Convergence, interoperability and standards

Contributed by: 
Geoff Zeiss, Director of Utility Industry Program, Autodesk, Inc.

In the 200 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution, urbanisation has been occurring at an exponential rate – representing the largest impact humans have had on the planet. Infrastructure development and maintenance is in need of major investment, estimated to be on the order of $24 trillion over the next couple of decades – and most of the funding will have to come from the private sector. The World Economic Forum estimates that we will have to build the same urban capacity (housing, infrastructure and facilities) in the next 40 years that we have built over the past 4,000 years  in order to meet the demand arising from this unprecedented urbanization. 

According to the Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are on track to spend $137.4 billion between 2011 and 2020 just on new road and railway projects.  Productivity in the construction industry in many of the world’s advanced economies has stagnated.  AEC firms are turning to technology to improve productivity.  In the construction and engineering sector reality capture has progressed by leaps and bounds – with these firms using technologies such as high resolution aerial photogrammetry, oblique imagery, radar-derived digital terrain models, and laser scanning.  CAD is evolving into model-based design motivated by business objectives.  For example, Construction companies are linking building information (BIM) models to project management software to enable 4D and 5D views of projects that help eliminate risk of overruns in the scheduling of material deliveries and work crews. 

3D visualization is an integral part of BIM not only because it facilitates collaboration between design teams, but also because 3D modeling is a more natural, intuitive medium in communicating with non-technical stakeholders. How we will address building this urban capacity at a much faster rate is through the convergence of BIM, geospatial and 3D technology.  The potential business benefit of the convergence of BIM, geospatial technology and 3D technology is improved productivity, which will help attract private sector funding to enable the rehabilitation of the world’s aging infrastructure. 

But the key to unlocking the potential of convergence is interoperability and interoperability requires standards.  Existing standards such as the OGC’s Web Map Service (WMS) and Geography Markup Language (GML), buildingSMART's Industry Foundation Class (IFC), the Open Green Building XML's gbXML, the Distributed Management Task Force's Common Information Model (CIM), the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's Multispeak, and's LandXML are being adopted not only by governments, but also by the private sector and I expect we will see more initiatives like the smart grid activity (likely to be focused in a new Energy & Utilities Domain Working Group) just started by the OGC.