Like plenty of other job sectors today, public works departments are being challenged to deliver a wider range of services faster and more efficiently with fewer available dollars and staff, says Pam Broviak, manager of Public Works Group, a portal for public works professionals. "This is why we are most interested in headlines and issues related to anything that offers potential to help us perform within these parameters," she adds.
These include innovations like driverless vehicles; tools that allow them to better capture, analyze and maintain data and information such as GIS/CAD/LIDAR and other 3D technologies; and hardware that leverages these tools such as headsets and smart screens, phones, and tablets and even smart construction equipment.
Broviak recently checked in with Cadalyst to share more about the technology her audience is most excited about, as well as developments they hope to see in CAD in the coming years. Here's what she had to say:
Tell us about Public Works Group.
Public Works Group was launched in February 2007 as an online resource for public works professionals because we had started to realize online tools and technology in our field had advanced significantly in a very short amount of time. And we knew this was only the beginning. Today, we face continued and rapid change while still trying to catch up with an aging infrastructure and keep up with a new and dynamic workforce. So we wanted to find a way to explore these tools and help ourselves and others keep up with the changes. And we wanted to figure out how all of this fits into everything else we do.
By creating a group and offering online resources, we were able to begin documenting what we found and offer this information to others in our field. Our focus over the last eight years has been on 3D technologies, social media, e-learning and online education, interactions with and support of industry vendors, and promotion and support of industry organizations and communities.
Who should be following your site?
Primarily anyone working in the engineering and public works field or who work in government or delivery of any public service, including those who are interested in or whose work is related to these fields. Also, people who are interested in 3D technology and social media and who want to learn how to leverage these tools to enhance the delivery of information and services.
What technological innovations do you think your readers are most excited about these days?
While I would again mention the innovations above and specifically point out those in the following list, I would also add that while these might be exciting, we are part of a very conservative field that at times can be slow to change. So most professionals are very cautious about getting too excited about any of these and are not ready to embrace them just yet.
- The Google car
- Google Streetview and Google Earth (these have been around a while but are still viewed in the industry as new and amazingly helpful innovations we regularly use and for which we are very thankful to have. One of the biggest reasons they are so beneficial is because they are free to use and save us a lot of time.)
- Oculus Rift and other headsets
- Smart phones/tablets and the availability of apps
- Smart boards
- Collaborative tools such as Dropbox and Doodle, and even Google apps and other cloud applications
- GIS, LIDAR, and other spatial technologies and the open data movement
- 3D printing on a large and small scale
- 3D Design and Modeling/Visualizations and automated machine guidance (This is a federal initiative, so there are many resources/info on this topic here.)
How is Public Works Group using CAD today?
The Public Works Group is primarily using CAD to develop online resources to use in 3D or virtual settings and in our educational offerings and courses.
What do you think is the future for how public works departments use CAD?
As engineers and public works professionals, we are most familiar right now with CAD and prefer to develop in that environment. So for preparing plans and traditional deliverables, we will most likely continue to work in that environment for some time.
However, as the other tools mentioned above advance, there could be a turning point as we face an increasing need to integrate our plans and designs with those tools. If CAD companies begin to realize the need to and benefit of integrating their technology with these tools, the use of CAD could increase significantly because it would open up new and more advanced uses of the software. But at least one CAD company has indicated to me they are not interested in pursuing this use of their software. So if that is the case, we will eventually end up only being able to use CAD software from companies that have built this integration into their product, or we will have to look to other tools that are usually not thought of in the industry as traditional CAD such as Blender; or do what some companies are doing now and use yet another software service to produce programs to take CAD plans and translate them into something that can be used by these other tools.
What do you think are the must-haves for CAD workstations for those in public works?
Multiple monitors, wireless hardware such as a keyboard and mouse, a computer set up to meet and sustain high-end graphics and CPU demands (as a side note, the most deficient item I've seen on this is having a power supply that can't keep up), and a network designed to deliver, archive, and back up files and software.
What do you think are the biggest frustrations that those in public works have with their current CAD workstations?
- Single monitors - some organizations do not allow multiple monitors, which can greatly reduce production and performance
- Not having input on hardware specifications - many organizations do not consult the users before purchasing hardware, so many workstations cannot deliver the graphics and meet the CPU demands. This results in greatly reducing production because the user has to wait a significant amount of time for graphics to load when using CAD or GIS
- Not taking into account speed of broadband services when working through a network that is located off-site - this also greatly reduces speed of performance
- Not having an efficient backup and archiving system designed for easy access to users who need to share the files - this can take up a lot of staff time when files cannot easily be found and retrieved or shared