The advent of new technologies such as 3D design models, high accuracy GPS,
robotic total stations, GIS systems, portable computing and wireless broadband
provides many tools to the modern engineer and surveyor. But it’s the
combination of 12d Model, 12d Field and Feature Data Object (FDO) technology in
Council that allows for their cost effective integration.
For many years engineers, surveyors and designers have worked together and
relied upon static data for use in their everyday work flows. Specialist
software is traditionally used by each party and data is manually shared amongst
teams by import/export. By integrating 12d Model, 12d Field, and FDO, this
project has revolutionised that process, boosted productivity, and reformed
This project was developed as a result of challenging infrastructure delivery
requirements following council amalgamations. More efficient methods of
collecting and sharing accurate survey, design and “spatial” data were required
due to a geographic area of 6500km2, limited design and surveying resources,
restructure of operations, information technology network capacity, and file
storage constraints, along with increased community expectations.
Council had previously implemented ESRI ArcGIS as its corporate Geographic
Information System (GIS). In doing so it provided a central geospatial data
store in MGA94 coordinates of all essential data including:
For their organisation, the move to the MGA94 coordinate system in detail
surveys through to design enabled them to value-add, and integrate all of their
geospatial data as well. The question was how this could be done without relying
on traditional Shape File extractions. How could the surveyors operating in the
field also access and utilise such vast spatial resources on demand?
In summary, Council’s spatial data file sizes were large:
...and growing each year.
The following key outcomes were essential to success of this project:
Establishment of partnership with Council’s civil engineering software
provider, 12d Solutions, to incorporate FDO technology into their 12d Model
product for design and survey;
Implementing a GIS “central data store” with direct linkages to
design/survey software for raster and vector data;
Eliminating the need for G.I.S. staff to provide spatial data to Designers
Eliminating GIS data duplication and processing issues during civil design
and survey, in turn reducing file server storage;
Providing surveyors on the ground with real time access to all survey,
design and geospatial data in Council, regardless of location.
For many years, engineers, surveyors, and designers have worked together and
relied upon static geospatial data for use in their everyday work flows. They
tend to use their own specialist software to manually import spatial data from a
GIS system which often includes property boundaries, storm water networks, water
and sewer utilities. This often results in establishment of complicated
management systems to control data quality and avoid duplication problems when
sharing amongst project teams.
FDO Data Access Technology is an application for “…manipulating, defining and
analyzing geospatial information regardless of where it is stored…and is free
open source software” under a Lesser General Public License
(http://fdo.osgeo.org/). For Council, it supported direct access to ESRI ArcSDE
data store for vector data and a Web Map Service (WMS) of spatially referenced
raster maps. It allows for sharing of spatial information regardless of
A staged approach was taken to the implementation of FDO technology in council
software to address the GIS connectivity issue. There were three key stages of
delivery implemented in partnership with 12d Model software, in order of
FDO provider for WMS – to connect to spatially referenced raster images
FDO provider for ArcSDE - “read only” connections for vector data
FDO provider for ArcSDE - “write” connections for vector data
Council’s more urgent requirements stemmed from access to aerial imagery; this
was a logical starting point and proved simplest to implement. All three stages
of implementation were in place by late 2010 and are now common use amongst
design and survey staff in Council.
The implementation of FDO technology in Council’s work flows increased the
return on investment (ROI) in their corporate ArcGIS system and 12d Model
technology. It revolutionised how they conducted operations, and is likely to
shift those of the wider industry experiencing similar problems.
While data connectivity between the GIS and 12d Model was resolved, the problem
of how surveyors can use the data remotely to the office still existed.
Council’s old fleet of non-robotic total stations had come to their end of life.
This provided Council with a unique opportunity to rethink how they delivered
survey to the community and better interacted with the spatial data at their
fingertips. 12d Field was implemented with new Topcon GPT-9003A robotic total
stations to address this problem.
Council surveyors began to use Robotic Total Stations and GPS operated by
12d Field software on portable all-weather computers (Panasonic Toughbooks). In
basic terms this meant:
Conventional survey reductions in the office were no longer required as all
data was collected and reduced on the fly, in the field, and instantly
viewable on each surveyor’s screen;
The visual reference enabled instant error checking;
Surveyors had access to the designer’s entire 3D model for stake out,
eliminating any requirement for manual data imports and data entry of
Full Windows functionality and access to remote file servers using NextG
wireless broadband connections. More importantly, it provided one of the
only systems in the world that allowed Council to complete detailed survey
using Robotic Total Station accuracy, and from the survey pole, instantly
connect to and view any vector or raster data in real time from the ArcGIS
system, regardless of their location in the region (this, of course, was on
the proviso that they had wireless broadband coverage).
Using FDO connections, a central GIS data store, portable computers and wireless
broadband meant that as long as the data existed in the ArcGIS system, the
surveyor could connect to it and stake it out. If they needed to access aerial
images in the field to see “what’s over the next hill”, they could. If they were
asked on-site by construction crews to re-identify a water hydrant they just
buried with asphalt (even though it wasn’t picked up in their original survey),
they could. They could do these things because Council assets such as water
hydrants had already been collected accurately by RTK GPS and loaded into the
GIS as part of their asset maintenance programs. This made them locateable using
12d Field by connecting directly to the ArcGIS system. In theory, if the data
already existed in the GIS or file server, Council could better deal with the
“While you’re here can you set this out?” question which haunts the best of
By using 12d products with FDO technology, designers were able to achieve all
the advantages as well, being able to independently access any vector or raster
data from the ArcGIS system. It improved efficiencies in investigation and
detail design work. The FDO technology also allowed “write” access back to the
GIS, enabling any CAD/Design work, or survey data for that matter, to be written
to ArcSDE. This made it instantly viewable on their corporate web mapping system
to hundreds of staff, or externally to the public through Council’s internet
mapping if required.
For example, being able to “write” data back to the GIS directly from the
surveyor’s pole in the field allowed them to collect accurate spatial data and
instantly publish to ArcSDE where it could be viewed on the internet using web
mapping applications. This type of scenario had been impossible for Council to
achieve previously, but the integration of 12d Model, 12d Field, and FDO
technology gave Council the flexibility to do so, whilst removing redundancy of
data in the process.
Since FDO technology was implemented in Council, many other applications for its
use were found, including significant benefits in data validation of spatial
information. As designers connected and view the data, they were also able to
validate it against survey accurate information that had been collected. It
added to the process of continuous improvement, as more eyes looking at the data
often leads to errors being found quicker and rectified faster, to the benefit
of the whole organisation and wider community.
Spatial views were another development that Council applied within ArcSDE. By
using unique IDs attributed to vector data, features such as road centrelines,
water, sewer and stormwater utilities could be “linked” to the corporate asset
management database and are now accessible via the FDO technology. Many
thousands of attributes describing the asset could be viewed within 12d. This
included basic information such as pipe diameters, material type and condition
assessments through to more detailed info such as remaining useful life (RUL),
road pavement and surface types, widths, and roughness values. Strategically, it
satisfied the “single point of truth” issue and means that Asset Officers could
be independently updating data which could be refreshed through the GIS and
ultimately 12d, ensuring data was current.
Bundaberg, like many Queensland towns, flooded twice during the devastating 2010
and 2011 floods. Hundreds of houses were inundated, and many roads washed away.
The damage bill to Bundaberg Regional Council’s road network was estimated at
$60M. Queensland-wide, the cumulative bill was in the order of $7.5 billion,
making the floods of 2010-2011 the largest and most expensive series of natural
disasters in Australia’s history. 12d Model software with FDO technology, along
with 12d Field, played an important role, not only in helping to map catchments
during the event, but also in the ongoing reconstruction that is underway and
planned for some years yet.
Key benefits of the project:
Council design and survey staff could independently access current spatial
data in real time without the need for asking GIS personnel. If a dataset
was updated on the GIS, it could be simply refreshed within 12d;
Value-adding of existing software licences by allowing access to spatial
data without having to learn or understand another software package, e.g.
from 12d Model designers could connect to and manipulate data in ArcSDE;
‘Single point of truth’ for GIS data established, avoiding currency problems
with multiple “versions”, especially on large projects;
Reduction of data duplication and file server storage (no export of static
datasets and saving them to project files);
Better decision-making in design with access to unlimited geospatial data;
Reduced strain on wireless networks because staff no longer had to import
and export 100Mb+ files;
New ability to access topographic maps and large volumes of aerial mapping
which could be overlayed on designs, making them easier to interpret;
Better error-checking and validation of spatial data;
Preliminary designs and initial investigations able to be done directly from
GIS data such as high resolution aerial photography, utility schematics,
contours and LiDAR point clouds, saving time in field trips;
New ability to “publish” design and survey data to the GIS for display
internal or external to the organisation.
Benefits to Council were extensive, as this project provided spatial data from a
GIS directly at the fingertips of those staff who used it most. Better still, it
could be remotely accessed from the survey pole, on demand, in the field!
Commitment to Sustainable Practice
Sustainability is about reducing long-term cost through collaborative
development. FDO technology is an open source solution; as such its ongoing
development is driven by a worldwide user group.
During field trials and ongoing use, Council has been able to make significant
productivity gains when considering the difference in time to access spatial
data manually versus independently using FDO connections.
Many of the efficiency gains were somewhat difficult to quantify as they weren’t
always tangible. They included:
Savings in file server storage and archival;
Reducing risk of poor decisions from using old versions of static data;
Eliminating time delays waiting for other staff to provide crucial
information for your project;
Significantly reducing the cost of site visits that may not have been
required with access to spatial data (plus a reduced need for surveyors to
“return to office” for on-demand requests for data not already pre-loaded to
their controllers, but which could easily have been sourced remotely from
Reduction in Environmental Impact
For Council’s survey staff, FDO technology and the use of 12d Field offered
fewer vehicle trips to the office for setting out data previously unknown to
them. Along with reducing energy consumption for file server storage and
archival processes, it ensured that Council’s environmental impact is less than
Fewer site inspections were required by designers and surveyors combining the
use of 12d Model, 12d Field, and FDO technology. As an example, driving vast
distances to ground truth some rural drainage catchments could be replaced with
LiDAR point clouds in ArcSDE. Council estimated 90km per week in travel savings
directly from the use of 12d Field and FDO technology. This equates to an annual
reduction of about 1062kg in CO2 emissions for the environment!
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