Integrating CAD+GIS for Facilities Management

I’ve focused on GIS for IoT and big data processing the past few years.  Just got the call to help out now with GIS for facilities management.   I’m building this CAD + GIS resource list for my own reference and to share with CAD and GIS operators I’ll be working with.

CAD-GIS Overview

A quick tour of working with CAD data
[ArcGIS Help]

CAD Integration Community

Georeferencing CAD

Overlaying CAD Data into ArcGIS – [ArcGIS Help]

Lining up CAD Data in ArcGIS
[ UC 2017 presentation by Margaret Maher, author of the book.]

  • CAD and ArcGIS approaches
  • Reasons why data might not align, and visual examples
  • Details on how to modify the PRJ
    • The Scale Factor parameter
    • How it affects false Easting and Northing
  • What to request from the CAD operator (AutoCAD & Microstation)
  • List of deep-dive resources on projection

Using GIS inside CAD

Exporting features to CAD drawings
Design projects in CAD can begin with base data generated from a GIS. Export feature classes and shapefiles to AutoCAD and MicroStation formats.

A quick tour of ArcGIS for AutoCAD

CAD-GIS Data Integration

Strategies for migrating CAD to a Geodatabase – [ArcGIS Help]

Standardizing CAD for Importing into Geodatabases – Lessons Learned
[Esri UC 2017 presentation by city of Aurora, CO]

  • The city’s CAD data submittal standards
  • CAD terminology, AutoCAD and Civil 3D
  • CAD Batch Standards Checker
  • FME Workbench
  • Understanding the technology strengths and weaknesses
  • Engaging stakeholders




OK. I’m not a GeoHipster. I’m a GIS Worker. This is what I do.

But worry not, GIS worker: Spatial might no longer be special, but projections, datums, and legacy file formats will continue to be very, very special.
      – Brian Timoney, MapBrief

Okay… GIS is not sexy like your iPhone locator app.  But it will always be special.  In the same way that your plumbing and electrical and HVAC systems are special.  Next time they stop working, ask yourself just how special they are.  Next time your iPhone map is missing Main Street, ask yourself how special GIS is.

Consumer and business geo apps and services keep evolving – cutting edge today and obsolete tomorrow.  BigData today – legacy file format tomorrow.  But projections, datums, and georeferencing will always be there to provide ground truth. 

Esri and the ArcGIS platform have been around for 30 years, defining and documenting GIS work.  So when we needed to understand what GIS workers are doing across a variety of industries, we looked at the list of tools in ArcGIS Toolbox as a compendium of GIS workflow and process skills.  

We needed the ArcToolbox list itself as a data set — not a PDF poster or searchable web site.  I asked Esri for an ArcToolbox list as Excel table or other word processing format, but they could not provide.  So my friend at Esri, Nick Toscano, and I compiled the table ourselves.   That’s almost 900 “GIS tools” in an Excel data table.  Easy to sort, filter, annotate, categorize in ways that meet our needs.  

Here it is.

Some of the tools are pretty arcane.  But most are plain markers for the nuts-and-bolts work of GIS professionals in towns, cities, and counties who have to deal with projections, datums, and legacy file formats every day.  Not the next wave or next-big-thing.  Just the actual data and task at hand.

How will we use this?

  • Survey and assess the experience of our GIS workers.
  • Plan GIS skills training and investment.
  • Design new workflows to make common tasks more efficient.
  • As a quicker reference for building geoprocessing services. 

"Trusted-Crowd Sourcing" for Rural County Road Assets Survey and Inventory

Working as a GIS volunteer for Caroline County, Maryland, I created the first-ever web map of RACPro road survey data used to inventory signs, crosspipes, and utilities.   Why does this matter?

1.  County road survey can move away from 10-year-old “distance measuring instruments” (DMIs).  DMIs replaced the hand-wheel and use vehicle odometer readings to survey road assets like signs, crosspipes, and utilities.

2.  Instead of one expensive DMI ($900 each), county personnel could now use any mobile device to collect GPS-generated data.

JAMAR distance measuring instruments typically pay for themselves in increased productivity in a matter of days

3.  The survey data is no longer locked into a proprietary data format (.rac).  Our county owns just one copy of the RACPro software that can display this data using 10-year-old MapPoint technology.

4.  The data and map were locked into the RACPro desktop app and were not shareable.  I exported the data to Excel and published it as a web map at ArcGIS Online:
5.  Because of limited resources — especially personnel equipped with obsolete DMIs and proprietary software — our county has only surveyed and inventoried a small portion of county roads.  It would now be possible to train other volunteers, such as Service Learning high school students, Eagle Scout candidates, and senior citizens to use their mobile devices to survey and inventory county road 
View Larger Map

Are geolocation using mobile device GPS accurate enough for this type of survey?

I think it is,when used along with the web map app.  Access to the web map with a streets or satellite imagery basemap would allow a survey volunteer with minimum training to place the asset correctly on the map.  And to edit or update the map point as needed.  This kind of interaction with the data and the map are not possible with the DMI and desktop software now in use.

Can volunteers accurately collect this kind of data?  

Maybe better than the current method.  Volunteers can use the mobile device’s camera to document their collection.  Quality controllers can use the photo context to verify the record and edit the data in ways that are impossible with the current technology.

Tell me what you think.

Why doesn’t Esri support metadata publishing through ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online?

Part of my task at San Mateo County GIS (Apr-Oct 2011) was to set up a process for publishing geospatial metadata along with the County’s map services.  We looked at Esri’s free Geoportal Server.  But we decided that was overkill for the County’s data sets.  And we were also having trouble with metadata authoring and publishing with ArcGIS v10.  We needed to publish metadata through ArcGIS Server and the REST API, or through ArcGIS Online where the public would access our map services.  But we couldn’t do either one.
Why doesn’t Esri support metadata publishing through ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online?
This is what I’ve concluded from my conversations with several Esri customer reps and product managers, including  Sud Menon:
Back in the late 90s the federal government wanted to save money by sharing data so it didn’t have to pay to collect the same data twice.  The Federal Geographic  Data Committee (FGDC) thought it was a good idea to develop a metadata standard and taxonomy to enable fast searching on tags, keywords, and technical data descriptions.   FGDC figured that vendors like Esri should support this with geosptial metadata creators and search capability.  Esri agreed, probably because the USG is their biggest customer. 
So Esri built the first geoportal that provided the search and share capability for Dept of Interior’s site, based on FGDC standard metadata.  Esri (and everyone else in big government) thought that government organizations could mandate that their GIS units would make the effort to document all their geodata in the FGDC metadata standard.   But it didn’t happen, because it’s too big an investment for most organizations.
When Esri developed ArcGIS Online, they opted not to support full FGDC metadata either.  And when they developed ArcGIS Server v9 and v10, they again gave it little attention.  Esri focused instead on simple key words and minimal tag information — less metadata for more audience – to keep the hurdle low for sharing geodata. 
Esri says that ArcGIS Server will support metadata publishing through the geodatabase in the future.   In Q&ADiscussion before the 2011 UC, Esri announced:
“ArcGIS Server 10.1 will automatically capture and store basic metadata about the GIS services you create and allow you to enhance metadata documentation with descriptions, summaries, tags and other information. Any client accessing these services as well as anyone using and the Portal for ArcGIS will be able to leverage this information….  you can create and update your GIS service metadata using the tools that are built-in to ArcGIS. This metadata will be available via a simple URL.”
Lots of organizations went to the trouble of creating structured metadata.  But San Mateo County has only a loosely-structured html-based metadata catalog.  The best approach for the County now seems to be a blend of FGDC-like metadata documentation for geodata that is complex, that must be accurate and precise, and/or is a component of a geodata model that is shared among GIS experts.  And to author and publish a more compact set of simpler (but still standardized) tags and keywords for most geodata shared with partners and the public.
Standard tags is what we used for “metadata lite” with the San Mateo County Geodata Catalog.

Public Map Gallery for San Mateo County

This week I finish a 6-month work assignment with the San Mateo County (Calif.) GIS Team.  I wrote about this assignment back in March, just before I started.

My task was to use free resources ArcGIS Online to make SMC geodatabase layers available to the public.  Supporting tasks were:

  • Improve metadata authoring workflows to better support web map services.
  • Publish all county geodatabase map layers that can be released to the public, as map services.
  • Publish a geodata portal.
  • Publish a map gallery that uses the county map services.
[ The complete task description is here . ]

The idea was to see if we could deliver geodata and maps over the Web at very low cost and without professional software developers.  (I’m not a programmer.)

I’ll post the link to the map gallery next week, after we get the okay from the county.  I’ll say more about metadata, map services, and geoportal in the next posts.

Fast-Mapping in San Mateo County, Calif.

I’ll start work with the GIS Lead in San Mateo County, California, in a few weeks.  SMC already has a public-facing ArcGIS Server.  With map services in place, it was easy for me to start publishing web maps from the SMC server while I’m still sitting in Philadelphia. I added some of the county’s existing geospatial data to a map here in my blog, using map publishing tools at  The map bwlow shows something called the “SB375 Corridor”.  I’m not sure yet what that is, but I’ll find out soon enough.

This took me ten minutes to put together, including blog text and posting, and going back to switch map layers. (From housing to transportation. You can click “Larger Map” and turn layers on and off, change the basemap, and add others layers you might search and find.),37.418,-122.1039,37.579&zoom=true
View Larger Map

Aerial photos of the Frederick Douglass Birthplace are online.

See the photos here .

I flew this site in 2004.  The album includes an index map that shows the location and orientation of each photo.

The actual birthplace is 4 miles (7 miles by road) from the highway marker in Talbot County, Maryland, that commemorates Douglass.  I’ll publish the URL soon for an online map-based presentation, “The Search for Frederick Douglass’s Birthplace”.