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‘We focus on providing integrated geo-asset management workflow system’

Ray O'Connor

Lisa Campbell
Vice President, Geospatial
Solutions, Autodesk Inc.

Holding a BA and an MBA degrees, Lisa has over twenty years of experience in the software industry, with extensive knowledge of marketing and launching enterprise-software products, developing and implementing market strategies, building brands, managing strategic alliances and developing communications plans. At Autodesk, she drives the civil and geospatial positioning, messaging and marketing strategy for her division.

What are the Autodesk’s Geospatial plans?
We have a unique perspective that we are trying to take on the solution that we are bringing into the market. We are trying to focus on the telecommunications companies, utilities companies and local governments and our geospatial solution integrates design and geospatial together. We see CAD and GIS for design and asset management as completely and tightly coupled and so our solutions incorporate both, not just one or the other and that is one of the key focus areas that we have for Autodesk Geospatial. My group is working to make sure that we can leverage our key capabilities within Autodesk, like our visualisation technology, etc., to bring all of those technologies to our customers from all the sectors.

What are the specific plans for Asia Pacific region especially in the Infrastructure market?
Infrastructure industry is growing rapidly around the world and India and China are key markets with respect to the sheer volume of development that is taking place or is going to take place. This infrastructure needs to be designed and once it is built, it has to be mapped and stored in databases to be managed. And what we are trying to focus on is to have a design and geo-asset management workflow and making sure that we provide integrated complete system for that workflow for our customers. Apart from the developing nations in the Asia-Pacific region, countries like Japan and Australia also present themselves as great geospatial markets.

How are Autodesk’s products positioned with respect to their unique features to cater to the market needs,when compared to other products in the market?
We are really the only company that has both CAD and GIS products, which we have integrated to bring it to the market place. Our Map 3D product involves both, CAD and GIS; so the map is built on CAD and you have all the precision and also you have all the capabilities of the GIS where you can manage all your spatial data needs and we believe this is a critical differentiator. We have spoken to many industry professionals and we know that precision matters. The design information is an absolute critical as it has to be used in the GIS for decision making. Autodesk has solved this problem for our customers.

The other thing we are excited about and is unique to our company is that we are the first public GEOSPATIAL software company to bring open source product to the market. And I am very excited about the donation of MapGuide and FDO. As of December we have had 48000 downloads of MapGuide and 21000 downloads of FDO. It gives us the access to all the talented developers from around the world and makes the overall development of the geospatial industry very exciting. We have made another donation to the open source the ‘coordinate system’. We bought this technology and donated it to the open source community for further development.

What are the future plans for FDO and Map Guide and Open Source in general?
We also have a proprietary (change to “enterprise” from proprietary) version of MapGuide, which provides subscription and support services but it is very exciting to see how things are being developed for MapGuide from the open source community as well. And for FDO, we constantly find newer and newer FDO providers in the open source community, which is very exciting. Autodesk has a development team that works with the open source community and helps them with their queries

What is the philosophy that goes behind putting these products into Open Source?
It made a lot of sense to put MapGuide into the open source, the reason being, web mapping is being commoditised. MapServer was out there and we realised that when certain technologies are being commoditised and are not as complicated as certain desktop applications, then they belong to the open source community as they will continuously be evolved.

What are the future plans as far as data format interoperability is concerned?
Number of formats will continue to be proprietary either the ones from Autodesk or other vendors. And one of the reasons why we did FDO, is because it does not require the user to convert formats any more. It has native access wherein you can get access to various file formats or databases from different FDO providers. We would like people to have a homogeneous environment irrespective of they providing different application tools. It is our goal to work closely together with other application providers that are out there.

With the mainstream players like Google, Microsoft and others showing more interest in the geospatial segment than ever before where do you see the geospatial industry heading for?
I am actually very excited to see big companies like that being involved. The one good thing that I found is that it brings geospatial to everyday person and people become more and more aware of the technology. This industry is no longer an isolated domain, it is opening up to everybody and people are beginning to understand this technology. It also has a positive affect on the business in terms of revenue indirectly, as it is making more and more people aware and thus helping us in expanding our market reach. And I think it has had an overall positive affect on the geospatial industry around the world.

These companies have spread awareness among the masses but it is still very important that companies like ours take on a role in providing education in the geospatial domain. It is one thing to work with an interface that is capable of certain basic things but it is a different matter when it comes to using and implementing core geospatial technologies. It is not just about the visualisation when it comes to solutions that are provided by Autodesk, which is a complete package that provides design, analysis and information of the real world that can be optimally visualised.

What will be affects of the global economic slowdown on the geospatial industry?
It is interesting to see the variations in different markets as some of them are going into recession and others are booming. But because of globalisation, as we have European firms managing infrastructure in US and Asia-Pacific firms that are managing infrastructure in South America, though some areas may be affected but some areas do have money and resources and it should not really affect the geospatial industry. I also think, whether there is economic slowdown or not the basic necessities of the citizens such as electricity, water, gas, housing, etc., in respective countries have to be met and for Autodesk we see that there will always be demand for technology to help provide these necessities and manage them more efficiently.