Transforming the Infrastructure and Asset Life Cycle
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Transforming the Infrastructure and Asset Life Cycle

Terry D Bennett, Senior Industry Strategist and Civil Infrastructure, Autodesk, Inc. [NASDAQ: ADSK]

Defining the Era of Connection

I believe this is much more than GIS and IoT (Internet of Things). As demand for all infrastructures rises globally, the pressure to focuson the right way to increase infrastructure—by taking into account costs over the lifecycle of an asset, and helping to future-proof that asset for growth increases. All infrastructure is a system and the information infrastructure that supports it is no different.The system requires the capability for monitoring and measuring the degree of change, then analyzing options for addressing it, and then communicating those options and their intended impact to drive human actions.Or in some cases, take action without human interaction. This all requires up-to-date accurate geospatial data as the input into a BIM [Building Information Modeling] process to supply the context models required to make these decisions. In the longer term this decision making process of BIM+Geospatial will help in the planning of newer more efficient versions infrastructure itself. It becomes a positive feedback loop that improves both the physical and digital infrastructure of the city. 

This is important since no longer can we treat these as  separate system. They all impact each other in real time so we need to treat them as a system of systems. With rise of big data and near real time geospatial reality capture& computing (laser scanning, sonar, GPR, drones etc.), by leveraging this information as an infrastructure type, we are entering a new era, the “Era of Connection”. This is where we leverage and extend BIM, combine it with smart systems/sensors and the analytics of geospatial and big data to create future “smart cities and its supporting infrastructure systems.” In this transition, the role of infrastructure planners and designers fundamentally changes. Building the infrastructure right is no longer good enough. We can and must answer the more important question: “Are we building the right infrastructure in the first place?”

 All stakeholders can develop a shared understanding of the project lifecycle through cross-disciplinary collaboration reducing design errors and miscommunications, which in turn reduces risk and liability 

BIM for infrastructure can transform the infrastructure and asset lifecycle by increasing productivity, improving efficiency, and lowering costs. Utilizing information-rich models it provides greater project insight, a “single source of truth” to improve coordination and agile and powerful visualization, simulation, and analysis tools to expand innovation. A second factor is BIM can help stakeholders move important decisions from the field to the computer where they are easier and more cost effective to make. All stakeholders can develop is a shared understanding of the project lifecycle through cross-disciplinary collaboration reducing design errors and miscommunications, which in turn reduces risk and liability.  

Reality Computing

I would contend this is much more than just LIDAR that is one of many capture methods that make up “reality computing”. When you consider the impact of UAS systems (drones) and the level of digital imagery that can be produced on demand at mm level, it is becoming a critical path to any infrastructure process. Imagine taking reality to technology and then back to reality. Anyone can capture an object digitally through laser scanning/LIDAR but also photography (even an iPhone), drones and more. Then the images and/or scan data are uploaded into software (such as Autodesk ReCapor ReMake) in the cloud running infinite computing powerand within hours you have a highly accurate and precise 3D model. And then that original object is physically created again through a digital experience, 3D printing, or building, or used for as a model for safety in operations.

But what does reality computing mean for infrastructure? Take the Rio Tinto Borax mine located deep in the Mojave Desert. This complex mining operation consists of the open pit mine, support facilities, and access roads. And all are exposed to the impacts of extreme weather, particularly the roads. The mine owns and operates a fleet of massive autonomous trucks that travel on these roads and respond to GPS directions, all driverless. Because they are autonomous these trucks rely on accurate information and good road conditions. To get this information the roads are surveyed frequently by engineers who have to access very dangerous locations. To avoid massive trucks or standing on slopes that risk of sliding due to massive erosion and flooding, the engineers decided to embark on reality computing, incorporating drones. These drones capture an enormous amount of information in a short time, uploaded into reality capture tools to perform measurements and analysis, and then 3D data is brought into design tools for use in their daily operations.

The situational awareness due to drones, reality capture and information modeling provides the team with huge general safety advantages by giving managers a common operating picture of the activities on site.This is where BIM (which has been geospatially aware within all our infrastructure products for over a decade) shines, with the ability to rapidly access data of all types (Geospatial, photo, CAD, BIM etc), model it in context (ex. with ReCAP, ReMake, InfraWorks 360), then rapidly iterate through powerful simulation, visualization and analytics, numerous alternatives to solve for key outcomes required for a particular infrastructure project from planning through operations. 

In this connected era, there is a blurring of lines between hardware and software resulting in the digital systems being deeply intertwined with their physical real world counterparts. Innovative strategies in planning, design, and maintaining the asset can better leverage information and our manmade and natural systems to create integrated infrastructure that is resilient and better able to withstand disasters, both natural and man-caused, and recover more quickly. This is helping to usher in predictive asset management approaches to prolong the infrastructure life once built. We are rapidly closing in on the ability to create a digital mirror of the physical world.

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