The digital twin is the future of infrastructure and engineering. This is why Bentley last year has presented the new Itwin Services cloud platform. For the company this is only the beginning of future developments.
Bentley Systems’ mission is to provide innovative software and services for designing, building, and operating the world’s infrastructure. The company was founded in 1984, which was a pivotal time in computing, where it went from mainframes — one computer for many, many people — to desktops where there is one computer for every user. Bentley Founder and Chief Technology Officer Keith Bentley recognized the significance of this technology trend and saw the opportunity to move engineering software from a mainframe-driven model to a desktop model, which was extremely successful. Bentley now has 3,500 colleagues, in 50 countries.
One of the things that keeps the company moving forward is a culture that is supportive of trying new things. Bentley is particularly energized by some of the current initiatives, which are aligning with another pivotal point in computing technology — the widespread adoption of cloud computing. This latest shift is characterized by a framework that leverages many computers for each person. Everybody’s got a mobile phone, a laptop, and a desktop — and web access to their information is expected everywhere.
A New Reality for Industry
Bentley has completely embraced this new reality with the Itwin Services, an initiative that was announced at the “Year in Infrastructure” 2018 Conference, in London last October. The initiative brings together concepts that Bentley has been nurturing in recent years, including Imodel Hub, introduced in 2017, which is a cloud service that enables the alignment, accountability, and accessibility of infrastructure engineering digital twins, and it is a core part of Bentley’s Itwin Services.
A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset. It might be a process, people, systems, devices, a building, a railway, and so on. It’s a digital representation that provides better quality of data, and better data management. Ultimately, it’s how an industry, can get beyond BIM and create the future of infrastructure. Digital twins will help create safer infrastructure by enabling better awareness throughout the operations and maintenance of infrastructure along with the integration of IoT devices such as sensors and cameras.
Last October, during Bentley’s “Year in Infrastructure” Conference, Keith Bentley announced that as part of driving Bentley’s mission, Bentley is partnering with Hack Partners, a company that creates innovation movements, in their new Infra Hack initiative. The initiative brings together the entirety of the infrastructure industry from technology providers and engineering consultancies, to government bodies and infrastructure operators, bringing the industry supply chain and the infrastructure owner-operators together with grassroots innovators in a way that no other initiative does. Bentley is providing access to its Imodel Hub for the participants to examine infrastructure data and workflows at the hackathon, which will help accelerate their exploration of industry data, putting Bentley at the forefront of innovation in this industry.
River Tamoor Baig, Founder and CEO of Hack Partners, said, “Bentley is one of the biggest enablers of infrastructure development and enhancement, globally. In my opinion, they’re one of most critical companies that the wider public hasn’t heard of. It was a no-brainer to collaborate with them on Infra Hack given the services that Bentley Systems offers. It’s clear to us that Bentley has a very forward-thinking innovation-driven mindset, which aligns well with Hack Partners and the Infra Hack initiative. Together, I believe that we are going to make our hackathon produce outcomes for the industry that reach new heights.”
Digital Twin to Avoid Silos
Infrastructure projects and assets contain vast amounts of information that come from many different applications, and this data is typically siloed. Digital twins can incorporate all the engineering information generated during the lifecycle of an infrastructure asset. Imodel Hub aligns the disparate digital components created by different applications while maintaining an extensive change ledger. Another exciting dimension of this is that there is an open-source, Java Script library, called “Imodel.js”, for accessing and leveraging the data in Imodel Hub. This library will open the door for anyone to build services or applications that leverage the power of the digital twin.
The best part is that the framework is not disruptive to current engineering workflows. Engineers and designers can continue to use the tools they want, and their application-based data can be incorporated into a singular model along with other types of data, such as reality models captured by drones. You can imagine being able to achieve so many new types of insights, by leveraging all this normalized data — through dashboards, artificial intelligence, and automation.
Open Minds and Platforms
Considering all the parties working on a project, companies also need to think about accountability. The platform is tracking all the changes — everything that happens — throughout a project or throughout an entire asset lifecycle and maintaining it for as long as is needed. But how do the Bentley developers make sure the right accountability? Imodel Hub has a change ledger — a timeline of change that captures everything. The customer can roll it back in time to see how he got to where he is, and he’ll be able to roll it forward in time with his recent Synchro acquisition. Through 4D plans and schedules, it´s possible for the customer to roll forward into what he is planning to do as well, which is amazing.
Ultimately, digital twins are going to transform the design and management of infrastructure and enable companies to achieve more sustainable development for generations. That’s the vision for digital twins. The greater the accessibility of information, and the more open the platform, then the greater the opportunity for information to be re-used. This is digital transformation — this is what business people are hearing everywhere right now. It’s about having a singular piece of information such as a digital component that is accessible for many different workflows and different purposes. Companies cannot achieve that result without an open ecosystem. There are a lot of start-ups today. But, very often, they focus on a niche, and it’s hard for them to interoperate and play in the larger system. This new framework for infrastructure digital twins is an exciting opportunity for everyone to participate.
* * The author is Vice President, Business Development, Itwin Services at Bentley Systems. Contact Bentley Systems Germany: Phone: +49-800-181-8565