Breaking down the difference between GIS and CAD

July 8, 2021

CAD and GIS are two types of spatial software. Geographical information systems or GIS capture, store, analyze, and present spatial information visually. Meanwhile, computer-aided drafting or CAD enables you to design products or infrastructures in 2D and 3D diagrams that make it easy to visualize how to construct, for example, a building. Here are things that technicians should know about both.

The Difference between GIS and CAD

GIS enables data management of particular schemas. Meanwhile, operators can be more artistic when using CAD—it enables them to design to their specifications. Since they organize information differently, it is challenging to facilitate data transfers between the two platforms. For example, transforming a file from CAD to GIS would require you to read the CAD file and double-check the names of colors, line styles, levels, layers, and more. Anything that does not meet the standard goes through technical cleanups.

Another difference between the two is that CAD creates models using coordinates relative to the object. Meanwhile, GIS maps existing structures using a spatial database. The tools that both platforms use are also different—CAD creates layers and dimensions using circles, lines, and text. However, GIS uses vectors and rasters to represent geographical areas.

Finally, CAD and GIS use different types of databases. On the one hand, GIS uses geodatabases or cloud GIS software designed for collaborative data management. On the other hand, CAD uses a manufacturing database containing data technicians generate during the designing phase, like part lists, material specifications, shape and dimensions, and more.

Will One System Replace the Other?

CAD and GIS address different needs, so it is unlikely for one to replace the other. CAD lacks analytics capabilities, which is something GIS provides. It can take the data from CAD and use it for answering quantitative questions. For example, GIS can give you the amount of time it will take for a person to leave a building through its exit points. It can also enable analysts to create heat maps of the most popular routes and compute the most efficient routes between locations.

People whose role involves one application typically do not need to be proficient in the other. Since GIS creates maps and CAD creates objects, few roles will require you to use both of them regularly. There are instances, though, when you have to use GIS and CAD for the same project. For example, if you are planning an expansion, you need to create a map of the premises on GIS and then design improvements on CAD. Map data provides developers with enough data to see how much space they can use.

These systems also enable better facilities management. GIS can help facilities managers decide the best way to use certain areas. Meanwhile, CAD can show the effect of having new buildings around older ones.

Wrapping Up On CAD and GIS

CAD creates models of objects that developers will produce, while GIS recreates the world as it is. Both applications are necessary for gathering information on an area, but they provide different types of data. Design projects can use both, so technicians and developers need to know the fundamentals of each.

Ellipsis Drive helps organizations to collaborate better on projects involving spatial data. We enable spatial data collaboration and geo-analytics, helping companies to manage and deliver geodata better, regardless of their software preferences. Set up an account and start a free trial today!

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