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Re-defining the Geo-Engineering Concept

We live a special moment in the confluence of disciplines that for years have been segmented. Surveying, architectural design, line drawing, structural design, planning, construction, marketing. To give an example of what were traditionally flows; linear for simple projects, iterative and difficult to control depending on the size of the projects.

Today, surprisingly, we have integrated flows between these disciplines that, beyond the technology for data management, share processes. Such that it is difficult to identify where the task of one ends and the other begins; where the delivery of information ends, when the version of a model dies, when the project will be terminated.

Geo-engineering: we need a new term.

If we were to baptize this spectrum of processes, which goes from capturing the information needed for a project in a geospatial environment to putting it into operation for the purposes for which it was conceptualized, we will dare to call it Geo-engineering. Although this term has been in other contexts associated with specific earth sciences, we are certainly not in times of respecting conventions; more if we take into account that geo-location has become an intrinsic ingredient of all businesses, and that the vision of BIM levels It forces us to think that the scope of Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) would fall short if we consider the limit of its next step, which is Operation. Thinking in a broader scope requires taking into account the current impact of the digitization of processes, which goes beyond the construction of infrastructures and extends to businesses that do not always have a physical representation, that are not only linked in the inter sequential data operability but in the parallel and iterative integration of processes.

With this edition in the magazine we welcome the term Geo-Engineering..

The scope of the Geo-engineering concept.

For a long time, projects have been seen in their different stages as intermediate ends in themselves. Today, we live in a moment where, on the one hand, information is the currency of exchange from its capture to the point of disposal; But efficient operation also complements this context to turn this data availability into an asset capable of generating greater efficiency and portfolios in the face of market needs.

We speak therefore of the chain composed of the main milestones that add value to the actions of the human being in a macroprocess that beyond being a matter of engineers, is a subject of businesspeople.

Process Approach - the pattern that since -long ago- It is changing what we do.

If we are going to talk about processes, we will therefore have to talk about the value chain, about simplification according to the end user, about innovation and the search for efficiency in order to make the investments profitable.

The processes based on Information Management. Much of the initial effort in the 90s, with the advent of computerization, was to have good control over information. On the one hand, it sought to reduce the use of physical formats and the application of computational benefits to complex calculations; Hence, CAD does not necessarily change processes at the beginning, but rather leads them to digital control; continue doing almost the same, containing the same information, taking advantage that now the media can be reused. The offset command replaces the parallel rule, the ortho-snap the 3 degree square, the circle the compass, the trim the precise erasure template and so on consecutively we made that jump that honestly was not easy or tiny, just thinking about the advantage of the layer that in another time would imply tracing the construction plan to work on the structural or plumbing plans. But the moment came when CAD served its purpose in two dimensions; it became tiring especially for the cross sections, facades and pseudo-three-dimensional displays; this is how 2D modeling came before we called it BIM, simplifying these routines and changing a lot from what we did in XNUMXD CAD.

... Of course, the 3D management at the time ended in static renders that came with some patience because of the limited resources of the hardware and the lack of colors available.

The large software providers for the AEC industry were mutating their functionalities accordingly with these major milestones, which have to do with the capabilities of the hardware and adoption by users. Until a time came when this information management was insufficient, beyond exporting formats, interconnecting master data and a referential integration that was affected by that historical trend of work based on departmentalization.

A little bit of history. Although in the field of industrial engineering the search for efficiency has much more history, the technological adoption of Operation Management in the AEC context was late and based on conjunctures; aspect that today is difficult to dimension unless we have been participants in those moments. Many initiatives came from the seventies, they gain strength in the eighties with the arrival of the personal computer that, being able to be on every desk, adds to the computer-aided design the potential of databases, raster images, internal LAN networks and that possibility of integrate related disciplines. Here are vertical solutions for pieces of the puzzle such as surveying, architectural design, structural design, budget estimation, inventory control, construction planning; all with the technological limitations that were not enough for an efficient integration. Additionally, standards were almost non-existent, solution providers suffered from poor storage formats and, of course, some resistance to change by the industry due to the fact that adoption costs were difficult to sell in an equivalent relation to efficiency and cost effectiveness.

Going from this primitive stage of sharing information required new elements. Perhaps the most important milestone was the maturity of the Internet, which, beyond giving us the possibility of sending emails and browsing static web pages, opened the door to collaboration. Communities interacting in the era of web XNUMX pressed for standardization, ironically, this came from open source initiatives that right now no longer sound irreverent and are rather seen with new eyes by the private industry. The SIG discipline was one of the best examples, coming against all odds in many moments to overcome the proprietary software; debt that to date hasn’t been able to be accompanied in the CAD-BIM industry. Things had to fall by their weight before the maturity of thought and undoubtedly the changes in the BXNUMXB business market in the fuel of a globalization based on connectivity.

Yesterday we closed our eyes and today we wake up seeing that trends such as geolocation have become intrinsic and therefore not only changes in the digitization industry, but an inevitable transformation of the design and manufacturing market.

Processes based on Operation Management. The process approach leads us to break the paradigms of the segmentation of disciplines in the style of the departmentalization of separate offices. The surveying teams came to have display and digitization capabilities, the draftsmen went from being simple line drawers to object modelers; architects and engineers came to dominate the geospatial industry that provided more data thanks to geo-location. This changed the focus from small deliveries of information files to processes where the modeling objects are just the nodes of a file that is fed between the disciplines of surveying, civil engineering, architecture, industrial engineering, marketing and geomatics.

Modeling  Thinking about models was not easy, but it happened. Today it is not difficult to understand that a plot of land, a bridge, a building, an industrial plant or a railway are the same. An object that is born, grows, produces results and will one day die.

BIM is the best long-term concept that the Geo-engineering industry has ever had. Perhaps its greatest contribution to the standardization path as a balance between the unbridled inventiveness of the private sector in the technological field and the demand for solutions that the user requires by private and government companies to offer better services or produce better results with the resources offered by the industry. The conceptualization of BIM, although it has been seen in a limited way by many in its application to physical infrastructures, certainly has a greater scope when we imagine BIM hubs conceived at higher levels, where the integration of real-life processes includes disciplines such as education, finance, security, among others.

The Value Chain - from the information to the operation.

Today, the solutions do not focus on responding to a specific discipline. One-off tools for tasks such as toposurface modeling or budgeting have reduced appeal if they cannot be integrated into upstream, downstream, or parallel flows. This is the reason that moves the leading companies in the industry to provide solutions that comprehensively solve the need in its entire spectrum, in a value chain that is difficult to segment.

This chain is composed of phases that gradually fulfill complementary purposes, breaking the linear sequence and promoting parallelism towards efficiency in time, cost and traceability; unavoidable elements of the current quality models.

The Geo-engineering concept proposes a sequence of phases, from the conception of the business model until the expected results are produced. In these different phases, the priorities for managing the information gradually decrease until the management of the operation; and to the extent that innovation implements new tools it is possible to simplify steps that no longer add value. As an example:

  • The printing of plans ceases to be important from the moment they can be visualized in a practical tool, such as a tablet or a Hololens.
  • The identification of the associated land plots in quadrant map logic no longer adds value to models that won’t be printed at scale, that will be constantly changing and that requires a nomenclature not associated with non-physical attributes such as urban / rural condition or spatial belonging to an administrative region.

In this integrated flow, it is when the user identifies the value of being able to use his surveying equipment not only to capture data in the field, but to model before reaching the office, recognizing that it is a simple input that days later he will receive associated with a design that you will have to rethink for its construction. The site where the field result is stored stops adding value, as long as it is available when needed and its versioning control; Thus, the xyz coordinate captured in the field is just one element of a point cloud that ceased to be a product and became an input, another input, a final product that is increasingly visible in the chain. That is why the plan with its contour lines is no longer printed, because it does not add value by devaluing from product to input of the conceptual volumes model of a building, which is another input of the architectural model, which will have a structural model, a electromechanical model, a construction planning model. All, as a kind of digital twins that will end in an operation model of the building already built; what the client and its investors initially expected from its conceptualization.

The contribution of the chain is in the added value on the initial conceptual model, in the different phases from the capture, modeling, design, construction and finally management of the final asset. Phases that are not necessarily linear, and where the AEC industry (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) require a link between the modeling of physical objects such as land or infrastructures with non-physical elements; people, businesses, and the day-to-day registration, governance, advertising, and real-world asset transfer relationships.

Information Management + Operation Management. Reinventing processes is inevitable.

The level of maturity and convergence between the Construction Information Modeling (BIM) with the Production Life Cycle (PLM), envisage a new scenario, which has been called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

IoT - 4iR - 5G - Smart Cities - Digital Twin - iA - VR - Blockchain.  

The new terms result of the BIM + PLM convergence.

Today there are plenty of initiatives shooting terms that we must learn every day, consequence of the increasingly close BIM + PLM event. These terms include the Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Cities, Digital Twins, XNUMXG, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), to name a few. It’s questionable how many of these elements will disappear as clichés, thinking in a real perspective of what we can expect and putting aside the temporal wave in the post-apocalyptic films that also give sketches of how great they could be... and according to Hollywood, almost always catastrophic.

Geo-engineering. A concept based on integrated territorial context management processes.

The infographic presents a global vision of the spectrum that for now has not had a specific term, which from our perspective we are calling Geo-Engineering. This, among others, has been used as a temporary hashtag in events of leading companies in the industry, but as our introduction says, it has not come to have a deserved name.

This infographic tries to show something that is honestly not easy to capture, much less interpret. If we consider the priorities of different industries that are transversal throughout the cycle, although with different evaluation criteria. In this way, we can identify that, although modeling is a general concept, we could consider that its adoption has gone through the following conceptual sequence:

Geospatial Adoption - CAD Massification - 3D Modeling - BIM Conceptualization - Digital Twins Recycling - Smart City Integration.

From a perspective of scope of modeling, we see the expectation of users to approach reality in a gradual manner, at least in promises as follows:

1D - File management in digital formats,

2D - The adoption of digital designs replacing the printed plan,

3D - The three-dimensional model and its global geo-location,

4D - Historical versioning in a time-controlled manner,

5D - The incursion of the economic aspect in the resulting cost of unit elements,

6D - The management of the life cycle of modeled objects, integrated into the operations of their context in real time.

Undoubtedly, in the previous conceptualization there are different views, especially because the application of modeling is cumulative and not exclusive. The vision raised is only one way of interpreting from the perspective of benefits that users have seen as we have adopted technological developments in the industry; be this Civil Engineering, Architecture, Industrial Engineering, Cadastre, Cartography ... or the accumulation of all these in an integrated process.

Finally, the infographic shows the contribution that the disciplines have been led to the standardization and adoption of the digital world in the daily routines of the human being.

GIS - CAD - BIM - Digital Twin - Smart Cities

In a way, these terms gave priority to innovation efforts led by people, companies, governments and above all academics that led to what we now see with fully mature disciplines such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the contribution that represented Computer Aided Design (CAD), currently evolving to BIM although, with two challenges due to the adoption of standards but with a clearly outlined path in the 5 levels of maturity (BIM levels).

Some trends in the Geo-engineering spectrum are currently under pressure to position the Digital Twins and Smart Cities concepts; the first more as a dynamic of speeding up digitization under a logic of adoption of operating standards; the second as an ideal application scenario. Smart Cities broadens the vision to many disciplines that could be integrated into a vision of how human activity should be in the ecological context, managing aspects such as water, energy, sanitation, food, mobility, culture, coexistence, infrastructure and economy.

The impact on solution providers is crucial, in the case of the AEC industry, software, hardware and service providers must go after a user market that expects much more than painted maps and eye-catching renders. The battle is around the corner between giants like Hexagon, Trimble with similar models from markets that they acquired in recent years; AutoDesk + Esri in search of a magic key that integrates its large user segments, Bentley with its disruptive scheme that includes complementary alliances with Siemens, Microsoft and Topcon.

This time the rules of the game are different; It is not launching solutions for surveyors, civil engineers or architects. Today's users expect comprehensive solutions, focused on processes and not on information files; with more freedom of personalized adaptations, with reusable apps throughout the flow, interoperable and above all in the same model that supports the integration of different projects.

Undoubtedly we live a great moment. The new generations will not have the privilege of seeing the birth and closing of a cycle in this spectrum of Geo-engineering. You will not know how exciting it was to run AutoCAD on an 80-286 single-task, the patience of waiting for the layers of an architectural plan to appear, with the desperation of not being able to run Lotus 123 where we had the unit cost sheets on a black screen and screeching orange letters. They will not be able to know the adrenaline of seeing for the first time a cadastral map hunted on a binary raster in Microstation, running on an Intergraph VAX. Definitely, no, they won't.

Without much surprise they will see many more things. Testing one of the first prototypes of the Hololens in Amsterdam a few years ago, brought me part of that feeling from my first encounter with CAD platforms. Surely we ignore the scope that this fourth industrial revolution will have, of which until now we see ideas, innovative for us but primitive before what it will imply to adapt to a new environment where the ability to unlearn will be much more valuable than academic degrees and years from experience.

What’s certain is that it will arrive earlier than expected.

Golgi Alvarez

Writer, researcher, specialist in Land Management Models. He has participated in the conceptualization and implementation of models such as: National Property Administration System SINAP in Honduras, Management Model of Joint Municipalities in Honduras, Integrated Cadastre-Registry Management Model in Nicaragua, Territory Administration System SAT in Colombia . Editor of the Geofumadas knowledge blog since 2007 and creator of the AulaGEO Academy that includes more than 100 courses on GIS - CAD - BIM - Digital Twins topics.

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