Technology makes accomplishing things faster and cheaper, and the construction industry is no different. An engaging conversation with Bhupinder Singh, Chief Product Officer, Bentley Systems establishes the fact that Going Digital is the way for the construction industry to excel in this fast-changing environment.
Why Go Digital?
Going digital makes us achieve more with less. For instance, consider the task of adding a lane to a national highway, how would the industry work traditionally? Surveyors would survey the existing highway with theodolites, go with stakeouts and capture the data points that will eventually help in building the model. This process would take weeks or months.
On the other hand, using latest technology like drones, one can take a bunch of photographs and videos in a matter of minutes, and create a 3D model of that highway in no time. This process of capturing existing reality, serving existing reality and having it in a format that one can use usefully digitally, is a perfect example of going digital.
Bentley has a Digital Cities initiative where we are bringing to the market products like Open Cities Planner that allows information to be presented in 3D at city scale over the web and on mobile devices that’s up-to-date and current. So if there’s a situation in the city that you need to be communicating to your citizens, they can get all that information in terms of real-time alerts.
How are Digital Twins helping?
The concept of Digital Twin is to have a computer representation of the physical object such that one can run experiments on the Digital Twin. You build a digital twin of a building and check how it is going to react if there’s a 7.0 earthquake. You can see the damage and then maybe you need to go retrofit certain parts of the building to sustain that damage better. In very simple terms, a Digital Twin allows one to simulate real-world scenarios so that they can effectively remediate and make intervention in the physical world against that kind of simulation.
How savvy is the construction industry in adopting new technologies?
Technology adoption happens in two cases. Either regulations force it or disasters force it. We’d like to be ahead of those kinds of forced adoption. When we see the challenges, we think what’s interesting about going digital is not just the technology, but also the innovative new business models. Going digital has both a business opportunity as well as the technology foundation with Bentley’s Infrastructure Digital Twins. I think that is what can accelerate the adoption in the market place.
From 3D to 4D – What’s the difference?
The idea of going from 3D to 4D is the idea of adding time to your information. Because when you look at a 3D model clearly it’s representing something that is at a static point in time. With 4D whether that applies to construction or operations is how something is over a period of time. In case of construction, what you have with 4D is that you have your 3D model, but it’s going to be built in stages, so what you do is you break the model down into the pieces that will be built according to a certain schedule. This way element of time becomes a part of your model.
What is predictive analysis, how can it be used in construction?
Predictive analysis is the art of trying to fix something before it becomes a problem. We have a software technology called Amulet that is used in the predictive analysis market. Let’s understand its functioning using an example. In southern Australia, the only way to get drinking water is through a desalination plant, which is very expensive to run. The amount you need to run a desalination plant is based on the demand for drinking water of the population of the city. And the demand for water in the city is a function of the weather. So how do you know how much you will have to run your pumps in the coming week? What will be your energy consumption? This is where predictive analysis can help. If you can have a computer model of the water distribution system, the water network, and Amulet running, you can hook up the weather data to it, and it can tell you in the coming week, you are going to need so much power by predicting the demand of the water supply needed by this city. Accordingly, the plant buys power in advance from the power utility. This way they are able to manage their power bills.
What’s next in construction?
An innovation that’s coming to construction is around mixed reality. Microsoft has a device called ‘Hololens’. Using it you can combine the existing reality with virtual reality, and all of a sudden you could be on a construction site and you could be seeing what’s there plus what’s supposed to come in. So that is going to be a whole new experience of being able to capture issues on the construction site before it happens. That sort of mixed reality world is going to be a world we are all going to be living in very soon, where we can imagine and see things before they happen.