and bond markets in the world combined.  Faciliites costs are the second largest expense for most organizations right behind personnel costs.  We spend 85% of our time inside buildings.  If the purpose of maps is to describe the things in the world that are most important to us and our relationship to them, then it is pretty obvious to me that our maps should include the insides of our buildings.  And from now on it is pretty clear that they will.

The initial capabilities of Google Maps 6.0 for Android are pretty limited, and the data more so.  There are very few launch partners, so the liklihood that you will find this all that useful immediately are not all that great.  But when Street View first launched it was pretty limited as well.  Today, most of the planet has street view data available for it.

There are still a lot of questions.  How about security for example?  What kinds of information are appropriate to show on floor plans and what are not?  How good will the navigation be?  How about all those places where there are just not very good floor plans available?  How will we establish a consistent cartography for building interiors?

What is certain is that we will now expect our maps to follow us inside buildings and that is a very good thing in my opinion.

 

Tuesday
Jul052011

Standards for the Built Environment

Recently, one of our international partners asked for some advice about which standards might be appropriate for one of their upcoming projects.  The question of standards related to the built environment can be a confusing one, so I tried to summarize my sense of the most important standards below.

The selection and use of appropriate standards can be an interesting debate.  There are lots of standards out there, some competing – some complimentary.  The selection of the appropriate standard usually depends on the type of organization your customer is and the type of problem they are managing.  A list of some of the more common standards would include: 

Building Information Modeling (BIM) Data Exchange Standards – There is really only one dominant standard here and that it the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) standard being developed by the BuildingSMART Alliance.  This is intended to be a data interchange standard that allows for BIM information to be exchanged between different BIM software providers.  While elegant in theory, the concept suffers from inconsistent implementation by the various software vendors.  There is a LOT of disinformation floating around about IFC and what it is really capable of. 

Space Measurement Standards – These standards describe how individual floor spaces will be measured for space use reporting and space accounting needs.  The leading standards here are BOMA and IFMA.  There are a number of differences between the standards describing details like whether spaces are measured to the centerline or surface of walls and to the window glazing in some circumstances. 

Space Use Classification Standards – These standards describe the different types of space use that will be recognized by an organization for space accounting and reporting needs.  The most common standards here are OSCRE and OmniClass although in practice many organizations make up their own lists of space use types. 

Building Systems Information Standards – Another type of standard describes the systems and building components that will require ongoing maintenance within a building.  This is particularly helpful when transitioning a building from Design and Construction to Operations and Maintenance.  The COBIE standard is focused on this problem space.

It is important to point out that other than BIM, none of the other standards have the ability to describe geometry other than by reference.  Therefore, GIS should be viewed as complimentary to all of the approaches listed above that attempt to standardize the way information about buildings is passed between the various interested parties related to the built environment.  GIS really serves to collate and aggregate all available information related to place in the built environment just as it does in the natural environment.  And unlike CAD or BIM, it can do this in a real-world coordinate space which means that you can visualize and analyze the built environment in a global to hyper-local geographical context.

 

Saturday
Mar262011

What is Your Innovation Strategy?

I attended the Esri Partner Conference and Developer Summit a couple of weeks ago in Palm Springs, CA.  This conference is always one of my favorite conferences of the year - and not just because it is great to leave Maine for Palm Springs in March.  It is a conference with great energy, significant international participation, and provides us as partners a reasonably in-depth look at Esri's road map for the coming year.

The Times They are a Changing

As you might expect, the road map has a number of interesting twists and turns.  Esri's cloud strategy is maturing significantly.  Web deployment architectures are becoming more nimble and more scalable.  There will be a significant focus on GIS-enabling mobile devices.  And across the entire technology suite Esri is working hard to make their GIS platform easier to use, easier to manage, and easier to deploy.  One small example of this is the growing importance of the Esri Resource Center where many different templates are available for download.  These templates are designed to get customers up and running and realising value from their investment very quickly.  Taken together, there is a significant amount of change coming our way in the next 18 months or so and many of the changes will enable us to create new applications, new delivery models, and new business models that incorporate GIS.  As I left California my mind was reeling with all of the new and varied tools that we will have available to us to build compelling solutions for our customers.

Change can also be perceived as a bad thing of course.  For some partners the coming changes will threaten their established business models.  I overheard one partner complaining to an Esri staffer that the templates in the resource center were going to "put them out of business".  I was pretty amazed at that perspective and that conversation has me thinking a lot about innovation.

Lets face it, change is an integral part of our life experience.  The universe is in a constant state of change.  As technology professionals, we live in a world where the pace of that change is increasing at an exponential rather than a constant rate.  (Ray Kurzweil has written some interesting stuff on this concept if you are interested in further reading.)  Charles Darwin is quoted as saying "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."  Unlike the world of biology, however, where change happens through random genetic mutation, as humans we have the ability to proactively design our response to change through innovation.  In the world of technology innovation is not an option, it is a necessity.  Jack Matson's mantra of "Innovate or Die" is truer now than ever.

Innovation is a personal responsibility too

At PenBay, we are thinking hard about innovation.  How do we take advantage of Esri's new capabilities in our product strategy?  How to we incorporate the cloud into our offerings?  How do we address the highly fragmented mobile marketplace?  How do we create a global strategy that embraces partners in other parts of the world?  How do we lighten our implementation patterns and shorten our development cycles so that we can quickly adjust to changes in market demand and technology platform?  What kinds of new skills do we need to be growing within our existing team or acquiring in from outside?  How do we alter our partner fabric to help us address some of these questions?  Most importantly, how do we create a culture that values creativity and encourages new ideas?

Innovation is not only important at the organizational level of course.  It is important that you have a personal innovation strategy as well.  Those of us old enough to remember Y2K will recall that there was a great scarcity of COBOL programmers in the late 1990's as the industry struggled to patch up all the various systems that had been written using two digit year notations. How COBOL developers felt in 2001 When January 1st 2000 dawned and the world was still alive, suddenly the need for COBOL developers vanished almost over night.  Those developers who had a very narrowly COBOL skill set had a very difficult time until they acquired other skills.  Today there is a great need for GIS developers with experience in modern web development frameworks such as FLEX or SilverLight.  The emerging skill gap is for GIS developers with skills and experience on the various mobile platforms including Android, RIM, Windows Phone, and that other fruity one whose name I can't remember.

Because of the accelerating rate of change in technology companies that innovate well will flourish.  Those that do not will suffer any may die.  The same is true of individuals who are technology professionals.  So...  what is YOUR innovation strategy?


 

Monday
Aug302010

GIS for Facility Management - Uses of GIS in Facility Management

We have been honored to be asked by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) to write a white paper entitled "GIS for Facility Management". This is the third chapter in the series.   A full copy of the paper can be downloaded from the IFMA web site.  We would like to thank Manhattan Software and ESRI for their support of the white paper.

 GIS for Facility Management - Chapter 4

For years, facility managers have been using GIS at the landscape level to manage a number of the assets in their facility portfolio. Some of the earliest applications of GIS in facility management were related to pavement management at airports, municipal water and wastewater infrastructure, and electric utility distribution. For example, facility managers of the US Air Force have developed a standardized set of GIS layers to support the management of Air Force bases.

For years, facility managers have been using GISat the landscape level to manage a number ofthe assets in their facility portfolio. Some of theearliest applications of GIS in facility managementwere related to pavement management at airports,municipal water and wastewater infrastructure,and electric utility distribution. For example, facilitymanagers of the US Air Force have developeda standardized set of GIS layers to support themanagement of Air Force bases.

The spatial data that exists in a facility geodatabase has often been developed from aerial imagery or global positioning systemenabled (GPS) field data collection practices. The limitation of these data collection techniques is that they are blind to building interiors. Aerial photography cannot see through the roof. GPS signals are not available inside buildings. The result of these constraints has been that significant holes have developed in the rich geospatial data fabric that describes our facilities. These holes correspond to our most concentrated financial investments and the places where people spend most of their time – inside buildings.

New technologies and techniques have become available to register existing information about the insides of a building, such as CAD floor plans or building information models (BIM), with the surrounding landscape-level geospatial data framework. This integration is making it possible to apply geospatial analysis and visualization to business processes that occur inside buildings.

Today, it is becoming possible with GIS to think about and analyze the spatial aspects of every component of facility management workflows to decrease cost and increase productivity. None of
the enterprise applications used within the arena of facility management have advanced spatial analytic capabilities to support business processes that span geographic areas or provide complex scenario modeling that includes multidimensional visualization including 3D (space), 4D (time) and 5D (money).

GIS is a platform that supports the integration of information from all of these spatial, temporal and informational dimensions. Examples of such integrations include:
• Combining cost data with the visualization of space and occupancy across the campus
• Analyzing routing barriers for disabled persons for use during evacuation planning and emergency action planning
• Conducting visualization of energy consumption data at the room level while simultaneously managing maintenance workflows for mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems for a nationwide facility infrastructure
• Managing security concerns both inside and outside buildings, across regions and continents, simultaneously (4D) and contiguously (3D)


4.1 Spatial Data Infrastructure for Facilities

As GIS is becoming more widely used inside buildings, facility managers are applying the insights gained from spatial data infrastructures to the spaces inside buildings. There are framework levels inside the building, just as there are framework levels at the landscape level, such as roads and parcels. A few examples of framework layers inside a building include floor levels, walls, windows, doors and the spaces that are defined by architectural structures (Figure 2).

Figure 2:  Spatial data infrastructure can spatially enable many enterprise systems

Once the core architectural elements of the building have been established in the GIS, it is possible for many other layers to be derived from this foundation. Some of the layers that can be derived from basic floor plans include:
• Space use and type definitions
• Lease areas
• Security zones
• Management zones
• Asset locations
• Evacuation collection areas
• Navigable routes

Once this basic data has been added to the GIS, it is possible to provide geospatial support to a wide variety of information systems and business processes for the facility management community:
• Grouping multibuilding and multisite work orders by location to reduce transportation and logistics costs
• Visualizing energy consumption data at the room, building and/or enterprise level over time
• Analyzing space use, space availability and space optimization across campus or regional extents
• Conducting building condition assessments, fire safety inspections and asset inventories using handheld, location-aware (GPS-enabled) devices. These devices provide rapid data capture and precise location of issues, items and assets, supporting visualization, analysis and reporting.
• Analyzing and visualizing lease performance metrics across the portfolio, regardless of geographic extent
• Analyzing, route mapping and reporting of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance and/or ADA facility and fixture availability across the campus or portfolio
• Visualizing the impact of proposed building projects on the campus environment
• Conducting line of sight analysis for special events
• Modeling the impact of proposed use changes on the supporting utility infrastructure
• Visualizing proposed space planning scenarios

In order to provide best practices guidance and support for facility managers interested in establishing facility GIS capabilities, an independent committee made up of software vendors, government users, higher education facility managers and facility managers from various levels of government formed the Building Information Spatial Data Model (BISDM) committee in 2007. This committee has published several versions of the Building Information Spatial Data Model and continues to enhance and extend the model and its tools, making them available to the community. A diagram of the conceptual BISDM is shown in Figure 3. Further information and materials are available for download at the following Web site: http://resources.arcgis.com/content/building-interior-space-data-model.
 

 

Figure 3:  Conceptual data model diagram for BISDM

 

Friday
Aug272010

GIS for Facility Management - An Overview of GIS

We have been honored to be asked by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) to write a white paper entitled "GIS for Facility Management". This is the third chapter in the series.   A full copy of the paper can be downloaded from the IFMA web site.  We would like to thank Manhattan Software and ESRI for their support of the white paper.

 Chapter 3 - An Overview of Geographic Information Systems

Modern GIS is an integrated system of computer software and data and information about the location and geography of things and phenomena and the relationships between them. GIS is used to interact with, manage and display geographic information.

The map below (Figure 1) is one of the earliest representations of spatial relationships and
phenomena. The map is of Victorian London, produced by Dr. John Snow in 1854 (Johnson 2006) to represent the relationship between the location of cholera deaths and a water pump that he suspected of being the source of deadly bacteria during the 1840 London cholera epidemic. Snow produced this map showing the location of the Broad Street pump and other water pumps in the vicinity, as well as the points where each of the cholera victims died. By establishing that each of the residences that drew water from the Broad Street pump was also the location of a cholera death, Snow proved the source of the contamination. This is a wonderful early example of mapping spatial (location) and temporal (timing) relationships between things, in this case pumps and residences, and phenomena, deaths and drawing water.

Figure 1: Dr. John Snow’s map of cholera victims living near the Broad Street pump in London, 1854

 GIS was first computerized in the 1960s (GIS.net 2010) as an effort to automate the landscape planning process of separating design influences, such as hydrography, vegetation, soils and ownership boundaries, into different layers. The approach before computerization was to draw each of the layers to scale on a separate page of acetate and then physically recombine them by stacking the pages in order to visualize different aspects of a proposed design. In the ensuing decades, GIS has matured into an enterprise-class technology platform that allows users to model the spatial relationships between and among many important aspects of our complex world.

Before the specifics of how GIS is being applied to facility management are discussed, it is important to review some of the core concepts that define what a GIS is and how it works to better understand how this technology complements and extends other technologies that support the needs of facility managers.

 3.1 GIS Basics

There are five basic core concepts of GIS:

• GIS has layers

• GIS provides seamless scaling

• GIS attribute data is strongly typed

• There are several kinds of GIS feature classes

• GIS supports topologically rich data models

Each of these core concepts is further discussed below.

   3.1.1 GIS Has Layers

The layers in a GIS correspond to groups of features that have similar attributes and/or behaviors. Road centerlines are a good exampleof a common GIS layer. Each segment in a road centerline layer might have attributes that describe pavement width, number of lanes, speed limit or turn restrictions. A specific layer in a GIS is called a feature class. All of the features in a feature class share the same attributes and spatial reference. Traditional geospatial data layers that might be of interest to facility managers include:

• Transportation (road centerlines, edge of pavement, rail lines, airports)

• Hydrography (lakes, ponds, rivers, streams)

• Utilities

• Pedestrian corridors

• Land use

• Zoning

• Parcel ownership

• Aerial imagery

• Digital elevation models

• Demographics

• Facility condition index (FCI)

• Performance measurement by building

• Total cost of occupancy by building

The GIS data layers bulleted above are typical of traditional applications of GIS. Additional data layers specifically identifying components of the built environment, and possibly of greater interest to the facility management community, will be discussed in Part 4 GIS in Facility Management and Part 11 In-Building GIS.

3.1.2 GIS Provides Seamless Scaling

GIS provides seamless scaling from very large scale global data to very small-scale local perspectives. The various scales at which GIS is useful for facility management include from global, regional and local to campus and room or space scales. At the global scale GIS can:

• Visualize patterns in portfolio performance

• Symbolize portfolio elements by a key performance indicator (KPI) and show them on a map

 At the regional to local scale, GIS can tie facilities, portfolio elements and customers together into a geographic context by:

• Providing an understanding of how well the portfolio is geographically aligned with customer base

• Supporting site selection based on business demographics

• Supporting site selection based on proximity to workforce

• Optimizing work order assignments and support with routing

 At the local or campus scale GIS can:

• Provide analysis and visualization of 2.5D space data across the campus

• Visualize departmental fragmentation across campuses

• Analyze relationships between office and parking assignments

• Analyze potential use conflicts

• Visualize spatial and temporal space use patterns

• Understand work order patterns and asset locations

• Spatially enable infrastructure asset inventory

 

2.5D refers to visualization of buildings and other models in apparent 3D that is derived from a single averaged measurement of ceiling and/or floor-to-floor heights and then used to construct generally representative building models that show length (on the x axis), width (on the y axis) and height (on the z axis) of the structure. In contrast, true 3D is an architecturally accurate building model in three dimensions. For building and construction purposes, 3D modeling is sometimes the required standard. For the vast majority of maintenance and operations purposes, 2.5D is typically adequate and it is much less expensive and time consuming to establish.

 At the room and space scale, GIS can visually interact with assets, inventory and their exact locations to support regulatory, maintenance and resourcing.

 3.1.3 GIS Attribute Data Is Strongly Typed

GIS attribute data is descriptive data that is linked to map features. If an attribute in a feature class is, for example, of a date type, it will only accept properly formatted dates as inputs, and if it is a number type, it will not accept text characters. The result of this is strong data typing, and is ideally suited for GIS data and analysis. Unlike CAD attribute blocks where annotation is stored as all text and annotation is only loosely associated with a feature, GIS attributes are directly tied to features and all of the attributes are strongly typed.

 3.1.4 Basic Kinds of GIS Feature Classes

A GIS feature class is a homogenous collection of common features, each having the same spatial representation. The most basic kinds of GIS feature classes are points, lines and areas (polygons). In recent years, however, new kinds of data have found their way into the GIS platform. As 3D becomes more important to modeling, newtypes of data, such as surfaces and multipatches (see Glossary), are allowing for more precise modeling of three-dimensional features.

 3.1.5 GIS Supports Topologically Rich Data Models

As different components of the world were modeled digitally, it was determined quickly that things have important relationships to other things. For example, valves have important relationships to pipes when modeling how water can be delivered from one place to another. A GIS allows relationships to be built between features in different feature classes. For example, pipes in a line feature class and valves in a point feature class create more complex topological structure, such as geometric networks and transportation networks.

 3.2 GIS Data Storage and Organization

The way GIS data is organized and stored makes it ideally suited for storage in database systems and for analysis. As GIS data is typically stored in a real-world spatial reference system, the analysis of the data can be applied across a campus, region, country or the world. A few of the many different types of geospatial analyses that are appropriate on facility data might include:

• Buffer analysis – How many unoccupied offices are within 1,000 ft. (305 m) of this parking space?

• Overlay analysis – Which wet labs are within the proposed project area?

• Find ‘n’ nearest – Find the five closest assets with open work orders to this particular point. (where n represents the number sought)

• Line of sight – What can be seen from this window?

• Way finding – What is the shortest wheelchair accessible route from room x to room y?

• Travel time – How many employees will have to travel more than half an hour to get to this

office location?

As the application of GIS has become more frequently used, particularly in the government arena, an enormous amount of geospatial data has been developed at a variety of scales. Much of this data is freely available over the Internet from a variety of GIS data portals like the US national geospatial data site geodata.gov.

 

3.3 Enterprise GIS Framework

In most sizable organizations, information technology (IT) management has been recognized as an essential strategic asset. The modern organization can no longer exist without a secure network backbone, centralized user authentication and entitlement control, e-mail administration, enterprise database management and support for a variety of enterprise applications, like accounting, personnel management and an array of loosely connected Web applications.

Over the past decade, GIS has similarly become a recognized component of the enterprise IT suite of capabilities. GIS can now be implemented on enterprise-class databases, published through Web services and integrated with a variety of mobile device platforms. While it is certainly possible, and in some cases most appropriate, to create a stand-alone GIS on a laptop or workstation, it is important to recognize that enterprise deployment has become available over the past decade. Enterprise deployment enables GIS capabilities to be shared with a wide variety of users throughout the organization.

Furthermore, professionals that manage IT capabilities of large organizations are becoming more aware of the value that geospatial support represents to decision makers across many different departments. It is very possible that GIS already exists in an organization and it can be utilized by facility managers. For example, if your organization is in telecommunications, your engineering group may have implemented GIS to track locations and rights of way. Therefore, this technology may be only a workstation away from being available to facility managers. The same is true in many higher education settings. It is very likely that there is an academic or research GIS installation that could be accessed by facility management.

3.4 Spatial Data Infrastructure

Many geodata portals have been established over time to enable and support the sharing of geospatial data and analytical models. As this activity has become more widespread, certain best practice patterns have emerged to support thiscooperative approach. One specific example of such a best practice is spatial data infrastructure (SDI).

Spatial data infrastructure is a framework of technologies, policies, standards and human resources necessary to acquire, process, store, distribute and improve the use of geospatial data across multiple public and private organizations. Therefore, SDI is a framework of connected spatial data, metadata and tools used to centrally manage data with tools and services connected via computer networks to various sources to make spatial data most efficient. SDI can be thought of as a shared repository of GIS layers and tools. Individuals adding data to the repository share the understanding that the contributions to the repository that are being made are generally freely available for the common good, and those who are closest to a particular layer will retain stewardship responsibilities for it.

Typically, when an SDI is to be established, the architects will begin by establishing framework layers. The landscape level of the framework will often include road centerlines, hydrography, parcels, a land use and elevation model, and some form of aerial imagery. These framework layers serve as a foundation from which other layers can be derived and to which many different kinds of business processes can be attached. For example, parcels are an important foundation layer because zoning layers usually are designed tobe coincident with parcel boundaries, and parcels are often an anchor for municipal processes concerned with taxation, permitting and public safety. Building footprints are another framework layer in SDI.

Spatial data infrastructure frameworks all have some number of similar components as described above and can be implemented on a range of scales from the most local level, such as a small town, to a virtually global scale. The most complex and comprehensive SDIs are similar to the United States’ National Spatial Data Infrastructure and the European Community’s Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE) program. Most US states also have well-developed spatial data infrastructures that are often commonly used, regardless of community size. Disaster response and recovery is one such example. Within disaster response and recovery situations, SDI can be applied or accessed and be an invaluable tool. In the event of an earthquake, the combination of map data can be used to answer a variety of questions about where things are, ranging from collapsed bridges to operational water and sewer lines, to roadways for evacuation – all of which are components of an SDI. As demonstrated in this example, one of the most important aspects of an SDI is that it is a system for sharing information across functional boundaries, across jurisdictions and across geographic boundaries.