A spatial information system (SIS) is critical to the hosting, querying, and analyzing of spatial data sets. The increasing availability of three-dimensional (3D) data (e.g. from aerial and terrestrial laser scanning) and the desire to use such data in large geo-spatial platforms have been dual drivers in the evolution of integrated SISs. Within this context, recent patents demonstrate efforts to handle large data sets, especially complex point clouds. While the development of feature-rich geo-systems has been well documented, the implementation of support for 3D capabilities is only now being addressed. This paper documents the underlying technologies implemented for the support for 3D features in SISs. Examples include ESRIs ArcGIS geo-database with its support for two-and-a-half dimensions (2.5D) in its Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and Triangular Irregular Network (TIN), the more recent development of the Terrain feature class, and support for 3D objects and buildings with its multi-patch feature class. Recent patents and research advances aim to extract DEMs and TINs automatically from point cloud data. In this context, various data structuring innovations are presented including both commercial and open source alternatives.
Urban Modelling Group, School of Architecture, Landscape&Civil Engineering, University College Dublin, Ireland.