Monday, March 10, 2008

Introducing ViSit Anywhere

This article is also available in French.

This blog is all about bringing ViSit Anywhere, Géotech's new geo-engineering application, from a development project to full-fledged product that can be used to solve complex business problems.

If you are not already a Géotech customer, you might be asking who is Géotech, what is ViSit and how can this help.

First, Géotech is a small company in Garches, France that has been delivering Microstation-based geo-engineering solutions since 1989. We have delivered a wide range of special purpose engineering applications, but we have two principal products, ViSit and ViSit/Web. ViSit is a geo-engineering tool that can be configured for a wide range of applications including network management (water, natural gas, electrical, etc.) and cadastral management. In addition, ViSit is an extremely flexible product and it has been extended to a number of other application domains, such as tunnel construction and facilities managements.

Géotech's other major product, ViSit/Web. is built on top of ViSit. It is used to provide consultation and editing functionality to the users via their web browser. The combination of ViSit and ViSit/Web can provide a robust GIS platform for a applications with a wide range of user skill levels and needs.

ViSit (Visualization of Sites) is an application that executes inside of Bentley's Microstation CAD editor. It's really novel feature is its site model. The ViSit site model is a implementation of spatial indexing that is, at once, geometrical and logical. It is geometrical in that the site boundaries are used filter the available sites for any spatial operation. It is logical in that each ViSit project contains a hierarchical tree of theme-sites that allow both logical and scale based filtering. Using the ViSit site model, projects can display and maintain literally thousands of Microstation design files - even on low performance workstations. Contact Géotech for more information on the ViSit site model.

When Bentley released Microstation version 8, they changed the structure of their design files, which had a serious impact on much of the ViSit program logic. At that time, we decided that rather that churning through 10 years of legacy code, we would re-write ViSit. This decision meant that we could restructure the application to take into consideration all that we had learned from our many years of working with a wide variety of customers. It also allowed us to adopt the latest (and the greatest) technologies to provide a flexible, robust software system that could be tailored to the needs of our customers. The resulting product is ViSit Anywhere.

The first beta release of ViSit Anywhere scheduled is for the first quarter of 2008. In the next few weeks we will be rolling out the product to a select group of beta-testors. We will also be posting entries on this site that explains the new features of ViSit Anywhere, some use cases and some early feedback from the product.

As a prelude to the coming release, I would just like to quickly mention some of my favorite features that went into ViSit Anywhere.

  • It is implemented as a Microsoft .NET application. This has allowed us to integrate better with Windows and to provide the latest in user interface technologies, web connectivity and enterprise integration. The current release of ViSit Anywhere is based on the .NET framework version 3.0.
  • It uses a abstract CAD engine. Using Microstation as an editing tool provides users with all the technical drawing power they can ask for. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost, not only in terms of Microstation licenses, but also in terms of user training. In ViSit Anywhere, we still provide a tool for Microstation power users, but now we also provide a simplified environment for people who can contribute to the geo-engineering project, but who are not technical draftsman.
  • It provides disconnected editing. That is, users can download the data they need to do their job and head out on the road (or just sit at their desks). When the job is finished they can commit their changes to share them with their colleagues or they can just throw the project away. Multiple local projects provide an excellent environment for simulations, especially since all the required data is in the local project.
  • It provides simple, robust change management. Geo-engineering projects are often maintenance projects, where changes are (relatively) few and widely separated. This provides an excellent environment for optimistic change management. ViSit Anywhere provides user-based conflict resolution (as opposed to administrator-based systems) making change management very simple.
  • A customer friendly licensing scheme. Géotech provides a new licensing scheme, which should allow all users to have the ability to edit system data, without costing a fortune. In addition the new Géotech license server makes deploying the application extremely simple.
In summary, we think that ViSit Anywhere is a new breed of tool that will change the way companies think about GIS. This new workflow should allow them to extract maximum benefit from their geographic data.

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