Re-defining the Geo-Engineering Concept

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

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

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 conventionalisms; even more if we take into account that geolocation has become an intrinsic ingredient of all businesses, and that BIM levels makes us think that the scope of Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) would be short if we consider the limit of its next step, which is Operations. Thinking about a broader scope requires taking into account the current impact of the digitalization of processes, which goes beyond the construction of infrastructures and expands towards businesses that don’t always have a physical representation, which aren’t only linked in sequential interoperability of data 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 seeing themselves in their different stages as intermediate ends. Today, we live a moment where, on the one hand, information is the currency of exchange from its capture to the point of disposition; but also the efficient operation complements this context to convert this data provision into an asset capable of generating greater efficiency and portfolios in response to 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 of the eighties, with the advent of computerization, was to have good control over information. On the one hand, the aim was to reduce the use of physical formats and the application of computational benefits to complex calculations; hence, the CAD at the beginning doesn’t necessarily change the processes but rather leads them to a digital control; keep doing almost the same, containing the same information, taking advantage that now the media can be re-used. The offset command replaces the parallel rule, the ortho-snap, the 90-degree square, the circle the compass, the trim the precise erasing template and so consecutively we made that jump that wasn’t really easy or minuscule, just thinking about the advantage of the layer that in the past would imply tracing the constructive plane to work the structural or hydrosanitary plans. But the time came when the CAD fulfilled its purpose in both dimensions; it became exhausting especially for cross sections, facades and pseudo-dimensional displays; 3D modeling came before we called it BIM, simplifying these routines and changing much of what we did in 2D 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 leader software providers for the AEC industry were mutating their functionalities accordingly with these major milestones, which have to do with the hardware capabilities and the adoption by the users. Until there came a time when this information management was insufficient, beyond exporting formats, interconnecting master data and a referential integration that was affected by that historical trend of working 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 involved in those moments. Many initiatives came from the seventies, taking force in the eighties with the arrival of the personal computer, added to the computer-aided design of potential databases, raster images, internal LAN networks and the possible to integrate related disciplines. Here vertical solutions appear like puzzle pieces such as topography, architectural design, structural design, estimation of budgets, inventory control, planning of construction; all with the technological limitations that were not enough for an efficient integration. Additionally, the standards were almost non-existent, the solution providers suffered from petty storage formats and, of course, some resistance to change by the industry since the adoption costs were difficult to sell in an equivalent relation with the 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 segmentation paradigms of disciplines in the style of the departmentalization of separate offices. The topography teams came to have deployment and digitization capabilities, the drafters went from being simple line plotters to object modelers; architects and engineers came to dominate the geospatial industry that provided more data, thanks to geolocation. This changed the focus of small file information delivery to processes where the modeling objects are just the nodes of a file that is fed between disciplines like topography, civil engineering, architecture, industrial engineering, marketing and geomatics.

Modeling Thinking about models wasn’t easy, but it happened. Today it’s not difficult to understand that a land parcel, a bridge, a building, an industrial plant or in rail are the same. An object, which is born, grows, produces results and which will one day die.

BIM is the best long-term concept the Geo-engineering industry has had. Perhaps its biggest contribution to the standardization route as been a balance between the unbridled inventiveness of the private sector in the technological field and the demand for solutions that the user requires from private and government companies to offer better services or produce better results with the resources offered by the industry. The conceptualization of the 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 the BIM hubs conceived in the higher levels, where the integration of real life processes include disciplines such as planning, health, security, among others.

The Value Chain - from the information to the operation.

Today, solutions don’t focus on responding to a specific discipline. Punctual tools for tasks such as modeling a topographic surface or elaborating budgets have a reduced appeal if they cannot be integrated to previous, subsequent or parallel workflows. This is the reason that moves leading companies in the industry to provide solutions that comprehensively solve the need in its full spectrum, in a value chain 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 it enters into production of the expected results. In these different phases, the priorities for managing the information gradually diminish until the management of the operation; and to the extent that innovation implements new tools, it’s 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’s when the user identifies the value of being able to use its surveying equipment not only to capture field data, but also to model before reaching the office, recognizing that it’s a simple input that will be associated with a design that must be redesigned for its construction. It no longer adds value to the site where the field result is stored, as long as it’s available when needed and as soon there’s a control of versions; with which the xyz coordinate captured in the field is just an element of a cloud of points that stopped being a product and became an input, of another input, of a final product increasingly visible in the chain. That’s why elevation contour plan are no longer printed, because they don’t add value to the devaluation of the product to input the model of conceptual volumes of a building, which is another input of the architectural model, which will have a structural model, a electromechanical model, and a construction planning model. Everything, like some digital twins that will end in an operating model of the already built building; what the client and its investors initially expected from its conceptualization.

The chain contribution can be found in the added value over the initial conceptual model, in the different phases, from the capture, modeling, design, construction and finally, the management of the final assets. Phases that aren’t necessarily linear, and where the AEC industry (Architecture Engineering, Construction) requires a linkage between the modeling of physical objects, such as land and infrastructures, with non-physical elements, such as people, business and day to day relationships of registration, governance, layout and transfer of real-world goods.

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 presents a global vision of the spectrum that for now has not had a specific term, which from our point of view we are calling Geo-Engineering. This one among others has been used as a temporary hashtag in events of leading companies in the industry, but as our introduction says, it hasn’t come to receive a proper name.

This infographic tries to show something that sincerely is not easy to translate, let alone 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 visions, especially because the application of the mode is cumulative and not exclusive. Planted vision is just a way of interpreting the optics of the benefits that we have seen the users to the extent that we have adopted the technological developments in the industry; Tis being 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 into BIM though, with challenges for the adoption of standards but with a clearly time line in the 5 levels of maturity (BIM levels).

Some trends in the Geo-engineering spectrum are currently being pressed to position the Digital Twins and Smart Cities concepts; the first one more as a dynamic to streamline digitization under a logic operating standards adoption; the second as an ideal scenario of application. Smart Cities extends 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, waste, food, mobility, culture, livability, infrastructure and economy.

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

On this occasion the rules of the game are different; it’s not launching solutions for surveyors, civil engineers or architects. Current users expect integral solutions, focused on the processes and not on the information files; with more freedom of customized adaptations, with reusable apps along the flow, cloud interoperable and above all in the same model that supports the integration of different projects.

Undoubtedly, we live in a great moment. The new generations won’t have the privilege to see the birth and close a cycle in this spectrum of Geo-engineering. They won’t know how exciting it was to run AutoCAD on an 80-286 single task, the patience of waiting for the layers of an architectural drawing to appear, with the desperation of not being able to execute our Lotus 123 system where we carried the unit cost budget on a Black screen with bright orange letters. They won’t know the adrenaline of seeing for the first time the cadastral map match on a binary raster in a Microstation, running on an Intergraph VAX. Definitely, no, they will not.

They will not be surprised to 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 of my first meeting with the CAD platforms. Surely we ignore the scope of this fourth industrial revolution, of which until now we can see some of the ideas, that may seem innovative for us, but that really are primitive before what will involve adapting to a new environment where the ability to unlearn will be more valuable than academic degrees and of experience.

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

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