At their core, CAD and GIS are complementary technologies that have evolved largely independently over the past 30 years. Esri's longtime best-of-breed approach provides value to customers by building better linkages between CAD and GIS systems.
In recent years, Esri has focused much research and development on improving how CAD data can be used as GIS content. ArcGIS now offers better tools for organisation of CAD data and a larger, more useful set of symbols for representing CAD information. In addition, ArcGIS provides a commonly accepted framework for georeferencing CAD data so it can be used in many types of applications and by a wider range of professionals.
More recently, Esri has turned its focus to streamlining workflows that provide GIS content to CAD users. The ArcGIS for AutoCAD plug-in provides GIS content to CAD users via an elegant services-based approach to interoperability, where designers and draftspersons can access and use GIS Web services delivered by ArcGIS for Server without leaving the CAD environment. Esri is exploring how other ArcGIS for Server services, such as geoprocessing and geodata services as well as Web editing, can be used inside AutoCAD and other CAD software.
Esri has also created a new data specification, the mapping specification for CAD (MSC), which is a method of defining and creating GIS content using AutoCAD files and ArcGIS for AutoCAD. The MSC format not only makes CAD data more easily understood as GIS content but also gives the CAD draftsperson the means to enhance drawings with spatial information and attributes normally enjoyed by GIS users.
Esri continues to pursue a two-pronged approach that increases the value of CAD to customers by making it easier to use in a GIS and building better linkages between the two systems so that CAD users can enjoy the full benefits of GIS.
Looking ahead, Esri is working on fully exploring the potential uses of all ArcGIS for Server GIS services (such as geoprocessing, geodatabase, and editing) inside AutoCAD and other CAD software. Another area of research is the leveraging of technologies like building information modelling (BIM) and 3D GIS. BIM promises to provide well-structured datasets that can be incorporated with existing GIS applications to improve asset management, emergency response, property management, and facilities management projects. GIS applications can also be fused with 3D GIS for solving problems associated with 3D networks, volumes, and complex geometries.