May 30, 2011
Interoperate and Integrate with New Bentley Applications
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Interoperate and Integrate with New Bentley Applications

By Susan Smith

At Be Together: The Bentley User Conference
, taking place last week at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, there were numerous announcements of new technology, among them i-model iWare applications, cloud access to ProjectWise v8i managed synchronized secure content on the iPad, Bentley Navigator v8i review and markup capabilities to users of mobile devices,
AECOsim family of information modeling applications. The premise of AECOsim is that integrated projects benefit from interdisciplinary integration – and that rigor in analysis and simulation, as opposed to merely notional analysis, need not be sacrificed in an information modeling workflow based on full information reuse. Also, construction workface planning with open interfaces to the major plant engineering applications, now fully leverages ProjectWise V8i and Bentley Navigator V8i, through the newly released

As this is strictly a user conference, an AECWeekly interview was conducted from the office instead of onsite. Huw Roberts, global marketing director for building and structural engineering, pointed out that interoperability is crucial and the company is continually working toward achieving higher interoperability.

iWare

Throughout 2010, Bentley advanced the adoption of i-models, which are containers for open infrastructure information exchange that enable interoperability. In 2011, Roberts said, Bentley is accelerating the value of i-models by providing apps and plug-ins including those for competitive products that share information required for interoperable operations. “We call these iWare apps,” said Roberts. “Bentley is making these available for free for this purpose. The launch of Bentley’s iWare apps site at Bentley.com/iWare provides fast and easy access to iWare apps along with links to free training on their use and reference documentation.”

Roberts said the response to iWare apps shows people are looking for ways to be interoperable and integrate their information, so Bentley is continually adding more iWare.

The iWare apps announced at the conference are designed around interoperating from the information modeling tools. I-models are the containers for the information with business and office tools and uses. Bentley offers four i-model drivers – for Excel, Access, Crystal Reports, and Visual Studio, and a fifth one listed on the site – i-model ODBC driver for Windows 7.

“All of these for the app named provide an opportunity for those apps to access the information in i-models directly from within those apps,” said Roberts. “So for instance you can be in Microsoft Excel and do a report or a table on some information, let’s say the number of light fixtures in a building. What this allows you to do – from Excel you can open the i-model, it presents it to you in fields in a pivot table and so you can make your own pivot table and do all the things you can do in Excel and it is presented to you in an Excel, or Access or Visual Studio way.”

The i-models are unique in that the information from Bentley Architecture or MicroStation or other applications is saved as an i-model, so then the Excel or other tool can pull the information when they need it as a live link. If the information in the model changes, Excel will update with the new information, giving you live data.

“It’s an entirely different and unique way of connecting to that AEC information and its business properties that they’ve never been able to do before,” said Roberts. An i-model can come from Bentley applications but also from their i-model plug-in for Revit and other sources.

“There are a whole lot of people who don’t use engineering tools but they use Access, Word and Excel and they want to do a report using information from an information model,” Roberts said.

The number of people who can access the i-model is huge. I-models are open containers for infrastructure information, an information rich source that is a small file that can be in ProjectWise or on your computer. “It can be something you’re accessing from SharePoint, just like any other file. In terms of this open data access idea, and these apps, the important point is the i-model takes the interpreting and normalizing all of the data schemas from those AEC tools into a way that can be programmatically accessed by these other apps,” Roberts explained. “The user doesn’t have to do anything special – they don’t have to know anything about
programming or data structure, they can go into Access or Crystal Reports and open that i-model as a data source, exactly as they would open another Excel file.”

Three other i-Ware apps being added include:



Bentley FlexUnits, a unit conversion utility which will perform conversions for basically any type of unit specially engineering units from one to another. Architects and engineers look at various information sources that may present information in one set of units and may need to use it in a different set of units. For example, Fahrenheit or Celsius, viscosity or velocity, length or flow rates or temp co-efficients.

This utility allows people to convert things on the fly and set up their own conversion factors, and share with their team.

The AGS file format is a standard format for environmental and geotechnical information that everybody uses worldwide and comes from the UK. The AGS Toolkit brings in AGS files which could have come from any number of apps from Bentley and others or from survey data. It first of all validates the file to make sure it’s correct and conforms to standards and then allows you to convert that file format to an Excel. You can then take all that data into a standard tool like Excel, then you can get it to lots of other tools.



The Bentley DGN Reader for Windows 7 is installed to Windows 7 and from then on anything you are doing in Windows Explorer, any time you come across an i-model or DGN file you’ll see a thumbnail preview of it in tiles on the Windows desktop. If you select on the file in Windows Explorer in the preview pane like you’d see for a Word document, you’ll now see a preview of what’s in the model. You can pan and zoom and rotate, interact with that model without having to open it up in any app at all, just in Windows itself. “It allows you to navigate very quickly through all your models, see them and make sure it’s the right one before you act on it,”
said Roberts.

This also connects all your models to Windows Search or Google Desktop Search. If you hit the start menu and hit search and typed in wood doors, say, your answer would be any file that has wood doors in any of the text or attributes inside the model. So you’ll see a search results that might have spreadsheets and PDFs and other things but it will also include all the models that have that information inside.

The main feature users like about i-models is that they are so secure and also have provenance so the i-model knows where it came from. Anything you do with an i-model can connect back to where it came from.

Cloud Access to ProjectWise

Bentley also announced cloud access to ProjectWise managed synchronized secure content on the iPad. One of the ways they can initiate this is with i-models. Bentley is extending the i-model capabilities in two ways to do this – 1) i-models can now package multiple files, so you can package plans, sections, PDF, photographs and a movie about the lobby that you’re going to inspect in the field into an i-model. You have all the information you need to go work anywhere with that information. 2) It also allows that information to be moved around as one set, so it keeps everything together and organized. It also extends them so they can be rendered for device specific uses, so if the i-model is to be used on an iPad, Bentley renders that i-model into a format that takes advantage of things that i-pads can do specially. It also may accommodate any limitations of the device.  For example, iPads typically don’t have a whole lot of memory or space available for files, on the other hand they are GPS- enabled, have compasses and motion sensors so they can tell where they are and how they’re oriented in the world.



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-- Susan Smith, AECCafe.com Managing Editor.




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