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thumb-graham-stickler1Spatial has recently become the first Autodesk Topobase reseller for Ireland and the UK, a move that signals a change in the delivery of the product in those areas. The product is based on the Oracle database and 1Spatial brings considerable experience in that database and data quality together at the same time. V1 Magazine editor Jeff Thurston interviewed Graham Stickler, business development director for enterprise systems at 1Spatial Group to ask numerous questions about the change.



V1: We understand that you are about to be named first Autodesk Topobase reseller. How has this product been sold previously and what will this change mean? Are you currently an Autodesk partner – developer?

GS: 1Spatial is the first Autodesk Topobase Value Added Reseller (VAR) within UK and Ireland for Autodesk. We are already a VAR for other Autodesk products such as AutoCAD Map 3D and MapGuide and a Authorised Developer.  We have a great deal of experience in working with these products and with the underlying Feature Data Objects (FDO) technology in providing geospatial solutions to customers across a range of industry sectors.

There are already other Topobase VARs practicing in other geographies across the world and Northern Europe. Autodesk is systematic in bringing new technologies to market, ensuring the best solutions at the right time for customers. Moving from a direct to a hybrid sales model, the technology and level of adoption is now considered sufficient to warrant scaling up via partners. In the spirit of the democratisation of design innovation technologies, Autodesk feels now is the right time to open this technology up to the greater market in Northern Europe.

V1: Topobase has a long history, it has traditionally been oriented round the Oracle database. Will that continue and what additional expertise will 1Spatial add to the Topobase offering and value proposition for customers?

GS: Indeed. Topobase is already an established product with over 500 existing customers around the world. We believe this is a very important fact. 

Topobase is very definitely orientated around the Oracle database, which provides a core platform for integration and data sharing.  This is a key advantage of the product and delivers benefit by allowing the design and engineering aspects of a business to be fully integrated into key business processes and systems, such as Customer Billing and Asset Management.  Importantly, the latest release supports both Oracle Spatial and Oracle Locator databases providing flexibility and options in how the solution is implemented.

1Spatial has been at the forefront of providing advanced tools that enable geospatial data integration across many sectors, including Utilities, and specialises in the creation of data quality control regimes to maximise the efficiency and use of geospatial data.  The ability to fully integrate the design engineers and the overall design process has often been the missing piece of the jigsaw.

We see the Topobase software as a relevant extension to our services and the perfect tool to help customers in the Utility sector address the difficult challenges they currently face. As existing Autodesk and Oracle partners, our company has recognised expertise and experience in the core technologies, and has already proven that through our expertise with geospatial data migration, transformation and that we can help reduce risk and save time and costs in the implementation of such systems.

Already adding value in the UK in projects such as the geospatial data migration exercise at Thames Water, 1Spatial has also recently been working with Autodesk in Australia on migrating a customer from a legacy system to Topobase.  In addition, we have many years of experience in integrating CAD and GIS helping customers reduce costs and increase efficiencies, and we are currently involved in ground-breaking research in the US on how 3D models can be accurately integrated within 2D geospatial databases.

As with all system deployments issues such as data migration, integration, and quality control are important considerations that often delay implementations, increase risk, and drive up costs. Using such tools as our Radius Studio product,1Spatial have already proved the added efficiencies that we can deliver. Add to this our existing expertise with the core Autodesk products and we believe we can offer a compelling value proposition for customers.

V1: Is there room for resellers to become Topobase developers and how will development proceed for this product into the future?

GS: Topobase is a very highly customisable product with an open API and based on the established AutoCAD platform, FDO and the Oracle database. Topobase comes with standard, industry specific modules for managing infrastructure assets. Each module—water, wastewater, gas, and electric—includes a detailed data model that can be configured to capture the exact information you need about your in­frastructure assets. In addition the predefined workflows provided reduce steps when designing new infrastructure, and business rules provide security and consis­tency. This allows a rapid implementation it also provides a basis from which to tailor the solution to an organisations business operation.

There is therefore considerable scope to develop the product and integrate it into customer’s core business flows.

While the core product will be developed and maintained by Autodesk, partners such as 1Spatial are able to tailor the product to individual needs and develop new generic modules, including data models and workflows, to suit specific industry practices and local legislation. A good example here is the way in which 1Spatial technologies can be integrated with the Topobase core capability for network Schematic generation.   Extending the core capability with our rule-based, data transformation approach produces a more advanced and powerful solution that goes beyond the limits of either product in isolation.

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V1: What are the application areas that you will focus upon in the UK and Ireland? Where do you see the utility market heading within the UK and Ireland?

GS: We will be focussing on the Utility market in the UK and Ireland, and we feel that Utilities here are currently under pressure from many sources including government, regulatory authorities and from customers themselves, to streamline processes and become more efficient.  More flexible and agile business systems are obvious goals at such a time, and many Utility organisations are already attempting to centralise the business data and integrate the systems that underpin their operations. 

Often ignored or sidelined in the past, the inclusion of both geospatial and engineering design data is now on the agenda as location becomes an ever more important component of key business processes providing added value by significantly increasing the ability to effectively plan and mange.

We see the arrival of Topobase as therefore very timely, and we think it could have a major impact on the UK’s Utility Sector by providing an ability to fully integrate Design, Engineering and GIS into mainstream Utility IT business systems.

V1: Does this mean Autodesk will no longer be selling Topobase directly? What will be Autodesk role for Topobase within the UK and Ireland?

GS: Autodesk will continue to invest into some key direct client relationships. At the same time they will actively work with and support 1Spatial in both technology and business terms and will be looking to introduce us to these clients for further value add.

V1: There has been consolidation of utilities across Europe recently. Is this the case in Ireland and the UK? How will that impact the Topobase market? Where do you see the opportunities going forward?

GS: Such a landscape also exists in the UK and Ireland and we see this as a great opportunity.  As organisations attempt to merge systems and integrate data and de-fragment themselves they are looking for truly open and scalable systems underpinned by robust core technologies.  Topobase is a new generation of infrastructure asset management that brings together the engineering, GIS, and operations to deliver real benefit across the whole business.

V1: The evolution of the UK energy marketplace is evolving with energy efficiency, climate change and higher levels of automation poised to have greater impact. How will Topobase be situated within this atmosphere?

GS: All systems and processes are changing at an ever-increasing pace, and as a result adaptability is key.  Autodesk Topobase is an open framework, and it adheres to the specifications set forth by the Open Geospatial Consortium.  This makes it particularly flexible and suitable for such a changing environment.  Its ability to integrate and share data from across the asset management lifecycle provides a central basis for automation.

I think Topobase’s track record is really relevant here also.  A recent IDC report has shown ROI figures as high as 518% over 3 years with customers particularly impressed with the fact that they no longer have to maintain multiple data sets, thus reducing of data errors. This helps deliver higher-quality work, faster.

V1: 1Spatial has a history and tradition of bringing data quality products to the marketplace. How do the current products relate to this business offering and do you see integration between these products, if so, how?

GS: You are right in that 1Spatial’s products such as Radius Studio, Radius Topology, Radius Check and MapRelate all have a part to play here. Topobase represents in many ways the culmination of an integration journey for an organisation.  Starting with data silos where Engineers, GIS and Operations all work in their own worlds there is a clear migration that can now take place. 

The term GIS/CAD convergence is used a lot nowadays and this is one part of this.  From Engineers with DWG files, through to GIS staff with data in perhaps ArcSDE and Smallworld databases there now exists an opportunity to centralise data and share these data back across the source systems and beyond.  Topobase is a natural extension to AutoCAD and AutoCAD Map 3D, which means that the engineers are still using the same system they have always used for design and maintenance.  Having a FDO foundation also allows it to read data from virtually any source.  So, now we can achieve sharing of detailed asset information, GIS data and operational business data across the enterprise.

1Spatial’s products and services help organisations move at whatever pace suits them along this path, all the time helping with the data integration, migration, and importantly quality control.  Then, once data is centralised in Oracle we have management tools available and can ensure an on-going data quality regime is in place across all data sets, and that data are fit for purpose whatever their end use.

Furthermore our expertise in providing robust solutions that integrate these data into core management and planning processes using technologies such as portals and web services can then deliver real benefit as infrastructure asset information becomes an integral part of the business across departments and functions.

It’s a very blessed marriage between not only the companies but our technologies as well.

V1: Why should a customer buy Topobase from you?

GS: Our total solutions help to improve productivity and cost efficiencies by improving the use of geospatial data generally. We have a proven track record in aiding Utility organisations in a number of key areas to which Topobase now forms a core piece:

The creation of central geospatial databases, removing inefficient data silos, that are integrated with other key business data, helps provide a single source of truth and a 360o view of Utilities master data.  We provide advanced tools that enable such integration and the creation of data quality control regimes to maximise the efficiency and use of geospatial data.

As an accredited reseller for all Autodesk CAD products combined with our expertise in the geospatial arena allows us to help our customers consolidate GIS and CAD datastore, thus fostering data sharing across the business, reducing duplication and errors, and generating savings as a result.  We are also at the forefront of research into the integration of complex 3D models such as Building Information Models (BIMs) into the 2D world.

As has been mentioned, centralising and consolidation of geospatial and CAD data is a first step.  There are real benefits to be accrued when geospatial data are fully integrated within key business analysis and reporting systems such as ERP and BI using embedded workflow components, dashboards and portals. We pride ourselves in being experts in delivering the added value of geospatial data directly into the heart of mission-critical business processes without the need for costly development of new systems or major re-development of existing solutions. 

In short, 1Spatial are experts in this arena and offer somewhat unique skills to a very complex issue.  We believe we have all the tools and expertise to both minimise the risk and costs of implementing a system such as Topobase, and to maximise the value such a system brings to the business.

V1: How are you going to handle the training and support for handling this product?

GS: Our staff have been trained in Topobase and will draw on Autodesk’s expertise where necessary as we develop our skills still further.  Customers can be confident that we will provide expert advice, training, and support to the high levels that we are recognised for.

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