Bentley Systems, in a move to further develop augmented reality and geospatial capabilities of its infrastructure design and modeling products, has recently announced its partnership with Analytical Graphics Inc. (AGI) as co-founders of the new Cesium Consortium. Cesium, developed by AGI in 2011, is an open-source browser-based virtual globe (think Google Earth). The software has been touted for its large data streaming capabilities, making it ideal for mobile use – an attribute that is rapidly becoming a must-have for AEC products. The collaboration will enable the two companies to co-develop Cesium for use with Bentley MicroStation and its other BIM offerings as a source of context and as a canvas for infrastructure development.
Streamlining AEC Projects
Integrating Cesium into the Bentley portfolio enables engineers and designers to place their models with precise location and orientation in a digital rendering of the real world. Furthermore, by incorporating 3D data gathered via laser scanning and photogrammetry, a practice that is growing quickly within the AEC industry (see ARC’s 2016 3D Scanning study), Bentley users can provide extensive real world context within a digital framework. These geo-coordinate 3D datasets can then be streamed to mobile users, whether they’re engineers, inspectors, freight carriers, or owner/operators. Such information and communication can be vital to the success of large construction projects, and is a recent point of focus among AEC software providers, especially in the context of Building Information Modeling platforms.
This move exemplifies three important trends: digitization of our environment, contextualization of computer models, and mobile data sharing. by developing technologies that promote the synthesis of these hybrid models, Bentley and other companies are fostering the growth of what will eventually be an expansive ecosystem that is part model and part digitized reality. Beyond streamlining construction projects, these models lay the foundation for developing smarter buildings and smart cities, and provide context for analyzing emergency situations and planning appropriate responses.
A Platform for Augmented Reality
Another use of Bentley’s joint venture with AGI, which I am particularly interested in following, is the application of augmented reality (AR). By referencing geo-coordinates with an AR device, users can look through walls and floors, observe renovations before they start, or, perhaps in the not too distant future, perform digital renovations in real time within the augmented framework. However, much like the partnership between Bentley and AGI, the industrial application of AR is in its infancy. Some companies are investigating AR, whether as users or suppliers, and as always in the case of emerging technologies, other companies have chosen to write it off. I am optimistic of the technology to come and look forward to the solutions put forth by Bentley.