Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Observations from Bismarck

The 46th annual Highway Engineering Exchange Program International Conference is History. I would like to congratulate the North Dakota DOT, HEEP President Diane Gunsch and her staff for putting on a wonderful conference. Not only did they take great care of the conference delegates but they put on a top notch technical program as well.

So what was everyone talking about at HEEP? One word – GOOGLE.

More specifically GOOGLE EARTH. If you haven’t looked at it RUN don’t walk to the nearest browser and take a look at it. It is truly amazing. How do they do it? More importantly how do they make money? Not only is the product amazing in it’s own right but it can be “hacked” very easily to make it do what you want it to. It can become with a little work your own FREE personal GIS. Dilip Dasmohapatra from the Alberta DOT showed me how he was able to use GOOGLE Earth to display, locate and do a fly around of any bridge in the Alberta bridge database by just typing in a bridge number. If I was ERSI I would be worried to say the least.

Next thing people were talking about – The Old Days.

More specifically we miss the competition between CACIE, Intergraph, GEOPAK, and Bentley that we had at HEEPs past. Now that Bentley owns all the civil design packages that are worth anything we are basically at their mercy. Some of you who aren’t involved in the highway design world might say, what about Autodesk? (They did buy CACIE). In the highway design world AutoDesk isn’t even an also ran. Their new Civil 3D product looks interesting but since it can’t (or won’t) read and write MicroStation dgn files, they don’t stand a chance in this market. Unfortunately for AutoDesk highway design is STILL ALL ABOUT THE DATA Files.

If all the vendors would agree on using and supporting a single XML standard then maybe we would be able to select software on the basis of features, performance and support. But I won’t be holding my breath.

Talking about XML if you want to what a single XML standard could look like then check out the TRB TransXML Project NCHRP 20-64 at:


That’s it for now.