Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
“Going Digital” at Bentley 2017 “Year in Infrastructure” in Singapore
October 19th, 2017 by Susan Smith
Partnerships make the world go round.
Or so it would seem from the recent announcements made by Bentley Systems at their 2017 Year in Infrastructure Conference held in Singapore this past week. The event drew record numbers, primarily from Southeast Asia, China and India. 130 journalists also were in attendance.
Partnerships are a big part of the forward motion of the company, as Bentley seeks to embrace real world problems and find some answers through deft R&D technology, the use of the cloud and interoperability. They take on a bigger presence in the Alliance Partner Program as their strengths are felt through the new technology releases.
The cloud has leveled the playing field in terms of providing ways of connecting software and technology that didn’t exist before. Workarounds for all the disparate software that had to be used on large infrastructure projects were helpful, but not wholly satisfying to those who had to wade through the morass of file formats and incompatibility. Those days are quickly disappearing with the cloud.
CONNECTEdition came on the scene two years ago to replace MicroStation V8i. As with all Bentley products, the company has made sure their products had a path to interoperability with other products on the market and within their own product suites. All old versions of MicroStation still work and are supported, while the features of the newer versions will of course not work on them. But they are not forgotten.
Nor has Bentley demanded that their desktop customers take on a subscription program. They offer one but it is not mandatory.
CONNECTEdition is now essentially complete, with all the different products rolled out on it, in the next few months. This is good news for projects that require multiple disciplines and involve both horizontal and vertical infrastructure workflows together.
Users can upgrade to CONNECTEdition with no file format change, by virtue of Microsoft Azure and a powerful partnership with Bentley. The upgrade ensures that they will constantly be updated.
CEO Greg Bentley spoke in a press conference on Monday about the comprehensive modeling environment AECOsim Building Designer CONNECTEdition, used for buildings and for every infrastructure project. “The horizontal and vertical are together in all major projects,” he reminded the audience.
CONNECTEdition OpenRail has been rolled out. “OpenRail is our first product range to have scope for the entire product life cycle,” said Bentley. “Rail in Metro is the category of infrastructure investment, the largest category in the world. Most rail projects are taking advantage of our portfolio. RailTrack Optram is for rail corridor maintenance and ComplyPro is for progressive assurance for Rail. Each of those products conceived before there was this digital way. Rail is a machine, a system where engineering is the same. It became our priority in going digital, we’re doing our very best in OpenRail to engineer our software with digital components. It describes itself and puts it together across context.”
CONNECTEdition AssetWise can start with OpenRail at any stop along the way whether from a CAPEX or OPEX environment. CONNECTEdition Conceptstation (OpenRail) is now available for conceptual stage engineering, and carries on to detail. It Includes interactive costing to explore the feasibility.
CONNECTEdition AECOSim Station Designer will be the next release in the applications.
“We are Introducing software based on the notion of digital components,” said Bentley.
Singapore is not allowed to use the public internet in public works projects. Microsoft Azure makes it possible to not exclude anyone, even people in private cloud environments.
ProjectWise design integration is the collaboration system used, which is a hybrid environment.
ContextCapture has its own processing. ConstructSim is a new Azure-based service.
365 services are now available from ProjectWise CONNECTEdition. As most organizations have gravitated to Office 365, their engineering and productivity work share can reside there as well. Microsoft Flow can integrate engineers with their office work by using Azure Search.
In terms of partnership, “We are taking advantage of Microsoft’s R&D and the momentum with 365,” said Bentley.
Siemen’s Global Head of Information Technology, Helmuth Ludwig, spoke of PLM and highlighted joint development projects with Bentley from the past to their becoming an alliance partner.
“We haven’t spent a lot on digital assets,” said Ludwig. “We need a digital twin, to be able to simulate all processes on the production side. How do you take information from users and integrate them in all the steps? What happens when there’s an asset failure? How do you trace it so you can avoid it in future by having a digital twin of the product?”
Siemens has deep knowledge in several domains, in the areas of energy generation, process industries, etc. They can bring this together with Bentley’s most innovative tools to market. They are very optimistic this will bring significant value to customers around the world.
Rail electrification of mobility can’t happen fast enough. In the OpenRail environment, how can we do the best job for overhead catenary lines – a kit of parts and more? Siemens has developed for their own use good software for overhead catenary lines, that works well with Siemens other offerings. How can Open Rail electrical and the Siemens overhead line electrification best understand the control environment of the functional and the physical? “OpenRail designers will all have the benefit of, and will work very well with Siemens hardware, but will not be limited to that,” said Ludwig. “There will be no separate licensure for the Siemens rail and electrification; it will be inside OpenRail. This won’t be done for first version of CONNECTEdition OpenRail. but for the next one, with absolute openness of Bentley Systems.”
The Alliance Partner Program launched at YII2016 is going digital. Data environments are connected. With Siemens, the question is, how can we advance infrastructure by working with substantial suppliers and owners, because it’s now possible for us to accomplish digital workflow, components and context?
Topcon shared the vision described by Greg Bentley as “constructioneering.” At this conference Bentley announced several industry specific academies, one of them being Constructioneering Academy. “Constructioneering” is when engineering, surveying and construction are a continuous process where one is not handed off to the other. Users will capture the digital of the construction site, getting current site conditions with accurate 3D models, using Topcon devices.
Heavy construction demands going digital. CEO and president of Topcon Positioning Systems, Ray O’Connor, asked the question, “Why aren’t infrastructure projects bankable?”
“Going digital can make them bankable, attracting abundant private financing to fill the funding gap,” said O’Connor. “The problem is we have industry accustomed to traditional work processes, and need to increase awareness of automation that is possible in Constructioneering. It’s already doable in heavy civil construction.”
Advancing people and processes is the way to go here, and Topcon has experience in having a supply chain onboard that understands the digital workflows.
How do we solve this problem of automating the construction industry? Started with automating heavy equipment is the answer, according to Topcon. How can we connect engineers with activity going on on site? The constructioneering.com website will report on activities and locations of the academy.
“We have many schools where we bring customers in from all over the world, and users teach them how to get the most out of systems they buy from us today,” said Ray O’Connor “We’re not doing anything to solve the gap between the engineer side and the product. So we want to create automation across every segment of the workflow business.”
Topcon machines are a part of the academy, with software working on the cloud. They have invested in training facilities around the world. The price point on machines is $100,000 but processing power is bringing the price down as it is being adopted at an accelerated pace. “If we don’t do engineering and construction online, we won’t solve the entire process,” said O’Connor.
One of Topcon’s research projects this summer mounted cameras on the blades and buckets of excavators doing trenching for subsurface utilities. “It’s possible to get 3D data from the trench.,” said O’Connor. “How will you use that video imagery? Another aspect of applying machine learning, is you can classify when you have surveyed a mesh on the construction side.”
We see autonomous site preparation as the norm in the mining industry, said O’Connor. Komatsu has tons of autonomous trucks driving in and out of sites. This may be possible by 2025.
Executive vice president Europe, Bureau Veritas, Jacques Lubetzki, is a leader in testing, inspection and certification leading to asset management and integrity with compliance. Bureau Veritas is an independent third party that has entered into a partnership with Bentley to develop new cloud services for asset modeling and management.
“We test physical assets to see if they’re compliant,” said Lubetzki. “We’re collecting data and giving it back to clients with added value. We are providing the expertise to create the digital twin in making sure we’re meeting client’s needs. We are tagging, classifying and identifying points of interest. Then the digital twin becomes a single point of trust, technical communication, inspection, and data. Then we maintain it over a lifetime, and each time there’s a change of asset we will update.”
Surveying can become continuous, machine learning will increase productivity of each capture cycle, and ultimately the Bureau can imagine cameras and sensors being embedded.
Alberto Granados, VP Asia Pacific Microsoft, spoke of the Malaysia Mass Rapid Transit Corporation tapping into the power of Microsoft Azure. 80% of the population and primarily millennials expect the cloud to serve their needs and provide massive opportunity to disrupt.
“We are investing massively in Azure, and invest in 38 regions and four more will be announced,” said Granados. “We are bringing on 120,000 new Azure customers per month, 90% of Fortune 500 customers are already using Azure. We think infrastructure is unrepresented in this investment.”
Malaysia wants to improve productivity of workforce, and BIM or other tools are an imperative. Malaysia Mass Rapid Transit has the typical challenges of workforce, deadline, needing to synchronize different teams to reduce risk. It is the first metro able to demonstrate how the cloud can really provide assets without acquiring them and use them at any moment, in any size needed.
Frank Braunschweig, CEO of ACTION Modulers, talked about the acquisition of ACTION Modulars, leaders in environmental modeling. Wth these modular, you can predict the impact of weather and rain on your city. Reality modeling can assist in putting that information together accurately and efficiently.
iModel 2.0 Cloud Platform
Perhaps the biggest technology breakthrough announced at the conference was that of iModel 2.0 Cloud Platform with its iModelHub Cloud service, designed to synchronize changes across disciplines.
CTO and EVP Keith Bentley and the Bentley team have been working on this development for the past five years, answering the need of customers to automate processes using many tools. “The question has always been, why is it so complicated? Each of those tools were defined and conceived to run only on the PC, and the format was to represent a piece of information created for a single program.”
iModels were invented to take all that information that is spread through many different kinds of files and provide a cohesive container to hold it all in. That part of the invention was successful, except that iModels are a snapshot of a point in time. If you needed to make a change you had to scrap the first iModel and make another updated one.
“Now we have the concept of the cloud,” said Bentley. “The cloud is a collection of an infinite number of computers. The cloud allows us to store change. IModel Hub is a different way of thinking and stores change. If you want to do an iModel, now we can copy it and synchronize it with a new service iModel Hub, and keep track of whose changed what on your projects. It’s a radical new technology and completely different from any competitors’ approach.”
“We’ve engineered a way of producing it without changing the processes in workflows in BIM. We can simply overlay the iModel Hub. It’s ready for users to take advantage of.”
How is this accomplished? The state of the database is big, and the iModel changes are small. By hooking it through ProjectWise, it listens for any change made. A converter bridges and records the change in the database.
“We can also study change,” said Bentley. “We might apply machine learning and may be able to predict when a project is going off the rails by noting changes.”
GitHub is a change management tool for source code and the genesis most likely for the iModelHub. Documents, models, ancillary information that are created by the engineer in the design session are stored there.
IModelHub is built specifically for the cloud, and is asynchronous. All it needs is to connect to the internet to synchronize its change data and you don’t need to have it on every computer. The Azure cloud is essential for doing this aligning and synchronizing.
It was an eye opener to feel the urgency with which Malaysia and southeast Asia view the adoption of the cloud for their infrastructure projects. It is not something accessed by a very few, but rather, a whole movement toward providing access and connectivity through the cloud, that was not possible in the past. It cannot come soon enough for these countries.
I heard from a number of attendees that they were eager to learn about Bentley products. Many of them use the products in their work and their employers requested they attend. Those I spoke with who were from southeast Asia or India or other geographically nearby countries, said they would not be able to attend if the conference was held in the U.S. or Europe.
Hotel accommodations, airfare and some meals were paid for courtesy of Bentley Systems.
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