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Bentley Systems Pursues Information Mobility for Infrastructure Projects

26 Nov, 2012 By: Cadalyst Staff

The AEC software solutions provider envisions a world where information retains its value as it moves through the project lifecycle.

Earlier this month, Bentley Systems held its Be Inspired: Innovations in Infrastructure conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The annual event gives some of the company's customers an opportunity to share ideas, provide feedback, and showcase their best infrastructure projects. "Infrastructure is everything which is done by people and for people to improve our planet," said CEO Greg Bentley during his keynote address.

"Through infrastructure we can increase our economic capacity and throughput at the same time as we reduce our environmental footprint," said Bentley Systems CEO Greg Bentley at the Be Inspired conference. Image courtesy of Bentley Systems.

Those customers invited to participate in the event are finalists in the Be Inspired awards competition, and they travel from around the world to make their case for the most efficient, effective, and innovative applications of Bentley software. (Editor's note: Watch for more information about the Be Inspired award winners coming soon to Bentley also hosted more than 80 members of the press at the conference, making it an opportune time to discuss recent company developments, including acquisitions and partnerships that will affect users in various sectors across the AEC community.

Striving for Information Mobility

The phrase of the day at Be Inspired was "information mobility," which means more than simply accessing files in multiple locations — it is the ability of information to pass through all the stages of a project lifecycle, retaining its value and usefulness throughout. It's the opposite of "information mortality," as CEO Greg Bentley called the loss that often occurs during the transfer of information from one stage to the next in the design–build–operate lifecycle. "It gets stale and old and dies in place ... you can't find it, you can't reuse it — it's a waste."

To master information mobility, Bentley Systems is seeking the "innovation sweet spot" between consumerization, which accelerates information mobility, and industrialization, which leverages it. Greg Bentley told Be Inspired attendees that consumerization, with its short product cycles, makes mobile, wireless, sensor, and other technologies economical, accessible, and ubiquitous; industrialization then applies those advances through modularization and productization, such as assembling a supply chain virtually.

The company carries out this philosophy by supporting interdisciplinary information modeling in its products. For example, the V8i (SELECTseries 3) versions of its InRoads, GEOPAK, MXROAD, and PowerCivil products, to be released soon, will introduce OpenRoads technology. Ron Gant, Bentley's director of global marketing for civil engineering, explained that the common OpenRoads platform eliminates redundant data conversion and supports true 3D design across the products.

Get connected, securely. Bentley CONNECT, which will become available early next year, is the latest salvo in the company's battle for information mobility. The SaaS (software as a service) environment enables infrastructure users to connect enterprises, projects, content, and individuals. It provides a Bentley Connection Space for every user to store files, and extends the ProjectWise and AssetWise environments outside firewalls "in a controlled way, and through a neutral space," Greg Bentley explained. He contrasted this to cloud services such as Dropbox, which can "jeopardize project integrity."

Increasing Infrastructure Intelligence

Bentley announced its acquisition of SpecWave, a startup that it helped incubate. SpecWave software, billed as "the world's first spec modeling system," helps AEC professionals create and configure structured text content (including engineering specifications and related codes and standards), creating text objects to be change-managed by Bentley’s eB Insight asset lifecycle information management software. Through SpecWave, eB Insight, and the forthcoming Bentley CONNECT SaaS environment, Bentley Specification Services will enable distributed teams to share specifications.

"The founders of SpecWave tackled the problem of parsing from structured text documents, like specification documents, to text objects, which can be used to improve the quality of corporate and project and owner specification standards — and the same technology pertains to the rest of project content that's incarnated in documents," Greg Bentley explained. "We combine that with our eB change management service so that changes in specifications, when they come back in procurement or in projects, can be discerned and tracked and controlled and finally, [we can] bring information mobility ... with integrity."

Under pressure to design. Bentley also acquired EuResearch, provider of Microprotol — a software application for the design and analysis of pressure vessels and heat exchangers in high-pressure plant environments. Microprotol extends Bentley's AutoPIPE product suite with performance simulation capabilities for design, analysis, fabrication, and commissioning of pressure vessels and their associated pipework. Microprotol includes an XML database that enables users to connect to product data management systems, such as those for specification sheets and purchasing.

Intelligent positioning on the job site. Just prior to the Be Inspired event, Bentley announced a strategic alliance with Trimble, with a goal of connecting the virtual and physical environments for infrastructure projects. Information exchange between these two realms will enable engineering models to be referenced to points in the real world. The companies plan to achieve this by using Trimble’s field positioning technologies, such as robotic total stations, 3D laser scanners, and global navigation satellite system (GNSS) positioning solutions, in tandem with Bentley’s information modeling software.

"Trimble provides the various technologies that help provision a site with 3D precision," said Greg Bentley. "We and Trimble have a shared vision in respect to the many opportunities for improved use cases with Trimble sensor array technology ... and our own ProjectWise and i-models. ... Imagine a plant environment where 3D engineering precision physical positioning has been provisioned; in effect, your device can be a cursor into the virtual world," he explained.

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