A growing wave of infrastructure work will require greater use of technology to complete the work, based on discussions at the 2022 Year in Infrastructure and Going Digital Awards, hosted by Bentley Systems, Inc., in London November 14–15. To help meet the industry’s rising workload demands, the company announced new and enhanced products that leverage digital twins, cloud data, and other technology to enable increased productivity.
Bentley Systems announced new capabilities in two key product areas: the iTwin Platform and Bentley Infrastructure Cloud. The new iTwin Platform capabilities extend the scope and interoperability of data used to create and leverage digital twins in design, construction, and operations workflows. The iTwin Platform, in turn, will power Bentley Infrastructure Cloud, a set of solutions that span infrastructure project lifecycles, encompassing the familiar Bentley products ProjectWise, SYNCHRO, and AssetWise, all unified and operable via Bentley’s infrastructure schemas.
In a press briefing and a subsequent plenary session, Bentley Systems executives cited the challenges that users face in meeting increasing workloads while also facing workforce shortages. “Engineering firms today face unprecedented challenges to deliver more and better projects despite scarcer talent, a retiring workforce, and loss of institutional knowledge,” said Lori Hufford, vice president, engineering collaboration for Bentley Systems. Increased efficiencies offered by digital twins and related technology can help bridge the gap, she added.
Extending iTwin Platform
The new iTwin Platform capabilities include iTwin Experience, iTwin Capture, and iTwin IoT. iTwin Experience, a new cloud-based product, acts as “single pane of glass” for overlaying engineering technology (ET), operations technology (OT), and information technology (IT). The product enables users to visualize, query, and analyze infrastructure digital twins at various levels of granularity and scale, all geo-coordinated and searchable.
Bentley’s iTwin Experience acts as "single pane of glass" for overlaying various types of data, enabling users to visualize, query, and analyze infrastructure digital twins. Image courtesy of Bentley Systems. Click image to enlarge.
iTwin Capture enables users to capture, analyze, and share data from digital cameras, scanners, and mobile mapping devices. Using information such as drone video and survey imagery, users can start building digital twins based on existing assets, rather than creating a BIM model. iTwin Capture offers high-fidelity data capturing to serve as the digital context for surveying, design, monitoring, and inspection processes.
iTwin IoT provides capabilities for acquiring and analyzing sensor data, enabling users to incorporate Internet of Things (IoT) data created by sensors and condition-monitoring devices. Infrastructure IoT can be used for real-time safety and risk monitoring in operations and construction activities, including measurement and visualization of environmental changes, structural movement, or deterioration for condition assessment and maintenance scheduling. For example, IoT sensors can be placed on a bridge and collect data and send warnings if there is an excess of structural movement or deterioration.
Founder and CTO Keith Bentley described infrastructure digital twins as “the future of our industry and our company,” recalling a journey that began four years ago with a series of open-source projects to create cloud-native tools, called iTwin.js. The work has evolved into the iTwin Experience that is the “workhorse for digital twin solutions,” he added.
Looking ahead, Keith Bentley, said, “Phase 2 of our journey involves improving our existing desktop products using the same iTwin engine. Users of our MicroStation and engineering design and analysis applications will next gain new features that can make their projects more efficient, more connected, and the results more valuable. We can do that by augmenting, not replacing, their existing tools, workflows, file formats, and deliverables. The iTwin engine will run on the same desktop ‘in process’ with the design applications, synchronizing a local iModel and connecting to cloud services when and as necessary.”
Bentley Systems admits that they are introducing “disruptive” technology, but without the disruption. The company wants to bring the technology along with their users, making it easy to implement in their day-to-day operations, meeting them where they are in their adoption of this technology.
Other Bentley Systems executives noted how the enhanced interoperability of the iTwin Platform will enable more immersive, virtual-reality-type experiences across a wide range of devices. “From the start, we created services in the iTwin Platform that allow software developers to align and federate infrastructure data from different sources,” said Julien Moutte, vice president of technology. He cited integration with 3D environments, such as Unreal, Unity, and NVIDIA Omniverse, and interoperability with game engines to unlock new possibilities for application developers. Moutte also announced that Adobe has licensed Bentley Systems’ iTwin Capture for its Substance 3D Sampler application, which enables designers to transform real-life pictures into a photorealistic surface or environment.
Bentley Infrastructure Cloud
Along with the new iTwin capabilities, Bentley announced Bentley Infrastructure Cloud, a combination of enterprise systems geared for creation, delivery, and ongoing operation of infrastructure through digital twins. Powered by the iTwin Platform and Bentley’s infrastructure schemas, Bentley Infrastructure Cloud integrates Bentley’s engineering applications, encompassing ProjectWise for project delivery, SYNCHRO for construction, and AssetWise for asset operations.
Bentley Systems’ infrastructure schemas link to reality modeling and IoT devices, and incorporate carbon calculation and subsurface data. They offer the ability for design team members to share data and add to it throughout the lifecycle of the project. The result is that all data is retained and not lost along the way as an asset moves from one phase to the next. The goal is to help engineering firms and owner-operators to create and derive more value from their engineering data.
As part of the Bentley Infrastructure Cloud introduction, Bentley Systems also unveiled enhancements to ProjectWise to extend its scope from work-in-progress engineering to full digital delivery. By supplementing individual project file-based workflows with data-centric information mobility and analytics across multiple projects, users can bring in data from multiple design file formats and reuse that project data to retain knowledge for future projects. ProjectWise users can also undertake interdisciplinary design reviews and advanced design validation to improve the effectiveness and quality of their designs. The focus of these new capabilities is the reuse of data, in all of forms. Bentley Systems wants users to be able to leverage the data throughout the design, build, and operation cycles.
The enhanced ProjectWise leverages iTwin data to offer immersive visibility, reality modeling, and real-time asset monitoring. Using Bentley’s infrastructure schemas to align design-file data across multiple disciplines, ProjectWise enables design reviews tapping into multiple projects to understand dependencies and reuse datasets, applying machine learning to develop proprietary analytics.
Regarding design reviews, Bentley’s Hufford noted how ProjectWise can be integrated with other design tools. “By leveraging the iTwin Platform, we are now able to advance ProjectWise beyond engineering work-in-progress for one project at a time, to be used across all projects to maximize insights, learnings, and reuse, and for machine learning,” said Hufford. “ProjectWise users already have a wealth of project experience incorporated in their ProjectWise archives. Now as part of Bentley Infrastructure Cloud, ProjectWise can drive a necessary step-change in the efficiency, effectiveness, and transformation of engineering firms.”
ProjectWise, powered by iTwin, enables multidiscipline web-based design reviews for design projects. Image courtesy of Bentley Systems. Click image to enlarge.
Specifically, ProjectWise 4D Design Review enables users to share large, complex models with their entire project ecosystem, regardless of authoring applications. Reviewers can perform virtual walk-throughs, query model information, and analyze embedded property data using a simple web browser. Advanced Design Validation includes 3D digital workflows, integration with Bentley Systems’ OpenRoads and third-party applications, and enhanced visualization using artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML). For transportation projects, this situation enables simulation of the driver experience to validate designs and verify that requirements are met.
ProjectWise Components Center, a cloud-based digital component management and library service, drives standardization, automation, and reuse of design objects to deliver projects faster and more reliably. Users can leverage data from one design to another, capture lessons learned, create reusable components, and industrialize their project delivery expertise.
Digital delivery capabilities are also being enhanced to automate and manage the creation, exchange, and review of contractual deliverables, including PDFs and industry foundation classes, as well as digital twins. Instead of manually assembling and sending packages, users can automate deliverable creation and improve visibility and traceability in deliverables workflows, maintaining a comprehensive audit trail.
For asset management, Bentley Systems announced the availability of new asset-specific solutions that leverage iTwin data to deliver real-time asset monitoring. AssetWise Bridge Monitoring solution uses drone video and iTwin Capture to create 3D digital twins of bridges, enabling bridge inspections to be conducted virtually and leveraging AI/ML to identify and classify defects. Information is made available to stakeholders across the workflow via iTwin Experience.
AssetWise Dam Monitoring solution offers digital services to dam operators who are modernizing their dam safety programs to reduce risk and address growing regulatory requirements. The solution will provide unified access to sensor data and will be able to be deployed without the need for specialized technicians. Both AssetWise Bridge Monitoring and Dam Monitoring solutions are in early access status. Bentley Infrastructure Cloud, comprising ProjectWise, SYNCHRO, and AssetWise enterprise systems, is available now from Bentley Systems.
Effects of Other Trends
Throughout the conference, other global trends, such as the pandemic and environmental stewardship, were mentioned as shaping the infrastructure workplace. The pandemic, which led many industry professionals to work remotely, provided a “kick in the pants” to digital twins, according to CEO Greg Bentley. As professionals learned to share data virtually, he noted how they discovered new ways to perform work using digital tools.
Greg Bentley also cited three key factors driving the recent product announcements: 1) the significance of infrastructure work facing the industry; 2) growing capabilities of digital tools; and 3) a growing emphasis on environment and sustainability. The environment and sustainability emphasis has led Bentley Systems to coin a new acronym, ES(D)G—empowering sustainable development goals. While ESG is often used in reference to environmental, social, and governance factors used in investment analysis, and SDG often means sustainable development goals, the ES(D)G highlights Bentley Systems’ strategy for empowering users to achieve sustainable development goals.
In addition to the Bentley Systems presentations and various breakout sessions, the YII conference was held in conjunction with the company’s Going Digital Awards. Awards were presented in 12 categories encompassing all forms of infrastructure projects and stages—from design, to construction, to operations. The projects in each category were judged by an independent panel of jurors, using criteria specific to each category. Watch for our upcoming coverage of one category—Facilities, Campuses, and Cities. You’ll meet all the finalists and the group that won from Sydney Airport.