Archive for category Open Engine
SLAM technology. SLAM, besides sounding rather cools stands for ( Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). And this is is an evolution in the creation of point clouds. Why? SLAM technology allows a user to walk through space, and in essence, create a continuous point cloud of an entire space. Previous technologies require a machine to be placed on a tripod, and continually set up in different locations. To get a full ‘picture’ of whatever you are scanning separate scans have to be ‘stitched’ together, which is not as automated a process as you might imagine. While Leica continues it onslaught of proprietary products and continuous scanning with its Pegasus systems, SLAM is based on open standards and researched extensively through the robotics industry. Off the shelf technology in the form of Hitachi Lasers, Rasberry Pi Processors and the like will start to open up new devices and allow new manufacturers to enter what has been a highly technical and closed field.
While SLAM devices do not have the high fidelity of HDLS, it does allow for some pretty excellent data collection that is typically at a level needed for most building documentation, leaving highly specific / detailed tasks for the more heavyweight scanners, think exposed and extensive MEP, physical plans, historic documentation/reconstruction. Personally, using SLAM devices in combination with our PKNail Pro allows us to move through spaces quickly, efficiently, accurately capturing building geometry with both systems and creating dimensionally accurate Revit objects on the fly with PKNail Pro. This allows us to get in and out of space with minimal interruptions, and allows for quick turn around which is great for building owners/investors through due diligence, BOMA calculations or looking to repurpose/reprogram a building. Recently, we were in and out of 300,000SF of tower in Wilmington Delaware in less than 36 hours.
While SLAM allows for the quick collection of data, interpreting, understanding the data and turning the data into usable documentation still remains very much a craft process. Too many times I have seen a product, such as a Revit model, turned out by groups who fail to understand how building are put together and designed which eventually turns into a product that confuses and confounds the people/architects who need to use it. In the next post I hope to dive into this process vs. product a bit deeper.
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”
A lot of us have drank the BIM cool aid, it’s smarter, better, jumps higher, runs faster and there are a lot of good case studies out there on how much time/money it can save. I believe this, truly but the bold fact of the matter is that most of the world works in 2D most of the time. Now we can talk, scream and post how this technology is better but the IT world and Interweb are littered with carcasses that we supposed to be better. Not that I think BIM will end up there but what about CAD. I have read a lot about BIM but the fact is, I’m tuned into it and so are the rest of the cult members but what is the market demanding. One is a way to do things better, hence faster, cheaper…check. Another is the constant pressure to provide Software as a Service and do it for free, hello google everything. If we look at the cloud, that is programs and data out in the ether, for example, I am writing this on wordpress which is being hosted who knows where, but every time I type the url: and enter my password, all my data is there, and it works. How it works does much matter to me. So if people want free stuff and want it now, in the AEC world, CAD or some flavor of it would seem to be the best choice to get up there. Why? It can be a much lighter weight application than any BIM platform, just look at any CAD/BIM file comparison, but also simply working in 2D vs 3D requires a lot less bandwidth and computing power. So what, BIM rocks you might say or yell. However, let’s look at some of the benefits of BIM.
File Sharing/Collobaration –
While there is much to like about this, proprietary formats, info exchange, object transferability, etc. the fact it, the model generally resides locally on a LAN, and I have not heard great stories about sharing the model outside of an organization for technical and legal reasons. Some people are working on this like BIMServer, and if you make the jump be warned the site looks almost exactly like this one, not a big compliment just a bit confusing. But certainly a file in the cloud with collaboration tools built in would work much better. Plus once this data is out there it can be better utilized and analyzed.
Product Extensions/ Add Ons
One of the great things about Saas, opening up a platform is the amount of software that can be written for it, look at Salesforce.com, Facebook, Twitter, iphone so one would argue the more open the more better. All though that puts a lot of business models at risk. With the amount of software being written to aid the AEC community, the building wants to be open as it has jump through so many hoops to talk to each other. There is ifcMCL, and the release of agcXML, endorsed by Association for General Contractors for data interchange. However, to write software for the AEC industry one still has to be either a developer for one of the bigs, and you would have to write to each platform. Much more enticing to write for one.
You can’t say cloud without saying google. Let’s look at google for a moment, there was an excellent post by Phil Read on his blog, about Google and CAD, and how google is rolling through industries, whereas Autodesk is focused on AEC, Google is focused on data, and wants you to create it, so they can sort it, index it, and serve it. They have google earth, which by the way you can post Revit models to, they bought SketchUP, what are the focusing on, and can CAD be next. Might someone open up and democratize the CAD platform so real collaboration tools can be written, and added value programs layered on top. Maybe it’s case of one step back for 3 steps forward.
While I am a big proponent of BIM, I also like the idea of open platforms and maybe the opening of the ‘building’ is too big to ignore.
Following up from last post with the open question, Open Engine and IFC. I found this but need to dig to see what is in development, who’s using it, succesful implmentations. I know this blog is one in kajillion but would love to hear what the programming community is doing around this.