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5 Applications for 3D GIS in Local Government and Utilities

3D data will play a significant role in the digital transformation of local government, utility, and transportation organizations. The good news is that many of these organizations have no shortage of 3D data. Whether you need data on existing city buildings, airport terminals, utility infrastructure, or plant facilities, chances are your organization has as-builts stored somewhere.

Additionally, many U.S. states have implemented LiDAR plans to establish regular and ongoing 3D data collection to inform land use, infrastructure, and environmental planning and management. It’s also more common for planning and permitting departments to require 3D plans as part of the application process for new construction.

Having access to 3D data is one thing. Leveraging it to advance your digital transformation is another. How can you start to use 3D data within your organization to inform decision-making? If your organization uses GIS, then 3D mapping may be your answer.

3D Geographic Information Systems (3D GIS) are systems for structuring and managing 3D spatial data, capable of handling 3D geometry structures and performing the spatial analysis functionalities of GIS. 3D GIS builds upon the traditional 2D data structure by adding another dimension: z. In Esri’s ArcGIS, there are two types of 3D data: feature data and surface data.

Z values are supported across the entire Trimble Cityworks platform and by individual work activities. If your GIS features are z-enabled, you can store activity data against those assets in Trimble Cityworks. Trimble Cityworks stores the x, y, and z values on work activities, and from there, you can view the data in 3D applications in ArcGIS Indoors, ArcGIS Scene Viewer, ArcGIS Pro, and more. Work history can be displayed in other 3D solutions using Cityworks eURL and APIs. Trimble Cityworks is promoting continued expansion of 3D functionality for seamless integration into your organization’s everyday workflows.

Here are five ways you can get started with 3D mapping in your organization today.

1. Building Maintenance & Plant Management

Whether you are caring for public buildings like libraries and municipal offices or managing pump stations and treatment plants, you are well aware of the technological gap that exists in visualizing vertical assets. Organizations that have used GIS to track their work in structures with multiple levels and floors traditionally used hierarchies of related records to organize and document their work activities. While this approach is possible and can be effective for vertical asset management, the end user experience isn’t optimal. The end user doesn’t have true spatial awareness because this approach can be overly complex and relies on non-spatial data.

3D GIS eliminates the need for complex data structures. Maintenance crews can easily see and navigate to the floor where an asset is located. They can also access 3D visualizations of other structures in the space—from furniture and stairwells to HVAC and electrical systems to pumps and their individual components and even the infrastructure behind building walls.

Many organizations have BIM or other 3D data from as-builts that could be converted to 3D GIS. However, if this data is outdated or not available, there are a variety of 3D scanning solutions on the market that can help collect accurate data on your vertical assets. Indoor mobile scanning solutions like the Trimble TIMMs mobile mapping cart allow users to capture larger spaces cost efficiently and would be used in combination with static scanning solutions like the Trimble SX12 or X7. Drone solutions like Trimble Stratus and outdoor mobile mapping solutions like the Trimble MX50 provide cost efficient ways to capture larger outdoor spaces. These would also be complimented with static scanning.

The scanning and modeling workflows tied to these scanners continues to get easier, as solutions like Trimble Field Link or Perspective allow even beginner technology users to capture data efficiently. Trimble Cityworks partners like KCI Technologies have consulting teams that assist customers with their captured scanning and 3D model data so they can leverage it with different workflows and solutions.

2. Airport Facilities

Airport facilities receive all the same benefits of interior 3D mapping as any other vertical asset management organization, with the additional perk of also adding valuable spatial data to their tenant and lease management workflow. Trimble Cityworks is the only GIS-centric platform that supports permitting and licensing workflows as well as cyclical maintenance activities and reporting requirements.

Many airports have access to facility BIM data and airfield LiDAR data that can easily be converted to 3D GIS for enterprise access. This 3D facility data can be easily imported into the ArcGIS Indoors Model for enhanced capabilities and toolsets focused for facilities management. By combining Trimble Cityworks and ArcGIS, airports can streamline work and permitting processes to deliver exponential value for operations.

3. Utility Vegetation Management (UVM)

Mitigating the risk of trees growing near power lines is often the most expensive operational activity for a utility. It’s also an activity with significant financial and reputational implications. Utilities require better data to reduce outages, meet budget constraints, and build more resilient networks.

A new solution from Trimble combines LiDAR data analysis with a modular system to manage the complete UVM cycle. Trimble Vegetation Manager offers solutions for work identification, prioritization, and field execution—all within a GIS-centric environment that highlights hotspots and work activities in a map. When you enable your utility assets and nearby vegetation for 3D visualizations, you can easily see the impact of tree height and proximity to more accurately identify at-risk vegetation.

4. Subsurface Utilities

The usefulness of z values is not limited to above-ground assets. Subsurface utilities can also benefit from the additional context of 3D visualizations. When so much of your infrastructure is buried underground, it’s arguably even more important to have accurate 3D models to provide a complete picture of what you cannot immediately see.

Gathering this data and making it readily shareable in the form of GIS maps and visualizations can help improve interdepartmental collaboration. Imagine the power of your crews being able to look at accurate 3D models of subsurface utility infrastructure in the area—street crews and contractors could readily see water and wastewater lines, buried power lines, and even underground communications infrastructure.

3D data may already be available to you in the form of plan profiles that document the slope of sewer and stormwater lines, for example. If you do not yet have 3D data, consider making 3D data collection a priority in your asset management strategy. The technological advancement and increasing affordability of high-accuracy GPS units can help your crews start to collect z values on subsurface infrastructure.

5. Urban Planning

New building and infrastructure development within a community can provoke many different emotions. Residents and stakeholders might feel excited by proposed changes—they may also feel surprised and nervous, criticizing the decision making process for not being transparent enough.

Spatial data can have a big impact in improving transparency and community engagement. Maps help communicate the vision and progress of community master plans, and GIS provides a foundation for powerful engagement and interaction during the planning process. 3D GIS further amplifies the positive impact of visual context.

Take, for example, line of sight analysis. 3D maps allow decision makers to understand the impact of a building’s height and shape on the surrounding community, helping to optimize positive impact while also reducing perceived negative impacts. These same visualizations can be shared with the public, increasing transparency for community members. 3D GIS can support required architectural file types, from Sketchup for example, if 3D as-builts are required for large developments.