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From floor plans to asset management

Figure 1: CERN’s surface and underground infrastructure near Geneva

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has developed a unique indoor mapping solution to facilitate the management of its premises and assets.


The precise management of infrastructure and equipment (assets) has become fundamental in most organisations and communities of a certain size due to the benefits provided in terms of safety, productivity, quality and efficiency. Geographic information is a critical parameter of this management. To respond to this need, CERN has developed a unique solution to facilitate the management of premises (rooms) and assets.


CERN is an international organisation dedicated to fundamental research in the field of particle physics. Around 1000 underground structures (works) and buildings are distributed across 2 major sites and 8 secondary sites on the surface of the 27-kilometre-circumference underground accelerator. Given these figures, it is obvious that cartographic management of infrastructure, space and equipment is an important issue.

To carry out the Organization’s mission, there are nearly 10,000 people working on the different CERN sites. A good half of the population is relatively transitory. They are academics, present for a few months or years, or technicians with limited duration contracts allocated to the management and maintenance of infrastructure and equipment. It is therefore easy to understand that the mapping of existing buildings is essential for purposes such as security, space management, orientation or location of equipment to maintain.

From CAD files to GIS

Until the early 2000s, CERN managed its floor plans using CAD software (one file per floor => 1300 files). In order to integrate these plans into a Geographic Information System and to benefit from database storage, advanced symbology, labelling and research, an original solution called “Planotheque” was developed. It consists of a matrix (table) of 22 rows and 7000 columns, totalling approximately 150,000 squares (representing 200m x 100m in real dimensions), each hosting one of the 1700 floor plans. All the floor plans are then drawn on a unique GIS layer where features can be filtered by attributes.

This system ensures perfectly oriented plans that are easy to print, but also, using GIS functionalities, allows the production of thematic maps based on associated data such as personnel, risks, etc.


One drawback of the above-mentioned model (Planotheque) is that each floor has its own plane coordinate system, and it is therefore not easy to visualise the relationship between two adjacent buildings (floors).

Figure 2: The Planotheque Matrix

Therefore, we decided to calculate once and for all the transformation parameters to switch from this independent system to the global coordinate system used for the representation of all CERN sites. Each floor has its own transformation parameters (rotation, translation, scaling) and is georeferenced daily and automatically so that it overlays with the building to which it belongs on the site plans.

Figure 3: Floor plan in site view

The issue of displaying superposed floors is addressed by adding a "slider" tool to the web sites, which is activated by users to filter the floor they need to display.

Application to asset management

The system in place now allows every user to search and pinpoint not only rooms but also each and every piece of equipment on the CERN site.

Many departments at CERN have become interested in such a tool for maintenance of their equipment. So we set up desktop and web interfaces so that they could geotag and draw objects in our GIS database.

There are now some 25,000 features logged, such as fire extinguishers, computer racks, electrical cabinets, IT sockets, access control devices… not even counting the 16,000 superconducting magnets of the accelerator. Users can now benefit from a web-accessible positioning system including updated base maps, which was not the case when this information was stored in CAD drawings.

Figure 4: Geottaged equipment in the LHC Tunnel

But the most important benefit is the sharing of information. Each department at CERN can view the information entered by other services in a common coordinate system and interface.

All kinds of geographical relationships between equipment are now possible to aid decision-making: racks and computer sockets, fire extinguishers and chemical hazards etc. In fact, one of the biggest users is the CERN Fire Brigade, which by entering its own equipment (fire extinguishers, etc.) in addition to other user’s features obtains basic plans for their interventions automatically.

Figure 5: Common interface for Geotagged equipment


CERN has developed a visualisation system of floor plans based on GIS. This system has paved the way for geotagging of equipment on a common database and interface for the Organization. This concept subsequently improves the quality, safety and speed of management and interventions. Geotagging is now an important component of Asset and Equipment Management.