We’ve been hearing about the cloud for several years now. But ask the typical geospatial professional at the average firm how they’re storing, accessing and using data, and you’ll likely hear about a complex network of massive internal servers, possibly with some form of remote-access capabilities but hardly what could be considered a true cloud. The reasons are many and range from concerns about data security to a basic lack of need.

However, during the opening keynote at Autodesk University 2012 in Las Vegas this week, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass pointed out an important trend. Mobile devices and cloud services are ubiquitous in our personal lives, from email to social media to the dozens of other apps most of us use on a daily basis. Those who find creative ways to use the cloud in their professional lives will quickly gain a competitive edge.


To make the transition easier, Autodesk is focusing on a number of cloud-based solutions. Among the innovations released at Autodesk University 2012 is Autodesk FormIt, a new free mobile app for the iPad that aims to promote a better building information modeling (BIM) workflow by allowing building design professionals to conceptualize, analyze, and share early design ideas. To accelerate the adoption of BIM for infrastructure, the company launched Autodesk Project Mercury, which encompasses a range of desktop, cloud and mobile technology. A cloud-based road optimization service for Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler software, the first in a series of cloud-based services the company plans to deliver as part of Project Mercury, is geared toward helping civil engineers and designers create more cost-effective and efficient road and highway designs by optimizing and automating engineering calculations and designs, helping to speed project delivery and reducing costs.

During his keynote address, Bass highlighted a number of other cloud solutions, including Simulation 360, which allows unlimited simulations in the cloud; Fusion 360, which allows for 3D free-form modeling in the cloud; and BIM 360, which allows for clash detection, class resolution and other BIM functions in the cloud.

Maybe we’re not quite there yet. But Autodesk, at least, is placing some pretty big bets that the cloud is where everything is headed.

How will cloud technology benefit geospatial professionals? Share your thoughts below.