As the GIS and Engineering industry technologies mature, we are starting to see a merge of the two industries. This is Engineering CAD data being converted or built to be used in a GIS system. This merge has happened because of the ever-present search for efficient workflows and accurate representation. I’m sure many in the industry have heard the old expression: “We have a CAD system we don’t need GIS”… or the reverse: “We have GIS we don’t need CAD”. I’d like to argue that, you need both.
The two most common systems are AutoCAD Map and ESRI ArcGIS. Once you learn the nuances of both, you can start to learn to utilize the strengths of each. Let’s go through just a couple of the strengths and how they complement each other.
GIS system (ArcGIS)
Analyzing Power – The ability to create analytical maps of your data increases the efficiency of your data in that it can be leveraged for many purposes.
Georeferencing – This feature makes your maps smarter in that they are referenced to the rest of the world, allowing you to utilize many more datasets already created. This also aids in allowing the ability for more functions of your map, such as asset/data management and planning.
CAD system (AutoCAD Map)
Accuracy – CAD gives you the capability to create very accurate maps. Its cogo tools and drawing capabilities mean the sky is the limit in creating new data or converting old data.
Implementation – Most Engineering data is created in CAD, from municipal maps to infrastructure systems. With CAD, we have the ability to convert or build this data into a more efficient and functional set of data for use in GIS and CAD.
We can use our CAD system to create highly accurate maps and convert a wide array of data to GIS format, and then utilize Arc Map to analyze and give relationship to our newly created or converted data, increasing its efficiency and purpose. The new dataset can then be utilized by both CAD and GIS.
In the coming years, I think we will see the distinction between CAD and GIS blur even more.