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Review: Autodesk Technical – Part 3

By [email protected] - 4th May 2007 - 10:56

Autodesk TOPOBASE 2008Neil Brooker, applications engineer for Autodesk based at Farnborough, UK walked me through Autodesk TOPOBASE 2008 recently. This product originates from two years ago as a result of the acquisition of C-PLAN company who were previously based in Switzerland.The software is an integration software that is designed to manage assets across large enterprises. These assets may take any form, although Autodesk has focused their attention upon the water, waste water, gas and electric utilities sectors at this time.Individually, each sector forms the basis for a 'module' within the TOPOBASE system, which is built upon AutoCAD Map 3D 2008 and a centralised ORACLE database.
Image: Autodesk
The productFunctionality for this product is hinged to AutoCAD Map 3D and Oracle Spatial. For that reason, a saving in time is immediately available since a significant amount of programming is already available for use. Complexity however remains and issue for more user's of a large database and Autodesk TOPOBASE is designed to reduce the need for specialised Oracle programmer's, enabling customer's to be up and running quickly with simpler forms and database functionality. The premise underpinning Autodesk TOPOBASE 2008 is to increase collaboration through simplifying the design, increasing the level of access and interoperability and sharing across the database.Each module is designed and presented in such a manner that they conform to a Data Model presented through the module. Correspondingly, they are easily understood, effective and conform to job tasks relative to individualized user needs.This means that tasks may be grouped into workflows that can be assembled together as needed.Administration and assignmentAt the highest level, an administrator maintains the the TOPOBASE installation. From this position, workflows may be spread throughout an enterprise and assigned to tasks and or user's independently or collectively. They may also be distributed spatially to geographic regions.Key to the operation and management of the assets is the understanding that all of these users will access and collaborate through on consistently maintained database â the Oracle database.And, that a standardised presentation, available through the assignment of rules inherent to the workflows, will be presented in a similar fashion using customised forms for all people. This approach provides a high level of flexibility for access to the system, while also allowing the system to develop less complex forms related to individual workflows where and as needed. In operation this means that people are presented only with the computing forms, data and information that are relevant to their workflows and tasks at hand. Rules inside the databaseSince Autodesk Map 3D 2008 incorporates Feature Data Object (FDO) technology, the level of interoperability between disparate data sources is increased, allowing each of them to be integrated into one seamless database framework or Data Model. Because each workflow will have specified processes and operations associated with business rules and logic involved, then each module will conform to unique schema related to those work processes.The water module would involve water related functionality across the organisation, as example. Autodesk TOPOBASE does not include flow analysis within the product module at this time, although asset management related to water infrastructure is included. Accordingly, as one might expect, these Data Models will perform better over time as the rule base becomes more complete and adapted to the organisation. Having said that, the primary benefits ot this approach include;--collaboration--centralised database access--module (vertical specific) knowledge--FDO interoperability capabilities--savings in time--quality enforced through rules and constraints--built on Map 3D, MapGuide Enterprise and Oracle--maintains topological relationships--Map 3D networking and tracing--TOPOBASE Web works over the InternetRules may also establish the basis for interaction and collaboration throughout any given project. As example, water networks may be laid out in proposal form then sent to a different department for approval. Financial information may also be shared relative to assets under management. WorkflowsA typical workflow will involve several functions managed or assigned to different people. Each may be adapted to individual need. Within AutodeskTOPOBASE these often include; --CAD-GIS integration--Long transactions--User-specific display models--Configurable workflows and business rules--Automatic topology update--Customizable data model--Integration with enterprise systems--Secure access to information over the webSummary:Autodesk TOPOBASE is not a stand-alone product per se. It operates with AutoCAD Map 3D and the Oracle Spatial database.This means it is designed for large organisation's with a high volume of assets under management which are distributed over a wide area, usually. My impression is that this product has been integrated into the Autodesk product lineup over the last 2 year's and has now reached a point where it is ready for wider implementation.Several advantages in time saving and collaboration can be realised with this product because of the amount of 'pre-configuration' available through AutoCAD Map 3D and Oracle.Ultimately, its effectiveness is dependent upon the functionality of what are termed 'modules' and how well they conform to workflows and their depth of knowledge. In practice, this software is aimed at the Data Model, yet, its architecture allows clients to build on already purchased projects.There is quite a lot of room for growth in this product.

Author: Jeff Thurston

Bio.: Editor, Geoconnexion International Magazine

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