BIM Database Long Tail

In the GIS world the database part of GIS files is the power. I would wager the average GIS Analyst spends more time editing, calculating, transforming the GIS database more than they do the editing of the points/lines/polygons. The first thing I did working with GIS files is open the table to see what I have (or don’t have) for data.

One of the key aspects to BIM is the database. In the hands of an Architect, the database takes a back seat but tools such as Revit make sure that everything that is placed has detailed information about it stored in a database. It isn’t Revit though, IFC, CityGML and other formats treat the database as an important part of a BIM model. But when we share BIM models, the focus is always on the exterior of the model and not the data behind it.

Aqua Tower, Chicago, IL inside Cityzenith Smart World

One thing I’ve focused on here at Cityzenith since I joined as the CTO is pulling out the power from BIM models and expose them to users. As someone who is used to complex GIS databases I’m amazed at how much great data is locked in these BIM formats unable to be used by planners, engineers and citizens. I talked last week about adding a command line to Cityzenith so that users can get inside datasets and getting access to BIM databases is no exception.

That’s why we’re going to expose BIM databases the same way we expose SQL Server, Esri ArcGIS and other database formats. When you drag and drop BIM models into Cityzenith that have databases attached them you will be prompted to transform them with our transformation engine. BIM has always been treated as a special format that is locked up and kept only in hands of special users. That’s going to change, we are going to break out BIM from its protected silo and expose the longest of long tails in the spatial world, the BIM database.

I’ve always said Spatial isn’t Special and we can also say BIM isn’t Special.

The Launch of Cityzenith

As I mentioned in my last post, Cityzenith launched last week in Chicago. Thanks to everyone who turned out to see us move out of beta and into a full blown data platform for BIM and GIS. We were lucky enough to have many special guests speaking including State of Illinois CIO Hardik Bhatt, City of Chicago Chief Data Officer Tom Schenk, John Kizior of AECOM, Tom Coleman of WSP-USA, and Gordon Feller of Meeting of the Minds. Michael Jansen, our CEO, lead the discussion and talked about the road to where we are today and how we’re going to change how things are done.

A warm thanks to attendees from Arup, HOK, HKS, CannonDesign, Foursquare, Perkins+Will, SOM, AECOM , Gensler, DeWalt, CallisonRTKL, WSP USA, BuiltWorlds, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Argonne National Laboratory and many more who attended. The hard work has begun for us and we’re looking forward to helping companies connect with each other around the world.

If you’d like to give Cityzenith a spin free of change, sign up now. Let us know if you’d like to see a demo first. There is so much more to come, stay tuned!

The Command Line Revisited

I’ve talked repeatedly about GIS command line tools being powerful. During the launch last week of Cityzenith, I was describing our Asq query tool to the audience and described it as the command line of Cityzenith.

Presenting Cityzenith Smart World to the world…

Asq is simple, a query tool to search through our indexed data stores in Elastic. But is also much more, a way to manipulate what you see in your view. Using the GUI to add and work with files and layers is of course how must people will work with the product but being able to stack together commands to perform the same action is where the power is. Much like Automator on Mac OS X or similar scripting tools, the idea is to batch functions together in building blocks.

Back in the 90s I used AutoCAD for much of my data creation because it made it simple to model the built environment. Before the madness of AutoCAD 13, the DOS based approach of having a command line at the bottom of the window made its use so much better than having to navigate toolbars and menus. Windows 95 and Mac OS destroyed the command line tools to the point we have things like Ribbon Interfaces and stackable toolbars. Its so much at this point that I try and do most of my GIS processes in the command line using Python or Javascript.

I don’t want users of Cityzenith to feel constrained by buttons, dialogs and options. Start typing and autocomplete takes care of your next decision. In showing our development team how you perform a Definition Query on ArcGIS Desktop, they were speachless at how many right clicks, OKs and other UI madness one must complete before getting something as simple as [PARK_NAME] = “Grant”. I want to type:

SHOW -> FILE -> PARK -> WHERE -> PARK_NAME -> IS -> “Grant”

That’s not even including all the spatial query functions we can do.

We just launched so this is the beginning of command line City Information Modeling (CIM). Cityzenith can help manage the built environment but taking control of all the aggregated data is critical. Hence Asq being the command line of Cityzenith.

If you’re interested in signing up, we’ve got a page to do that.