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 second 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 2 - Introduction
Out of necessity, the facility management application industry has adopted architectural floor plans as the common denominator for viewing the built environment. This is understandable because architectural floor plans, and by extension, computer aided design (CAD), historically represented the only media available for understanding and interacting with buildings and their contents and associated workflows. The progression from hand-drawn floor plans to CAD drawings, and now building information models (BIM), is essentially a progression from single floor plate views to whole building representations. To be truly effective across geographies the tools used to manage these distributed and disparate assets and workflows need to be able to scale far beyond individual buildings and individual site maps.
CAD was conceived as a set of tools and applications for design and construction. By contrast, geographic information systems (GIS) were conceived of and developed as a technology for managing information related to entities across the landscape. The value proposition for utilizing GIS for facility management business processes is not as a replacement for CAD and other enterprise facility management applications, like integrated workplace management systems (IWMS). The true value of GIS to facility management is as a complementary technology that, when integrated with the myriad facility management technologies and applications already in use, provides much greater benefits than the sum of its parts.
While CAD traditionally was concerned only with buildings and building interiors, GIS focused on what is referred to as the landscape or exterior environment. Neither technology crosses the boundary of the other, yet business processes do not have such artificial boundaries. There are many examples where facility management processes cross these boundaries:
Before GIS, there has not been a single technology that provides a holistic view and supports integrated workflows that place the material components of these workflows into their real world, landscape-level context both inside and outside the built environment. Only GIS can do this effectively because it is the only technology that has the ability to scale across any expanse, from the individual asset within a building to a virtually global context. This is not to say that GIS can replace CAD and, more importantly,
Nothing like spending four days with a bunch of really smart engineers to give me a little humility and to remind me again just how little I really know about the world. The SPAR conference is an annual conference focused on 3D imaging technologies. (For an excellent post on what LiDAR is and how it can be used see Matt Ball's excellent post in Spatial Sustain) This year the US event (there is one in Japan as well) was held in The Woodlands (just north of Houston) Texas. Attendance was up this year to around 775 which is a record for this event. Around 20% of the attendees were from outside the US, I met many from Europe but there were a number from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, and other Pacific rim countries.
What impressed me most about the SPAR conference is how rapidly the industry is changing, and what a dramatic impact the technology of 3D imaging based on LiDAR is having on the worlds of 3D measurement and modeling. This is game-changing technology. If I were in the traditional surveying business, I would be very nervous.
So, what is it about this technology that gives it the potential to revolutionize the market for spatial measurement? I think that there are several factors:
- You can collect a LOT of data with LiDAR very rapidly. By mounting the collectors or airborne platforms on ground-based mobile platforms, you can collect a vast number of measurements (many billions of points) in hours. The vehicle-mounted platforms are capable of collecting very accurate data at highway speeds.
- The sensors are capable of amazing accuracy. Some of the systems being shown at SPAR are capable of measurements to tenths or even hundredths of a millimeter. While it is not possible (or necessary) to get this kind of accuracy from a mobile platform, for some kinds of applications (forensic investigations, historic documentation, etc.) it is now possible to create 3D models that were previously only fantasy.
- The technology is very expensive. You have to have some deep pockets to play in this game. Table stakes is somewhere in the order of $250,000 and it goes up quickly from there. The technology is also changing very rapidly. I spoke to several folks active in the field that reported that the useful life of a sensor is about 18 months. After that point, new sensors have made the equipment you own obsolete.
I believe that the combination of these three factors is going to drive significant consolidation in the survey industry in the coming decade. Gone are the days when you could purchase a $1,500 theodolite and expect that investment to last 5-10 years. New business models will be necessary to enable the new technology. Given the economics of the technology, it will be only the larger businesses that have the capital resources necessary to play.
For those of us that consume spatial data, there is amazing opportunity unfolding before us. In our own business, the ability to collect 3D LiDAR of the insides of buildings from mobile platforms represents a tremendous leap in our ability to model the built environment. Suddenly it becomes economically viable to create Building Information Models (BIM) for existing buildings - at least at a level that is suitable for facilities maintenance and operations. In the fullness of time, these capabilities will have the same effect on the in-building measurement industry that terrestrial LiDAR is having on the survey industry. In the brave new world, a simple 2D CAD floor plan pulled together with a $500 hand-held will not deliver kinds of 3D, semantically-rich information that will increasingly be demanded by more sophisticated building owners and operators. The Public Safety community will expect maps of building interiors and our underground environments to support their planning, analysis, response, and mitigation work flows.
The next few years are going to be very exciting. Do these new technologies represent threats or opportunities? Yes.
I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity this week to attend the ESRI GeoDesign Summit in Redlands, California. In attendance were about 150 amazing people from academia, non-government organizations and commercial businesses. I'm not sure exactly what the distribution of participants was, but it felt like probably the majority were from academia. I found this refreshing as I don't often get to spend time with many academics.
The event was hosted in the new headquarters building on the ESRI campus. It is a truly beautiful building and a wonderful space for the exchange of ideas with a group this size. The schedule was divided into three basic experiences. The first three presentations in the morning were half hour sessions that allowed the presenter to get into some depth in their chosen subject. These were followed by a series of "Lightning Talks" - presentations of under 10 minutes - during which time the presenter could give a quick outline of their ideas. The afternoons were spent in breakout sessions where communities of interest discussed topics including Sketching Inference and Feedback, GeoDesign in Urban Areas, The Role of 3D in GeoDesign and several others. I attended the session on GeoDesign in Architecture Focusing on BIM. Regular breaks were scheduled to allow participants to mingle and network.
Given the agenda, there were lots more presentations than I have the energy to review in this space, but the highlights for me were these:
Tom Fisher - Dean of the College of Design, University of Minnesota
Tom opened the conference by presenting a pretty sobering assessment of the current state of our planet and our impact on it. His logic was compelling - if a little frightening - and left me with a sense of urgency that we must take some pretty dramatic action soon or the consequences for our little world may be dire.
Michael Goodchild - Professor of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara
Mike laid out a vision whereby GIS analysis could iteratively provide feedback to sketched ideas and help us to realize a new chapter in Ian McHarg's vision of designing with nature.
Juan Carlos Vargas-Moreno - MIT
Juan Carlos described a very interesting participatory land planning project conducted in Costa Rica where local residents participated in a cooperative exercise in land planning for their region.
Brian Lee - University of Kentucky
Brian challenged us to develop more interactive user interfaces to support land use planning processes.
Carl Steinitz - Harvard Graduate School of Design
Carl presented a fascinating talk on a wide variety of design processes with examples of how each had been applied to specific land use planning challenges. For me, this presentation really helped me think about the design process in a much broader and more flexible way.
Bran Ferren - Chief Creative Officer, Applied Minds, Inc.
Without a doubt, Bran delivered the most compelling presentation of the entire event. He laid out a vision whereby GeoDesign can become a new medium through which we can better communicate. In Bran's vision, GeoDesign can enable us to better tell humanity's story. It can help us to tell the story of our past and how we have come to be who we are. It can help us tell the story of the present and how our behavior is affecting each other and our environment. Most importantly, GeoDesign can help us to tell stories of alternative futures and can help us to intentionally imagine and create a preferable future.
I hope that Bran's vision is correct. I am grateful to Jack for his vision and leadership in cultivating what may become a new movement. It will be exciting to see where the path leads.
Wow! What a time the first decade of the century was. As we look ahead, I am filled with great hope and anticipation of the road ahead. There is certainly no end to the compelling work that needs to be done and lots of new adventures to be taken. I hope that our paths will cross in the months and years ahead.
Here's to a bright and prosperous future.
Happy New Year!
To begin with, lets be clear about Google's motivations. Google is in the business of delivering online advertising. Period. Google is not in the business of transportation logistics, emergency vehicle routing, or personal navigation.
China is in a hurry. The impression was inescapable everywhere we went during our brief 7-day tour of Zhejiang province. Everyone from the heads of Universities and businesses to the folks rushing to and from work on bicycles and mopeds are in a hurry. The sense of urgency was pervasive