This week I am in Singapore for the Bentley 2019 Year in Infrastructure (YII2019) conference, both covering the event and performing the role of a juror for its annual award program. The conference is being held at the glorious Marina Bay Sands hotel and conference center, a structure designed by architect Moshe Safdie.
Safdie is often overshadowed by the more public figure Frank Gehry, but his firm’s work is just as bold and brilliant. The sheer boldness of hotel venue is a reminder that within every quarter of life there is often genuis and this is true out in the industries. It is fitting then, on some level, that a conference on “infrastructure”—itself a AEC topic that is overshadowed by the more publically understood and embraced “architecture”—be held here. It turns out Singapore, the city-state, has deep connections to Bentley and world-class infrastructure to tout because of it.
Yesterday, Bentley’s conference officially launched and the company had a private press event for more than 135 journalists from more than 25 countries. The big news—amongst a flurry of press releases—was the joint-venture announcement with Topcon Positioning Systems, a world leader in positioning technology for the survey and construction industries. The two AEC industry companies have announced a new joint-venture called Digital Construction Works, which will focus on digital automation, integration and what Bentley calls “twinning” services around a portfolio of fit-for-purpose software and cloud services from Topcon, Bentley and other software vendors.
In short, Digital Construction Works is a services company first and foremost looking to help fill the gap that exists between “what is possible” with digital tools and what is “common practice.” Aimed at helping solve demanding infrastructure projects, the new company will embed experts within the companies driving these projects, helping them deliver better outcomes by focusing on advanced utilization of digital toolsets and constructioneering processes. “Constructioneering” is Bentley’s term for the activity and outputs of innovation that emerge when engineering pros and construction pros work not apart in silos or domains but as teammates understanding each other’s challenges and opportunities.
Acquisitions and Digital Twins
Architosh will be providing deeper coverage and analysis of each of Bentley’s big announcements here in Singapore in the days ahead, but in summary, here are some of the key items delivered to attendees yesterday:
- AssetWise Digital Twin Services — As a leader in digital twin technologies, Bentley has introduced new services that converge digital context, digital components, and digital chronology to provide immersive visualization and advanced analytics to enhance decision support and improved performance of infrastructure assets.
- New ProjectWise 365 — this new all-cloud offering extends the industry-leading ProjectWise collaboration solution to SMEs. Small and medium AEC companies want a simplified always-available, any device, cloud-based collaboration environment that focuses on the core components of document access, markup, team sessions, RFI, drawings and document access, versions, RFI and submittals processing.
- Comprehensive SYNCHRO Offerings — Bentley’s new SYNCHRO cloud services enable contractors to visualize 4D design data and construction models for project and field management, advanced work packaging and integration with Microsoft HoloLens 2 AR solutions.
- New iTwin Cloud Services — announced new cloud services for infrastructure engineering digital twins. Digital Twins are representations of physical assets and their engineering information that allow users to understand and model their performance in the real world over their lifecycle. As Bently stated, “Evergreen digital twins advance BIM and GIS through 4D.” (see analysis below).
- Bentley acquires Citilabs and Orbit Geospatial Technologies — taking up Citilabs for its Streetlytics software and Geospatial Tech for its Orbit GT, Bentley can now provide simulations for predictive transportation workflows and advance mobility digital twins, respectively.
- New Open-branded Offerings — OpenWindPower, OpenTower, as well as new integrations of other solutions with Open-branded apps. For example, OpenRoads now enables CUBE traffic simulations to be directly available from within the app.
The company had significant updates and integrations with numerous other Open-branded applications, tools primarily powered by Microstation technology.
Additionally, the company’s co-ventures with Siemens are yielding new features and capabilities like the upcoming OpenRail Overhead Line Designer that integrates between OpenRail and Siemens SICAT Master. We will cover more in our deeper report on Open apps.
Bentley also made a significant announcement with buildingSMART around the global AEC industry’s interoperability initiatives supporting IFC. Bentley has announced it has joined buildingSMART as a multinational member, announcing the support of IFC for Digital Twins.
Bentley has announced a new iModel Bridge for IFC, a generic IFC bridge that enables Bentley’s iModels to consume IFC geometry and business data. iModels are specialized containers for infrastructure information that is at the heart of Bentley’s digital twins’ strategy for infrastructure engineering.
The new iTwins Services now enable iModels to export snapshots in IFC format and treat IFC datasets as an input source, aligning their content for use by Bentley design applications. (we will discuss iModels and IFC in another report).
Architosh Analysis and Commentary
Bentley and Topcon’s news was clearly the highest point of interest by the press at the event, while some key items that caught Architosh’s attention were things much smaller in importance—like the new ProjectWise 365 aimed at SMEs. This product aims to enter the busy field of cloud-based, web-browser friendly SaaS solutions in AEC, competing with tools like PlanGrid and Procore, among others. Bentley said that they are not interested in the hype and flurry of “overvalued” construction software startups but instead wish to jump over all that strategically. With ProjectWise already a dominant force in AEC project collaboration, it seems more sound to build out that toolset to serve other market segments (SMEs) or provide integrations to existing or new Bentley tools. The company is firmly centered on leading with Digital Twins, which is a broad topic that needs much discussion to define its edges and opportunities.
The acquisition of Citylabs was another item Architosh wants to delve into more fully as this relates to Smart Cities, a topic we cover in our new newsletter Xpresso.