Going With the Flow at AU 2011

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I am a geospatial analyst. I typically work with traditional GIS software like ESRI’s ArcGIS. However, Autodesk products are also heavily utilized in the office where I work. More and more, GIS and CAD are being integrated and it often falls upon me to work with our CAD analyst to explore interoperability between the two products. Over the last few years Autodesk has worked to develop a product called Map3D into a full GIS product to rival ArcGIS. There are those who will claim that Map3D has arrived at this goal but don’t let ’em fool ya. They can both be defined as a GIS but they are not equals. Autodesk is great at creating products that will make and manipulate geometries (think AutoCAD or Civil 3D). ESRI is great at making products that create points, lines and polygons, connect them in meaningful ways and then map them within geospatial coordinates.  Autodesk is slowly introducing more geospatial analysis tools into their Map 3D product but one will not find the depth of available tools that you will find in ArcGIS. I digress, however. The above argument goes on every day in places more appropriate than this. At the very least, it should be the subject of another post. Suffice it to say, I have to know both, work with both and integrate both into a workflow. To further this goal, I have been sent to this year’s Autodesk University in Las Vegas, NV.

After two days of the conference I can report mixed feelings about the value of what was there. The overarching valuable service that I could identify was free testing to become certified in a variety of Autodesk products including Civil 3D, Revit and plain old AutoCAD. As a Map 3D user, I have been disappointed to know that they do not currently have a certification for that products. I was told that one is currently being considered, though.

The hands-on labs and lectures have their place but of course you have to put up with a lot of information that is not relevant to your own situation. To be fair, that is the case with many of the conferences I attend such as the ESRI conference. I attended one lecture about terrestrial spatial scanning for integration into Building Information Modeling (BIM). It was interesting and relevant to what we are doing in our office but the first hour was taken talking about minor issues like making sure to carry a long extension cord and manipulating xyz data in MS Access.

Now on to the most important part of the conference – lunch. One is never sure what to expect when it comes to conference food. Some conferences do not provide meals at all. I am happy to report AU does. I was a bit worried about what would be served after I had gone through the line at their “Grab-and_Go breakfast” the first morning. Breakfast was meat, cheese and egg between sort of round croissant halves. Problem was, I couldn’t tell the croissant from the egg from the cheese. The meat was the only thing I could positively identify, so that was all I ate. Lunch, however, was surprisingly good. It included salad, Spanish rice, pinto beans, pork medallions and chili. When I was done I didn’t feel like my gut was going to explode. Nice job AU! The only issue I had was when lunch was over and another session was about to begin, some guy with a mic’d xylophone started banging out a tune that was so annoying it made people stamped out of the room. AU really knows what they are doing.

Between sessions we were treated to coffee, organic teas, soda and water. In the afternoon they rolled out the carts with fruit, desserts and chips. It was really quite good. The second day I skipped breakfast and ate lunch elsewhere but overall I was impressed.

Before I end I have to briefly touch on the vendor area. It was not as big as I thought it would be and the schwag was not as good. That being said, I did come away with some great information about the next generation of Oce plotters and some great Chinese trinkets that have no good use but keep my kids for about 30 seconds. If anyone has any interesting comments or stories about this years AU, please do let me know.