Resistance Is Futile – Interoperability Is The Essence

Watching Star Trek as a kid I was captivated by episodes on the holodeck – a Virtual Reality interactive chamber with imaginative possibilities. But moreover, no matter how exciting the technological advancements Star Trek offered, it was the society of Star Trek, it’s United Federation of Planets – promoting peaceful cooperation though technological development, that had me most inspired. Any steps that get us closer to that ethos are worth serious consideration in my book, all the more so if we can gain holodecks as an outcome!

Star Trek’s ethos maps strongly to the spirit of BIM.  Interoperability is the essence. How we demonstrate and utilise the ability to operate in an interconnected manner.  This is what Building Information Modelling (BIM) is about.

VR Vive Promotional Image

In the engineering sphere many are talking about what we can ‘add to a BIM’ and what we might be able to get from ‘a BIM’.  It is spoken about often as a thing, but it operates as part of a context. I’ve 3 questions:

  • Why now?
  • What is BIM today?
  • What frames my interest?

Why now?
The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reported that $15.8 Billion had been lost in 2004 due to a lack of interoperability and standardisation.

In 2011 the UK Government Chief Construction Adviser Paul Morell called for BIM adoption on UK Government projects and said without it we run the risk of being “betamaxed out”. – a phrase that from my years working in television I particularly enjoyed; it references when superior product the VHS tape made Betamax tapes obsolete.

UK’s National Building Specification (NBS) said in National BIM Report of 2016 “… since 2015 over half of UK construction projects include BIM with 70% utilising 3D models.”

What is BIM today?
The BIM Task Group, a joint UK Government – industry working group, have produced a range of documents on how to achieve BIM level 2 (moving from drawings to 2D and 3D models), the current aim of BIM in the UK.  BIM Level 2 focuses on digital deliverables.

A major deliverable idea a.k.a ‘the BIM’ is a cloud stored 6 dimensional model.  Inspired by 3D marketing animation fly-throughs of a building, we can envisage a model that is cloud stored, that we can look through and navigate, that contains the 3 dimensions of space for a building, along with a schedule for building, the cost of the assets with their specifications in the building and the funding available over time for each asset to be built, and longer term, maintained.

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BIM Progress Graph

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What frames my interest?
Utilising aerial drone technology to gather data that creates point clouds, large collections of data points used to create 3D models, we gain a fast and less disruptive mapping toolkit. Then take that 3D point cloud model to use in a VR setting.  Within the 3D VR system, we can annotate the environment, save information, analyse for faults and teleport around to exact locations.  An impressive offering is a Crossrail VR Toolkit created by Clicks + Links partnered with Hovering Solutions who utilise a virtual tablet inside the environment that can take photos, access additional functionality, add points to the environment to capture actual measurements and more.

An example benefit to industry and customers is less disruption; shutting down a train tunnel for a 30 mins fly by for a drone vs shutting it down for a day and having people walk the line to do the same work.

Having journeyed through this blog you may now be enthused and thoughtful, while also feeling that holodecks are just around the corner and yes, this blog is still committed to the holodeck endeavour. But moreover it is about standardising evolving engagement. To be in the spirit of BIM calls on individuals to upskill with emerging technology in order to contribute and add value through collaboration and interoperability.

Just like in Star Trek…