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December 19, 2011
Top Ten AEC Technology Trends of 2011
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on AECcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each AEC Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the AEC industry, AEC product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by AECCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Welcome to AECWeekly! This is the last issue of AECWeekly for 2011. At AECCafe we wish everyone a happy holiday and prosperous New Year. We will return with another issue of AECWeekly in January, 2012.

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Industry News

Top Ten AEC Technology Trends for 2011

By Susan Smith



At the end of 2011, we generally take a look at what technology trends were the most influential over the course of the year.  When compiling this list, I noticed that trends blurred into other categories, or in many cases, were the enabling technologies for others.

The Cloud

We have heard more about the cloud this year than in previous years, and so perhaps readers might say “enough said” on this topic. However, it’s not a topic that will go away any time soon.

Those who offer cloud applications do so to extend the desktop to accomplish things with the Cloud that have not been possible using desktop applications.

James Staten of Forrester Research spoke about the cloud at the recent Autodesk University in Las Vegas. He made a case for the cloud by saying that “clouds are more secure than you are.”

His recommendations:
  • Focus – clouds can concentrate their whole security team on securing the one app.
  • Exposure – when cloud outages happens every customer gets upset and they end up in New York Times. When your email system goes down it doesn’t show up in the papers. Because of that risk those creating the cloud invest heavily in the best security minds out there. Every one of those was given a job offer by Amazon, Microsoft, etc. at very high salaries. “If anyone breaks into my account I want to know about it. The cloud is concerned with extreme audits, a security expert, who they hire, who gets into the data center, whether they are making sure malware is up to date,” said Staten.
  • Validation
  • Multitenancy – there is far more encryption in the cloud model and it is far more difficult to see that another customer is there to alleviate concerns of privacy such as Pepsi and Coke using the same cloud service, for example.

  • At Bentley’s Be Inspired Conference Bentley announced a relationship with Microsoft for the Microsoft Azure Platform partner program that will make it possible for Bentley to bring a range of Azure-based cloud services to AECO worldwide. One of the key offerings on Azure will be Bentley Transmittal Services, which will allow the tracking and delivery of transmittals through a dashboard portal. Which segues into the next topic:


    In spite of Staten’s claims, many companies are not ready to fully embrace the cloud or may want to use it only for certain things.  Some customers expressed concern at the time about making available designs on the cloud. Thus, security is a big issue. At Autodesk University, IMAGinIT’s Joe Hedrick, infrastructure solutions team manager, said that although they of course support the cloud, many customers are concerned about having data on a public or external place. There is therefore an interest in having a “cloud” as an internal resource.

    Enter such companies as Advance2000 which offers on-site support, system up-time, security required, data retention and compliance required by business.  “We provide all the benefits of Cloud computing without forfeiting critical business functions,” according to their brochure. 

    Advance2000 BIM Cloud Computing -- Cloud 2.0 from Advance2000 provides a high performance solution for your graphical work stations. The increased speed, as compared to traditional cloud computing, allows users to increase productivity and better utilize valuable resources. You still get the collaborative nature of the cloud but without the worry of the cloud crashing or your data being lost or shared incorrectly.

    Autodesk CEO Carl Bass addressed the issue of software licensing and the cloud: “The political legal infrastructure often trails behind where technology is. The question of whether software can be licensed – it was fortunate we prevailed because it took thirty years to decide whether this is the thing, and the cloud may take just as long.

    Big issues remain as far as delivery of products into parts of the world where there is no legal infrastructure. The Chinese government doesn’t want outsiders to run that infrastructure inside the country. There are issues around privacy, and issues around industry and commerce. We’re very much at the crawling stage as far as this goes.”

    The Crowd

    Autodesk coined a fun phrase – “the cloud and the crowd.” Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski said there is a growing imbalance between natural intelligence and growing complexity.  “Complexity is increasing but our heads aren’t getting bigger. The advanced intelligence we wanted has been granted to us in a new way – the cloud and the crowd. Thru infinite computing we now have access to millions of machines and millions of minds. We now have a big mass brain, much smarter than one single brain.”

    Infinite computing is Autodesk’s phrase for the cloud. So the cloud makes it possible for more people – the crowd – to access technology and to participate in and have a voice in creation.

    In the world of marketing products and designs, crowdsourcing can be a real asset. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s sister Randi Zuckerberg encourages crowdsourcing – an example is Vitamin Water that crowdsourced an entire product from start to finish.

    Social Media

    Which leads us into the topic of social media, without which crowdsourcing wouldn’t be possible. Who would have thought this topic would end up on an AEC list of technology trends? How many of us are dependent on some form of social media for our ideas, connections and ways of collaborating?

    If you want real time communication, group collaboration, share/store project in cloud, simultaneous editing of files, to keep remote workers in the loop, personal profiles, and to better understand each others’ skills – social media could be where it’s at.

    Interacting in RealTime with live streaming can be about letting people be part of an instantaneous conversation. Live video and events can help businesses get messages across.


    The iPad has made mobile computing ubiquitous to the degree that nearly every software and hardware company has some application or applications that will allow mobile computing. This category then overlaps with applications.

    Even the HP DesignJet T2300 eMFP with ePrint Share and integrated scanner is web connected this year and can scan into the cloud. This launch embodies cloud, scan, mobile, cloud and apps all in one product.  ePrint Share is a free download on iTunes that users can use from their mobile device to print to any worldwide location- remotely.

    Imagine being able to work on 3D BIM models on mobile devices and share details of those models with non-CAD clients using the multi-touch functionality of iPads and iPhones. Not only would it save time, it is easy to use and employs game-like features that users are familiar with.

    Now it is possible with a new product from Graphisoft called BIMx for the iPad. In a recent interview, ArchiCAD Product Manager of Graphisoft Hungary, Tibor Szolnoki explained that BIM Explorer is the most advanced version of the ArchiCAD Virtual Building Explorer. Their current announcement, BIMx for the iPad, allows users to work and “walk around” in 3D models on the iPad or iPhone.

    According to press materials, BIMx (= Building Information Model E xplorer) is an interactive "game-like" environment to explore 3D building models published by architects and designers. With BIMx building models can be viewed by anyone in full 3D without the professional authoring software in which the building model was originally created. As a result BIMx is the perfect communication tool between the client and the architect.

    BIMx Viewer is a free application. Users can download models from other sources or from the BIMx community site through iTunes to the iPad. BIM Explorer add-on for ArchiCAD can play these models with BIMx Viewer.


    As apps are now so easy to have, as easy as buying iTunes on your phone, there is no reason not to buy them or employ free ones.

    An example: Bentley Structural Synchronizer for iPad Workflow for the iPad is available at iTunes for free – users can export out a very intelligent model to the iPad and see all bracing, beams, concrete and click on the model to pull in more information. Anything that might be needed in an AEC setting onsite such as section type, placement point, even complex elements can be added, layers turned on and off, and viewed in the new app.

    Reality Capture

    One of the most profound announcements at Bentley Be Inspired Conference this year was that of the company’s acquisition of Pointools Ltd. in order to integrate point cloud processing into its entire product portfolio. Bentley plans to merge their code streams with those of Pointools to create a new fundamental data type. Up until now, Bentley has embedded the Pointools Vortex engine into MicroStation, but now they plan to incorporate point cloud processing in their ProjectWise and AssetWise platforms.

    This signals an acknowledgement of the importance of lidar data for various applications, not only for retrofit projects but also for planning and presentation value. The technology has been circling around the AEC industry for awhile but has been hampered until recently by the inability to efficiently get the large amounts of 3D data processed accurately. With great advancements in point cloud processing, it is now being integrated into mainstream CAD products like Bentley’s.

    At Be Inspired, many of the winners and finalists were using 3D laser scanning in innovative ways in their projects, for example in the areas of multimedia, water and wastewater, and process manufacturing.

    The Pointools/Bentley relationship is not the only evidence of this trend – Autodesk also has announced rather quietly the acquisition of technology assets and hiring of individuals associated with the Alice Labs technology, according to Michael Oldenburg, manager, Corporate Communications, Autodesk.

    Another company that has just acquired 3D laser point cloud software is AVEVA, with its recent acquisition of LFM Software. This addition to the AVEVA portfolio offers a comprehensive range of technologies exploiting the power of 3D laser surveying. This technology is said to allow users to import 3D data from various 3D laser scanning formats and export them to plant design systems.

    On the path of point cloud processing is ClearEdge 3D, a company that has developed algorithms to identify and extract pipes, walls, structures and other complex building and plant features from point clouds. Their Automated Feature Extraction algorithms are designed to reduce modeling time and eliminate a lot of the manual production associated with 3D models.

    PDF Advancements

    Although this might not look like a trend, PDF has advanced beyond a simple file format and is part of significant offerings from both Autodesk and Bentley. Bluebeam announced plug ins to AutoCAD  that can work in multiple monitors on split screens and can view several different PDFs. Bluebeam offers platform technologies for PDF creation, management and access.

    Bluebeam PDF Revu is a PDF editor, viewer and markup tool with file creation technology. It really extends beyond PDF and takes paperless workflows to accessing and managing the documents that you need, when you need them. The markup tools allow that the user can keep track of who made comments, markups and compare two drawing revisions. Any markups placed can’t be changed by anyone but you. A record keeps track of every markup. The company also offers Bluebeam Studio which works in the cloud and Studio Server for those who want to host themselves.

    Bentley’s i-models which are containers for open infrastructure information exchange will now be able to deliver AECO information mobility in PDF workflows – this accomplished via agreements with Adobe Systems and Bluebeam Software.


    With increased demands placed on environmental concerns and the Architecture 2030 Challenge looming ahead, AEC customers must be able to simulate the design and performance of buildings in a robust and rigorous way so that those predictions of the simulations accurately reflect the real building when it’s completed. The simulation aspect of energy performance is largely about recognizing that there are many variables interacting that impact each other on an interdisciplinary level.

    “There’s orientation, wind, sun, reflection, thermal properties, transmission properties,” said Huw Roberts, global marketing director of Bentley Systems. “It’s not the same every day of the year and every hour of the day, and so we’re focusing on providing software that allows that simulation to both give you that quick response if you’re looking for that to point you in the right direction, and to also do rigorous simulation that really takes into account all the conditions and materials even crossing interdisciplinary.”

    All that information lives throughout the life of the building, said Roberts. As you are commissioning the building and maintaining systems, the building systems degrade over time and need renovation. “That information is still valuable to the operations of the building, especially today as many buildings are active, they have active skins, active solar shading, and active structural dampening. The use of that information and interaction of that simulation applies in the operations phase as well.”

    According to Dr. Robert Aish, director of software development, Autodesk Platform Solutions,  environmental design and computer design have become linked, and the role of the architect is changing.  Simulation, modeling and diagrams are all key to the analysis of environmental design. Creative designers must employ new tools to find out how to modify climate both indoors and out, and to analyze the urban heat index. In an example of a building in Tokyo designed by Foster + Partners, designers were charged with addressing the increasing heat in Tokyo, and designed an external shading system that lowers the temperature outside the building by 2 degrees. They developed a new
    material to circulate rainwater inside the building. This type of project relies on new simulation, communication and design processes.

    3D Cities

    Never is there a place where simulation and analysis can have a larger role than in 3D cities. 3D cities represent the convergence of AEC and GIS as both technologies are necessary in order to visualize the 3D city. Each major CAD technology company has a different term for their version of the vision of 3D cities – Bentley Systems has recently coined the phrase “Semantic city,” IBM calls it a “smart city,” other companies refer to 3D cities as “intelligent cities.”

    CEO of Bentley Systems Greg Bentley said noted that, “The real world is a 3D physical world.” He brought up the equation of “GIS mapping + geospatial modeling + semantic simulation”. Semantic is the study of meaning. “The semantic city could be semantically connected together and would emphasize components and models and understand people’s behaviors,” said Bentley.

    Montreal is an example of a semantic city model which is maintained in Oracle Spatial 3D.

    Whatever moniker the 3D city model takes on, it is able to include a lot of information pertinent to the city including site conditions, weather, terrain, and other data. This great assemblance of data can be the blueprint for the new city or the complete map of the old city – a vital tool in the asset management, maintenance and operations of the city that may be accessed by everyone who has a stake in its future.

    Top News of the Week

    IMSI/Design, the developer of TurboCAD announced TurboViewer Pro v2, a professional version of its popular free TurboViewer app for the iPad and iPhone.

    "Besides a host of new features and enhancements, TurboViewer Pro v2 now supports almost two dozen CAD file formats, more than anyone in the mobile world... even more than most desktop CAD applications," stated Royal Farros, Chairman and CEO of IMSI/Design.


    AVEVA  and RIEGL Laser Measurement Systems, announced  that they have signed an Interoperability Agreement. Under the terms of this agreement AVEVA and RIEGL will co-operate closely to provide an efficient integration between RIEGL’s laser scan hardware technology and AVEVA’s market leading portfolio of laser engineering and design software solutions.


    The 2012 National Institute of Building Sciences Board of Directors is now in place. The Executive Team includes RK Stewart as chair, James “Tim” Ryan as vice chair, John Kelly as secretary and Edd Soenke as treasurer. New members to the Board include Wally Bailey, Cheryl English and Thomas Mitchell.

    New Products

    Project Mosaic is a free technology preview that is an online peer-to-peer resource for Autodesk Revit and AutoCAD Civil 3Dusers that provides an aggregate perspective into the existing set of Autodesk User Communities.

    // Learn more about Project Mosaic on Autodesk Labs

    Eemax, Inc. announced the launch of its Building Information Modeling "BIM" product models that are built in native Autodesk Revit format to leverage the software's intelligent functionality. Based on information-rich, model-based designs, BIM has become quite popular for designers, architects, and contractors because it helps work out any issues during the design phase so they do not occur during the actual construction phase.

    Tetra 4D is pleased to announce the upcoming PRE-RELEASE of 3D PDF Converter for Revit.  Running as an integrated plug-in to Revit, 3D PDF Converter for Revit will enable users to directly publish interactive, 3D PDF files directly from Revit 3D models, which can then be distributed to and viewed by anyone who has the free Adobe® Reader®.  This pre-release will be made available to a limited number of participants willing to participate in evaluation of the software and feedback on the product to our product development team.  After the free trial period, all participants will be entitled to purchase the software
    at a discounted price! Terms will be made available to participants upon selection notification.

    Around the Web

    AECCafe Today


    Date: January 13, 2012
    Place: USA

    The FM:Interact Sustainability Module can help you answer all these questions.  From a standard Web browser you can manage critical information on energy performance or water usage, and sustainability projects like energy retrofits.  Easy-to-read dashboards let you assess projects in a glance, and built-in certification standards for numerous programs help you plot your own green course.  And because you have all the benefits of FM:Interact, it’s easy to run cost analysis reports for your sustainability projects, or track your progress towards certifications across your entire portfolio.

    Date: January 17 - 21, 2012
    Place: Basel


    The figures speak for themselves: Swissbau is the most important meeting point for the construction and real-estate industry in Switzerland and one of the biggest specialist exhibitions in Europe.

    You can find the full AECCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Susan Smith, AECCafe.com Managing Editor.