Earthmine Extension Brings New Perspective to AutoCAD Map 3D

20 Jul, 2011 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Users who manage infrastructure can visualize their assets in a real-world context — without leaving their desks.

Geospatial solutions provider earthmine — which uses vehicle-mounted cameras to collect 3D street-level imagery — has forged an alliance with the CAD world. Last month, earthmine announced both its status as an Autodesk AEC Industry Partner and the release of an extension for AutoCAD Map 3D.

In its new role, earthmine will collaborate with Autodesk to fuse its data with CAD applications. The first example of that product integration is the latest addition to earthmine's desktop product suite: the earthmine for AutoCAD Map 3D extension. With this release, Map 3D users can see high-resolution street-level imagery alongside the traditional AutoCAD view. They can overlay Map 3D features on the panoramic imagery to visualize spatial data within its real-world context, and to gather and analyze additional information that may not be contained within their GIS (geographic information system).

With the earthmine for AutoCAD Map 3D extension, users can view panoramic street-level imagery within Map 3D.

"This extension adds a lot of great features to Map 3D," Anthony Fassero, co-CEO and co-founder of earthmine, told Cadalyst. Fassero went on to explain that there is "a natural fit" between AutoCAD Map 3D and earthmine data. "[Map 3D 2012] has a nice workflow for infrastructure," he commented.

As far as the learning curve goes, "We do integrate into [the Map 3D] workflow seamlessly; there is no significant change in what the user is expecting," Fassero said. "Anyone familiar with Google Street View will be able to jump in right away. There's no additional training needed, it's intuitive ... it feels like something that comes with [AutoCAD Map 3D]."

Earthmine reports that the extension enables users to create, attribute, and edit point, polygon, and polyline features, as well as visualize and query existing features. Users can point and click within the panoramic view to generate 3D coordinates of objects, which can then be entered into the database. Users may choose to host that data locally, on their own earthmine Server, or remotely, with earthmine Cloud.

Real-World Applications for Real-World Data

Earthmine for AutoCAD Map 3D provides tools to measure real-world distances and calculate areas, but Fassero was quick to point out that earthmine offers a non-engineering-grade data set: "You're not going to [use this data to] set a beam on a bridge or scan the inside of a tunnel for failure points — it's for collecting hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of miles of road, hundreds to millions of assets." The data features submeter global accuracy, said Fassero, and measurement accuracy ranges from a few centimeters to 10 centimeters, depending on how far away the measured object is.

The most common consumers of earthmine data are city, county, and state organizations such as transportation departments, electric and gas providers, and water utilities — "Organizations that manage a large number of assets over a large geographic area," Fassero explained.

Whether the assets in question are bridges, transmission lines, or manhole covers, infrastructure management is a massive, never-ending task — one that is unmanageable for many organizations. "They're not getting the job done, no matter how many people they get out there," Fassero opined. "So much of what happens out there is 'wait till it explodes,'" he continued, referring to utilities that lack the resources to tackle infrastructure maintenance proactively.

Fassero believes that earthmine data dramatically eases the burden on field personnel: They don't waste their time driving to and fro, they avoid the safety hazards associated with field data collection, and their organization saves money to boot. "Instead of sending people out to the field in their orange vests, you can have those same people apply their expertise to the collected data," he noted.

Collecting Your Corner of the World

Although the earthmine for AutoCAD Map 3D extension is available now, Fassero pointed out that customers will need to order data before they can take advantage of it. "We don't go collect the whole world," he said, explaining that his company gathers data only for the geographic areas that customers request — "we're not Google, not NAVTEQ."

Data collection times vary based on the size of the region and the number of earthmine fleet vehicles employed. Fassero gave this example: It takes one car three weeks to map every street in the (decidedly convoluted) city of San Francisco; data processing takes another three or so weeks, for a total time to delivery of about six weeks. Customers who haven't yet purchased their own data can evaluate sample data sets, which are available for locations in the United States and around the globe.

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Lynn Allen

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