File Sharing/Publishing

GTeam Platform Helps AEC Teams Collaborate

17 Jul, 2012 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Gehry Technologies' new browser-based tool is designed to bring architects, contractors, and building owners a little closer together — even if they're all using different software.

"We were hearing from our customers that collaboration is difficult — it's hard for people to get data in the same place at the same time," said Andrew Witt, director of research for Gehry Technologies. To address that problem, Gehry developed a new collaboration tool for AEC professionals and building owners. Yesterday, the company launched GTeam, a cloud-based file management and collaboration platform.

GTeam enables the various members of AEC project teams to collaborate and share documents, files, and 3D building information data from anywhere, as long as they have a web browser. "[It] takes files from any CAD tool, and allows you to display and work with them on any device," said Witt. "Anybody on the project can see [the project information] without the need for export to CAD tools."

Because an AEC project may incorporate many different CAD software tools, GTeam translates 3D files from industry-standard software to a common format. ("Industry-standard" in this case includes Revit, AutoCAD, Rhino, SketchUp, MicroStation, and Gehry Technologies' own Digital Project — "90% of the things you would run into on a building project," as Witt put it.) This translation into a neutral format enables users to share 3D BIM (building information modeling) models, whether or not the recipient has the native modeling software.

GTeam users can take snapshots of 3D models to share with others and track changes.Click image to enlarge.

Witt explained that the GTeam user interface displays a complete social and transactional history of the project: "It's not just a list of things that have happened — you get everything." The small images displayed next to file names are more than static thumbnails; users can preview documents and rotate models without downloading or opening the file itself.

The GTeam visual file management interface, overlaid with the 3D BIM data window. Click image to enlarge.

"We're making a tool that's totally visual," said Witt, "and we're putting the versioning info and the 3D together." The ability to handle the 3D data differentiates GTeam from other collaborative solutions, Witt said, noting that "sharing 3D is a level of magnitude harder [than other types of data]." In addition, GTeam can manage 2D drawings, PDF files, Word documents, spreadsheets, schedules, videos, and pictures.

Different types of users can choose from two types of access. For example, an owner may choose to browse files on a mobile device, while an architect can synchronize files downloaded to his or her desktop computer with those on the cloud. "It's a system that allows you to work with a subcontracting structure on the web," said Witt.

The option to use GTeam as if it were a folder on your computer is similar to file-sharing services such as Dropbox, said Witt. Unlike those services, however, GTeam provides security management and collaboration features, and users can see the contents of their files before they are open.

As for the social aspect that's increasingly popular in collaboration platforms, GTeam features Skype integration. Users can communicate with each other via chat or e-mail, and can assign clashes and interferences to particular personnel.

If you're thinking of trying GTeam, this is the time to do so — after six months in private beta, the tool is now available as a free preview, without any restrictions on capabilities or users. It will likely remain that way until October, when the pricing structure will be announced and implemented, said Matt Reid, senior vice-president of marketing.

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