Seen at Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure

Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure Conference (YII2018) is a global gathering of executives in the world of infrastructure design, construction, and operations. 

Open Environment for Digital Twins

The zeitgeist of YII2018 was the term “digital twins.” It pervaded every session keynote and presentation for the awards nominees – many that are the largest and most digitally advanced infrastructure projects on the globe.      

As it applies to infrastructure projects, a digital twin is a high-fidelity 3D model and database of the infrastructure elements so that design, construction, and operations can benefit from an almost living and breathing “twin” of the physical elements. With real-time feedback and updates from “continuous surveying” and sensor (IoT, et al.) the infrastructure can utilize live and modeled (predictive) data for all phases, and machine learning and AI can be leveraged.      

What kind of digital environment would that be? Strictly proprietary? Limited by a labyrinth of licensing? Trapped in a limited set of data formats? One of the most significant announcements was from Keith Bentley, CTO and founder of Bentley Systems, when he said that the environment for this new digital twin future will be essentially open source. And he backed this up with the announcement of iModel.js, an open library for developers who wish to tap the iModel (Bentley’s 3D BIM model) in languages common to the geospatial community, like JavaScript (and the scalable Type Script) and through collaborative online services like GitHUB.      

While this might sound like a lot of deep geek, our readers (and especially surveyors) should pay close attention. That term “continuous surveying” could translate to a lot of opportunity – if we are ready. And from what we see in the project presentations (at YII2018 and other conferences), soon BIM is going to be standard for not just buildings, but heavy civil, transportation, and utilities as well. Again, we need to be either ready or cede our roles to others who are willing to step up.      

Keith Bentley said that, in his 35 years of giving keynotes, this might turn out to be the most significant announcement he has ever made. And I agree with him. This is a bold move at a critical time in the development of viable digital twins and a bold initiative from a geospatial pioneer. His announcement certainly raised some eyebrows; he quipped, “I started the company – what are they going to do, fire me?”   

Agency 9

Bentley acquired Agency 9, which will provide the foundation for the OpenCities Planner cloud service for modeled 3D smart cities. CEO Hakan Engman told me that Agency 9, begun by engineering students with a gaming tilt, evolved into the digital city environment for 9 of the 10 largest (and 40%) of all cities in Sweden, and more across Scandinavia and the world. Look for our upcoming features on Agency 9 and Keith Bentley’s vision for digital twins.

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