Archive for category New Technologies
The jigsaw pieces are starting to fill in with google’s Project Tango , and the structure.io sensor. Capturing existing buildings has never been an easy task, as much as the purveyors of existing scanners would like you to believe otherwise. Current laser scanners are expensive and the process was usually too much, too much effort, too much expense for most projects. Additionally, since the entry price was so expensive and each scanner has its own proprietary software, lack of open standards slowed innovation; but here comes handheld devices starting at around $400, and an open source universe that lets a universe of people to start working on current problems. Paracosm working with Project Tango looks like it has come up with a crowd sourced platform to put together fuller models of buildings from multiple people/scanners.
From the videos and data, and although everyone admits it’s early. A regular Joe can walk with a handheld scanning device and capture their world. Allowing for the crowd sourced, user generated 3D mapping of the world. Besides the eery feeling that the Matrix was more prophetic than fiction what can be done with all this cool stuff, what’s next?
It will be in the processing of this data and digestion of it that will make it launch to the next steps. Typically the hurdle of laser scanning is going from scanned data, to data that people can use. Think of scanning this stuff….cool. To floorplans and 3D walk throughs for realtors. So if a realtor can take a $300 handheld scanner, walk around a home or apartment, and have it simply turned into a walk through tour and dimensioned floor plans of a home, excellent. Share those floorplans with a carpet installer for a price, great.
Before scans and point clouds were expensive to attain it looks like the price is about to drop dramatically. Dramatic price drop, easier to attain, increased supply. Increased supply, bigger market. Bigger market, more people. More people, more better. We are just at the start. There will be a lot of companies starting to fill in ways on how to capture and deal with this data and since the world spends about $8 trillion on construction alone there will be room for players. You’re invited.
So with Google announcement of Project Genie : Vannevar Technologies and with IBM opening Watson to the programming community one has to believe that deep analytics is coming to the AEC industry. Not silo attempts by industry leaders. It’s got to get easier to run energy analytics, design options, facility management…integrated in a way that is push button easy, and as anyone in the industry can attest we are still far from push button easy. However, getting thousands of people, the collective intelligence of the programming community solving problems. Getting data centralized, performance feedback, learning from that virtuous circle, that is exciting stuff.
Data is the foundation of all of this, without the data, we have nothing to run with. For the AEC environment, it’s the building whether it’s in the design phase, or most likely, already operating. How long will the data reside in proprietary formats? How long is that a viable business model? We will see that companies that can provide the most value with the data start to thrive. Hence the opening up of Watson as a platform and the fact that Google is coming to the AEC marketplace shows there is some seismic shifts in store. I’ve written before that getting the AEC crowd to change their stripes, adopt new technologies, can be difficult, however it’s really going to be Autodesk 360, and what they can offer you in house vs. the world. There has been talk of the ICFxml gbXML or ways to have BIMs in an open environment. This may very well be the tipping point.
There seems to be little known about what’s going on at this century’s Xerox PARC, Google X and it’s Project Genie, but a small amount of information was unveiled at ArchDaily. Google’s commitment to sustainability is apparently going to reach into the AEC industry and possibly trample into Autodesk’s campsite. While other software firms are hampered by their own internal growth and sales and what they can commit to marketing, (Autodesk wins there) and R & D. The folks at google, know no such bounds. The spinoff Vannevar Technology (which sounds suspiciously close to Vandelay Industries,) is working on creating…..who knows. Their website states “Reimagining building design for a more sustainable future.” Which is about as exciting as the 5th slide in a time share deck. However, google has the clout and cash in what can be a very stubborn, hesitant to change,” what are you talking to me ” culture. Typically the principals in architecture firms don’t care about technology, they have minions to get it done so why invest in software or new tech when my current pricing, business structure, ROI formulas are working and set in stone, plus I don’t like business that much I like designing building so the less I get involved the better. Engineers will analyze and without comparable metrics to analyze, then…paralyze. Construction managers will embrace tech if it saves the time, which equals money, so time and money but they have to live with the consequences, so embracing new tech….tough crowd. Which is far from saying that things can’t be done better.
The small bit of copy on the web site rightly touts that buildings, yes buildings produce the most greenhouse gases, 40%, so what is google going to do about it? Systems, software, construction methods, materials, vertically integrate and go borg on the industry. My guess is whatever they do, they will be building some buildings with Vannevar Tech for proof of concept and case studies. My guess it’s got be some integrated design and FM system to produce tangible CO2 / greenhouse gas savings, plus energy savings. Some have guessed it might be a SketchUp on steroids, but then why did they sell it to Trimble. And who cares about the design process, what part of that is the current lifecycle of a building, very little, I’d want to own the building for most its life, it’s operating life, and want to own the management of it, and the data. There ya go, so then, IBM and Maixmo, meet google, you might know them. These are the crazy kids floating balloons for internet access.
Are laser scanners and their resulting pointclouds right for you and your project? As with all lists, it is simplified and of my opinion. Whether you want to trust my opinion, well that’s up to you, but my company Interioreview has, for over a decade, surveyed / drafted / modeled hundreds of buildings and starting in 2006 delivered Revit Models of existing buildings. My company, PointKnown, has created an Add-In to Revit that allows you capture and model buildings as you measure, in real time with a hand held laser. Now that I’ve blown my own horn here are my top 3 Myths:
It’s Foolproof and Error Free.
Wrong. I have not once received a model from a ‘pointcloud’ surveyor without dimensional errors in the model. Not once. Only because of our internal controls and surveying was I able to call out the errors and was not satisfied with other companies internal controls that the errors would have been found if my company had not found them. Such that we now will do all the modeling in house. Just because someone has a scanner does not mean they do it well.
it is concluded that features such as reflectivity, color, and brightness of the object surfaces have impact on the quality of the data, therefore, although 3D point cloud data is very useful it should be considered that the data can be sometimes irregular and corrupted and thus not exactly reflecting the features of the scanned object.
It’s Easy to Produce a Model From a Pointcloud.
Holy cow, no. How many technologies come into play to get a scan created, consolidated, registered, exported, modeled? First the hardware/scanner, whether it’s from Leica, Faro, whoever, they have their own software to manage the scan/cloud, and then you can export/import to Revit to use as a background to model over. You can use other technologies to help with this process such as Scan to BIM, or to cut portions of the pointcloud you can use ReCap, export to Autocad and re-import that data into Revit, etc. My point being there are a variety of methods to get from here to there but they are not necessarily consistent and have their strength and weaknesses, but you are using human power to make those decisions at each step. And then you are essentially using the pointcloud to ‘trace’ over. That is, you cut sections of the pointcloud in what ever view you are working in and trace over them. Has the person ‘modeling’ the building ever surveyed a building? Or have construction or architecture experience to know how a building should be put together. Does the architect really want to see a wall with a .08 degree deflection of wall off 90 degrees because it will create numerous amount of Revit errors, and was it really there or was the pointcloud interpreted incorrectly? There is no easy button.
It’s Cost Effective
Putting a scanning crew on site for a day is going to cost you between $3K-$4K typically, just to get the exterior of a building, with the pointcloud only, expect at least a 2 day buy in for between $6K and $8K, and that’s typically without going inside, and at the end you get the point cloud, not a Revit model. So a typical house, modeled from a point cloud, inside and out, best guess $8K-$10K. 12 Story Commercial Office Building, $50K+ and so on. Maybe that’s in your budget, but if so why? Why would you need to spend thousands of dollars to be told a room is square and has a 10′ ceiling?
Once dealing with the pointcloud, if you are dealing with it yourself, I hope you have a box/computer that is going to have a minimum of 16GB RAM, multicore XEON processor, etc. and ideally has a solid state drive, this is recommended by Autodesk for ‘pointcloud’ interactions.
You as a consumer of this data need to know what technologies are out there, your choices and their cost. I have seen circumstances and white papers where laser scanning pays dividends many times over, most consistently in existing exposed MEP intensive facilities, think utilities, drilling platforms, power-plants and the like where having a accurate representation of all that data can allow people to retrofit power-plants with few change orders or zero defects. Imagine an offshore construction platform that can lease for $100’s of thousands a day finishing early because of the accuracy of data, very good investment indeed even if it costs $200K to model it accurately. However, do you need that kind of data for a commercial building or an adaptive reuse project? How are you going to capture the interiors? There are methods to capture the built environment accurately for your needs without wasting money and effort.
Start with the simplest model you need, dimensionally accurate, volumetrically correct using whatever technology that gets you there cost effectively and with a level of confidence. Adding details to the model should be done dependent on scope and need. Power-plant of a building, you may want to bring in a scanner to model the piping package, etc. Accuracy of a historic structure that you may need to impact because of a project, sure scan it, but to scan an entire project is overkill in many circumstances no matter what you are told. Scan where you need details added. Know your options. Your tool box needs more than a hammer.
Sure we want our phone to do everything, make payments, take pictures, unlock our house, turn on the oven….but if you think of all those appliances why don’t they just have a touch screen and create my own button, Jim’s Toast. And if they all can talk to each other, and then tell me when my toast is done. Why have single use buttons at all, why should I go through fifteen menu options to defrost chicken in my microwave, shouldn’t there be an app for that? Even better how about a ‘cook chicken’ app that knows what appliance it is running on and then just does the job of cooking the chicken, microwave, oven, toaster oven, crock pot, doesn’t care.
So why, presumably tackle this, on this blog. In my day to day pitching software as well as services, I get asked in 98% of the meeting, does it run on an ipad, what is your ipad strategy. It starts to sound like the scene when John Malkovich drops into his own brain in the movie “Being John Malkovich” but instead of the word “Malkovich” being spoken as every word, it’s ipad. Listen I got an ipad, it’s great at content and information delivery but as much as I’d like to strap it on to a pair of robot legs and have it run the world, it can’t do everything, and in the AEC profession we still need a set of professional tools, but we can certainly learn from the UI experience of the ipad, and its apps, touch interface etc. And if the iOS was available to stuff on every appliance I’d say iOS everywhere, but it’s not, and Apple long ago made the decision to control their ecosystem. So Android.
Drilling this down into my day to day I use two hand held devices almost everyday, first it’s my phone, and secondly it’s a laser range finder. The phone, while not yet making my toast, does an extraordinary amount of work. My laser, essentially a brick that gives me a critical piece of data. We have software running on a workstation that takes the data and does good things with it, but the laser itself, not so much. However, put Android on the laser the User Experience I can give our clients increases exponentially, or at least geometrically. Instead of looking at a set of single use buttons that we assign sub routines to, we can design an interface that is simplified, elegant, self explanatory. The laser itself becomes the hand held with wifi, bluetooth. You can serve information, query data, use it as a walkie talkie on a job sight, etc. granted your not taking it out on the town at night, but during the day this is it. You put the apps on it that make sense. Need to capture the volume of a room, assign it a room number and move on, boom done. All on the hand held. There is a start to this, with a laser you can strap on the iphone, so somebody is up and thinking, but I don’t have an iphone and the laser/strap on doesn’t have the features and commercial strength I need but on the face of it, great idea.
So Android Everywhere, appliances talking to appliances, cats with dogs, and with Bluetooth Smart Ready, your phone will unlock doors, tell you when your toast is done…just hope google doesn’t serve me an ad after my toast pops up, ‘Wouldn’t You Like Some Smuckers Jam on that Toast”
Burns McDonnell I was told was tasked with capturing the existing conditions of numerous buildings for the VA. They had first seen PKNail Pro demonstrated at the the KC RUG (Kansas City Revit User Group) by Seiler Instrument and wanted to learn more. I flew down for the pilot on Sunday night. In office training Monday, on site at Leavenworth VA Tuesday and Wednesday. We were to compare two technologies, head to head for capturing existing conditions. I was excited for the opportunity but also to learn about new field technologies, and while I have horse in this race and want it to win, I realize there needs to be more tools for everyone to assist in this often overlooked yet critical task.
Burns had gone through the process of scanning/converting/drafting a Revit model from existing drawing, brought CAD files created from the model to the field, and were running tablets that could take pictures and allow you to draft directly in the CAD so the model could be updated later with that data. My team was running Revit Architecture, PKNail Pro on standard laptops, on a tripod outside, AV cart inside. My team, within the first 90 minutes had created the entire shell of the hospital with customized windows/doors/openings and all floor levels, and within those same 90 minutes the Burns McDonnell team had decided to go with the PKNail Pro.
There is no rocket science involved, there is creating improved work flows, using the right technology, and having the personnel committed to doing the job, with Burns McDonnel we had all three. They had to learn a new technology, incorporate field surveying techniques, and learn a new way to do things. That is a lot to heap on a team in three days, yet they were up and running creating a Revit model, when on Tuesday morning all they had was a blank Revit screen.
I have never claimed PKNail Pro as a cure all for every circumstance, and as a company I have used Pointclouds (more on that later) to capture difficult and hard to reach geometry, but you need to have as many tools at your disposal as possible and I will argue that PKNail Pro that allows you to measure and model directly in the field will give you speed gains you never thought possible.
Thanks Burns McDonnell for the opportunity, and thanks Steve, Vicky, Jeff, Thomas, Mary, Dave and Brian for your work ethic, your hospitality and your willingness to try something new.
Give me a call or email to learn more.
sales (at) pointknown.com
At the end of this month Autodesk announced it completed the purchase of Allpoint Systems, this adds to the ‘Reality Capture’ stable now including Alice Labs. Although much like the borg, you google Alice Labs and not much comes up as the technology and seemingly most of the talent has been absorbed into the mothership. As with the purchase of Alice Labs it does not appear that anything from Allpoint will be available for purchase anymore as the technology is incorporated into existing Autodesk products. From the Press Release:
The acquisition of Allpoint Systems reflects Autodesk’s continued investment in developing sophisticated, easy-to-use reality capture technologies. Reality capture is the practice of creating digital models of physical objects and spaces using photography, laser scanning and other technologies.
Why ‘Reality Capture’ or the ‘Documentation of Reality’, well let’s talk about cars, hang with me. According to our good friends at Wikipedia, there are about 254 Million passenger cars on the road or registered in the United States and compared to new car sales of almost 13 million that’s a rough ratio of 80/20, that is new versus used. Interestingly, last time I pulled numbers and the Boston Redevelopment Authority of new construciton permits vs permits for improvements etc. in existing space it was 80/20, in favor of the existing space. So, look where the work is done, used cars, maintenance, improvements, after market, selling gas, same for buildings, infrastructure (bridges, tunnels) etc. And the best way to start a project is to document building, bridges, etc. accurately. The smart money buys used. Or let’s have Autodesk PR Recap. “….continued investment in developing sophisticated, easy-to-use reality capture technologies”
Is there ever a good time to adopt a new technology or business practice? No. Yes. Today. First, ask yourself these questions, “Will it make me or our organization more profitable? Will it lead to new business opportunities?” One broad way to measure profitability is ROI in the investment. How much will it cost to introduce a new technology or business practice, what costs are involved, how quick is the pay back. Are there metrics in place to measure this? One can argue during downtime or between large projects is the best time to invest so they can be incorporated from the beginning of the next project. Cost center issues get caught up with the CFO or whatever other gate keeper that is out there because they cannot be assigned or passed on to a client. Why is this an argument? It might not be said out right, but this type of accounting is just easier and no one ever gets in trouble going with the flow. You were not the one who approved such expenditures so it can be pinned on you. Be an evangelist. Things need to get done. If there is a better way to do it. Do it. You know eventually your competition is going to and will either be A) more profitable B) more efficient or both and start making money at a lower cost than you are. You’re an artist, and it’s always worked this way. Okay, maybe, but that doesn’t scale. The organization is you. And maybe that’s okay but I don’t know how you hire and keep talented people. People like to solve problems and they want the tools to solve them. You have to build a house. Tough to argue for the hammer over the nail gun.
One business proverb always comes to mind when dwelling on this issue.
“If you don’t like new technology you’ll like obsolescence even less.”
Next Time: “It’s all Organization Behavior”
So when we demo our software, inevitably for a lot of architects we are asked, usually at least once, so will this work on the ipad? Fact is, not yet, not until Revit works on the ipad, which the only way I see that happening is that Citrix does an amazing job serving it through a 4G pipeline, so most likely Revit / BIM Models can be viewed in the field, but not yet interacting with one in a meaningful way. Yes you might argue there are check lists, etc. but I’m speaking about dealing with the actual authoring tool. So while architects ask if PKNail Pro works on the ipad. Salespeople will say, “Hey have you seen the Surface? That could be a game changer for you.” That is full blown windows working on a tablet that will run Revit in the field. The review by David Pogue in the Times, states the Surface “On the hardware front, Microsoft has succeeded brilliantly… amazing, amazing hardware. Now the heartbreak: software.” He argues that operating system is not here yet, but this is Windows RT. I’m talking about taking Full Blown Windows into the field for some serious heavy weight mobile application throw down. Building a Revit Model, a Building Information Model of an existing building, in the field, in real time with just your Surface Tablet, a laser range finder, and some software, some industry specific software that will make you 10x faster. Yes, I’m saying PKNail Pro will do that. It’s effective, it’s fast, and now let’s put a wrapper around it named Surface.
So Microsoft, send me a demo, if it’s what I’m expecting I’ll be singing your praises. It’s time to get to work.
*I’m serious Microsoft, so hopefully an identity manager has picked this thread up, or someone wants to make introduction. We are fired up for the Surface and not because we want swag but because it looks like its the size of a beach ball, teed up, and we’re swinging hard.
**Why a picture of LT? Well, it’s LT. Further defined: Left Offensive Tackles are now prized possessions in the NFL and some of the highest paid. That happened when LT lined up. LT changed the game.
To reduce costs for any project or product, look at the inputs; can they be improved? Break out the Cost of Goods Sold, or Cost of Sales. In construction the Cost of Sales (which will include material and labor) is at a whopping 84%. This leaves leaving only a 16% gross margin for everything else. To put this in perspective Walmart operates at around a 25% Gross Margin. So is it any wonder the need to lock down costs and reduce waste is more extreme in this industry than most? Compare it to its aligned industry the AE (Architecture Engineering) industry whose gross margin is 3 times as high and there is good reason that BIM was initially more widely adopted and implemented by the construction trades. Any advantage in reducing costs, improving margins or making a firm more competitive in the marketplace will find a receptive audience in construction.
Cost saving were first realized with BIMs starting with the 3D coordination of the digital model, clash detection and then scheduling(the 4th D) of construction and the reduction of the cost of labor. Downtime for crews due to change orders or having material unavailable was reduced. Now we are starting to see more firms focus on the cost of materials and how they can be managed and best integrated into a project.
RIB Software , based in Stuttgart Germany is a leading provider of technical ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software solutions for the construction industry recently announced the acquistiono of MC2 one of the leaders in cost estimation software for the construction industry or the 5th D of BIM. In the official press release RIB stated ‘Major step taken in the US market for 5D-BIM technology’. In July Trimble acquired WinEstimator another leader in cost estimation in the United States.