Prof. Arup Dasgupta
This academic year I was pleasantly surprised to find five students from the Masters of Construction Engineering and Management attending my core postgraduate course on Fundamentals of Geomatics. It is becoming increasingly clear that geomatics, geospatial to our readers, needs to collaborate with end users to achieve greater acceptability. We have seen that geospatial integrated with enterprise resources planning, business intelligence, building information modelling or design and engineering results in dramatic improvements in these systems. These improvements are negated by some avoidable misconceptions and biases. Some engineers consider geospatial to be the realm of scientists and therefore ‘never the twain shall meet’. Even when they do use geospatial data, they may not consider it to be ‘GIS’. Geospatial practitioners also tend to work in silos.
In this issue, we have as our lead story the collaboration of geospatial and Building Information Modelling, or BIM. What drives this integration is the need to manage building and infrastructure activities efficiently to reduce costs at all stages from planning to implementation to maintenance. The need to factor in issues like conservation, waste management, efficient use of resources like power and water has led to the concept of smart buildings; a concept that depends heavily on geospatial technologies as well as Geodesign and BIM.
Another area of potential application is in areas like most Asian countries where land is at a premium due to competing demands. Planning of new infrastructure, expansion of cities and towns, managing heritage and historical structures come to mind. Lack of integrated information and the existence of silos of expertise working in isolation have resulted in projects that are potential disasters, and in some cases, the worst has been realised leading to massive loss of property and lives.
As these convergences take place, there are new technologies that are just above the horizon. 3D visualisation is now progressing towards virtual reality and even immersive virtual reality. Realistic simulations using these technologies can expose latent problems enabling changes in design even before resources are committed. Simulations can also examine suggested changes and extensions for their future impact. Simulations can also help plan disaster responses and mitigation.
The only worry is that these activities are advancing at a slow pace, not because of lack of technology but because of the tardy acceptance by the potential users. Some users reluctantly admit that what they are using is ‘like GIS but we don’t call it a GIS’! So be it, as long as the technology is being used. However, when I see the five young construction engineers in my class of 35, I know that the younger generation will bring in the necessary acceleration.