A recent objective of the technical staff in the GIS Consortium (GISC) has been to investigate the potential for 3D mapping and to be sure the GISC’s data model continues to advance and support these new technologies easily. 3D mapping in GIS has been possible for some time now, but it has always been a matter of the ease of doing so. The value of the 3D products must provide a benefit greater than the time and software costs required to create them.
The GISC’s software provider, ESRI, has an extension called 3D Analyst which provides the 3D mapping opportunities by rendering GIS data that has elevation, height, or level information assigned to it. A new addition to their suite, called CityEngine, provides for texturing of data to make it appear even more real if needed, but much more time is required to add those components to the map. These zoning and tree infestation images highlight the kind of maps that can be created and analysis that can be performed using 3D Analyst. It is quite clear how valuable the third dimension of information is to communicate the volume of infrastructure, natural or manmade, that exists in an area and the impact they have on their surroundings. GIS is a decision support tool and 3D obviously has a part to play for the GIS Consortium member communities.