From partnership announcements to industry forums, a showcase of leading projects and a memorable awards ceremony, Bentley Systems’ Year in Infrastructure 2018 Conference left a lasting impression.
By Mitalee Kurdekar
Exactly a year after concluding an exceptionally successful conference in Singapore, Bentley Systems returned to London to host its annual Year in Infrastructure 2018 Conference. The mega-event, which was held from October 15-18, took off exactly where it had ended last year, further accentuating Bentley’s commitment to ‘going digital’.
Whether it was the forums or keynote addresses, the conference was very well attended, all together attracting a crowd of around 1,500, and concluding with a glittering awards ceremony, which once again celebrated the achievements of teams and companies that design, construct and operate some of the world’s most spectacular and inspirational projects.
Another continuing trend was one that saw Asian projects rule the roost, with the Asia Pacific region accounting for well over half of the 57 finallists that had been shortlisted by 12 independent jury panels of industry experts from amongst 420 nominations submitted by more than 340 organisations across the world.
Greg Bentley, CEO, Bentley Systems, flagged off the event with a corporate keynote, during which he stated, “In advancing infrastructure, we advance our economies, and perhaps there is no better indication of that than last week’s article in the Wall Street Journal, which suggests that private investment funds available for infrastructure are greater than ever, limited only by project risk, where it seems to me like in going digital, we can increase digital visibility and reduce risk to take advantage of greater investment in infrastructure.”
While providing an example from within the UK, Greg Bentley explained how they have successfully set up a National Infrastructure Commission, an independent body that thinks about costs and benefits of public infrastructure investment and how to make the most of it. Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), spoke post Greg Bentley’s address. He explained that the primary role of the NIC is to make recommendations every five years to the government on the infrastructure that the country will need over the next 25-30 years, in order to ensure that the UK is competitive, to ensure economic growth in a sustainable manner, which in turn improves everyone’s quality of life. “Those recommendations cover transport, energy, water, waste, floods, and – by no means last – of course, digital,” he emphasised.
When Greg Bentley pointed out that the UK government had rejected the recommendation for a ‘national digital twin’, Sir Armitt observed, “The whole concept of the digital twin is inevitable. What has been interesting is the way in which data for the public good has actually sparked a lot of debate and discussion, and within the industries and different sectors, people are actually alighting on this. And this is how we change government’s attitudes at the end of the day.”
Sir Armitt also suggested that, “With a whole project team approach, the recognition that good performance deserves a fair profit, and that the outcome for the public is the end goal, we can all in our different ways contribute to great infrastructure, economic growth and countries fit to live in.”
Building on the Dream
Of course, Bentley Systems supplies a great number of the tools that help make that outcome possible. At this year’s event, the company launched the iTwin Services, which are digital twin cloud services for infrastructure projects (project digital twins) and assets (performance digital twins). They can be transparently provisioned within Bentley’s Connected Data Environment (CDE) for ProjectWise and AssetWise users. In addition, there was an announcement regarding the initial release of iModel.js library, an open-source initiative to improve the accessibility, for both visualisation and analytical visibility, of infrastructure digital twins.
During his technology keynote, Keith Bentley, founder and CTO, Bentley Systems, highlighted what the digital twin signifies for projects and businesses at large. “Our work with early adopters of iModelHub over the past year has confirmed to me that its unique strengths for alignment, accountability, and accessibility find their highest and best use, in conjunction with our reality modeling technologies, for enabling project digital twins and performance digital twins. I look forward to actively working with users and external developers to create an open ecosystem of innovation for iTwinTM Services, leveraging the iModel.js library. I expect Bentley Systems to lead the infrastructure engineering community, as the ‘infrastructure digital twin’ company!” he professed.
Similarly, the product keynote saw Bhupinder Singh, chief product officer, Bentley Systems, further elaborating on why the digital twin is going to be useful and valuable. He referred to a Gartner report that predicted that half of all major industrial companies would be using digital twins by 2021; add to that the fact that there would be 20 billion sensors in operation by the time. In today’s environment, he offered the example of self-driving cars to drive home the point. “That digital twin of that car is being driven in simulation as much as the physical. For that simulation to be effective, that engineering information, that data, that environment, and the 3D maps have to be accurate and current. With infrastructure, we want to put our digital twins to work – just as you see with the self-driving car – to make our infrastructure more resilient, to simulate scenarios such as floods and earthquakes, to extend the useful life of our infrastructure, and to minimise the downtime of our infrastructure,” he proclaimed.
Of course, to keep the physical and digital in sync, you also need the context, said Singh. In this regard, Bentley introduced OpenSite Designer, a built-for-purpose application for the design and construction of civil site projects; in addition to OpenBuildings, which is bringing together the AECOsim building design and Speedikon factory and industrial design applications; and also announced the availability of OpenBuildings Station Designer, a specialised application for designing rail and metro stations. Besides these, Bentley launched OpenBridge Designer, which combines Bentley’s bridge modelling, analysis and design capabilities into one comprehensive package; and OpenFlows FLOOD, a flood analysis and early warning system.
Product launches aside, Bentley also used this platform to announce new acquisitions and partnerships. For starters, Bentley announced the acquisition of leading pedestrian simulation software provider LEGION. The company has also acquired Agency9 to realise digital twins for every city. In order to advance industrialisation of infrastructure project delivery, they have brought about an integration of ProjectWise with Microsoft 365. Further, Siemens and Bentley Systems announced the introduction of PlantSight, a digital solution to benefit customers through more efficient plant operations, besides which the two companies have also declared the availability of an integrated Asset Performance Management (APM) solution for power plants. Atos and Bentley have come together to form a strategic partnership to create digital twins for owner-operators of industrial and infrastructure assets. Likewise, Topcon and Bentley announced new developments in the constructioneering workflow initiative, a year after the launch of the Constructioneering Academy initiative by Topcon and the Bentley Institute.
Achieving the Dream
Moreover, the conference included forums on the latest trends, acquisitions and product updates within the broad themes of Buildings and Construction, Road and Rail, Process and Power Industries, Oil & Gas, as well as Utilities and Government. For instance, the Buildings and Construction session highlighted the ways in which companies could consider Industrialising Project Delivery, Leveraging Digital DNA, and Accelerating Users’ Digital Advancements. During an interaction, Santanu Das, SVP, design modelling, Bentley Systems, confessed, “The perception has always been that designers design, operators operate, and constructors construct, and everyone had their own version of the model and worked in silos. Today, if the designer wants to make a change to a pre-existing asset, the design model is so outdated that he needs to get information on the operational model from the owner, but we do not know what condition that model is in. Therefore, we thought to combine this into one common format – the iModel, so each stakeholder can get what they want to out of it. It is the holy grail.”
On the level of adoption and general demand for such technology in India, Dustin Parkman, VP, Civil Modelling and Visualisation, stated, “We are seeing it become of interest. We are working with some of the roadway authorities in India. Right now, the paradigm in India is very 2D drafting-oriented. Our approach has been that instead of trying to convince all the engineering and construction contractors to change, it is more effective for us to communicate the value and return on investment to the actual owners. Because there is a much greater return on investment; there are efficiencies to be had, both from an engineering and construction standpoint. Our goal is to reduce the overall construction cost by 3%. For example, China was in the exact same position that India is in now, four years ago, when we started working with them. Today, they are already communicating that their design efficiencies are up a 100%, they are executing projects at half the cost than they were just a few years ago, while their overall construction costs are down by 1-2%. From an owner’s standpoint, there is new value to get out of these digital models.”
The Triumphant Triad
The highlight of the event was, of course, the Year in Infrastructure 2018 Awards ceremony. The annual awards programme serves as a means to recognise the exceptional work carried out by users of Bentley Systems in advancing design, construction, and operations of infrastructure all across the globe. Overall, 19 Year in Infrastructure Awards winners and nine Special Recognition Awards winners were picked for this honour.
The award categories consisted of Bridges, Buildings and Campuses, Communications Networks, Construction, Digital Cities, Environmental Engineering, Manufacturing, Mining and Offshore Engineering, Power Generation, Project Delivery, Rail and Transit, Reality Modeling, Roads and Highways, Road and Rail Asset Performance, Structural Engineering, Utilities and Industrial Asset Performance, Utilities Transmission and Distribution, Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants, and Water, Wastewater and Stormwater Networks. On the other hand, the special recognition awards were given for: Advancing Collaborative Digital Workflows in Rail and Transit, Advancing Digital Twins for Airports, Advancing Digital Twins for Bridges, Advancing Digital Twins for Roads and Highways, Advancing Digital Twins for Tunnels, Advancing Digital Twins for Utilities Transmission and Distribution, Advancing Digital Workflows for Asset Performance Modeling of Transit Systems, Advancing Industrialisation through Digital Components for Urban Infrastructure, Continuous Surveying in Constructioneering.
Each of the finalists – a total of three in each category – gave a presentation on the unique aspects of their projects, explaining the work carried out in great detail, all before their fellow contenders, the jury, and the press. They had to then face an onslaught of questions from the audience, and defend their work in response.
This year proved particularly lucky for India, with the country boasting nine entries in the hallowed finallists’ list, compared to just one last year around. But the good news did not end there. The Indian contingent was on quite a winning streak, bringing back a total of three awards. The first was a Special Recognition honour for Advancing Digital Workflows for Asset Performance Modeling of Transit Systems and went to the Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation (Maha Metro) for the Nagpur Metro Asset Information Management System in Nagpur, Maharashtra. As part of its 5D BIM digital project management platform, Maha Metro developed an Asset Information Management System to combine engineering and maintenance information and 3D models from disparate systems into a synchronised environment for an asset-centric approach that covers the entire lifecycle of the railway.
Next up was Shilp Consulting Engineers with their Alambagh Bus Terminal project from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, which emerged victorious in the Structural Engineering category. The task was to expand the existing bus stand facility from 25 bus platforms to 60 platforms, while offering parking spaces for another 40 buses, in addition to a mixed-use building that includes retail stores, a multiplex, and a hotel. The design proved challenging due to all levels of the facility requiring different design schemes in more than 60% of the areas. “It is important that the designer uses appropriate software in the correct manner. This is the only way to satisfy the design requirements, provision support and still provide an optimal design in the stipulated time,” said Sangeeta Date, partner, Shilp Consulting Engineers, who relied on RCDC for design and analysis of all reinforced concrete structures, and STAAD for all steel structural elements.
Finally, the team from DTK Hydronet Solutions won for Conceptioneering and Master Planning of the Bankura Multi Village Bulk Water Supply Scheme in Bankura, West Bengal. “The topology of this region is highly undulated, with elevations ranging between 15-150m, which made it difficult to achieve dynamic pressure management. As the distribution system relied on gravity, it was difficult to achieve the design constraints,” pointed out Devashri Karve, founder, DTK Hydronet Solutions. The project, which is funded by the Asian Development Board (ADB), the Government of India and the Government of West Bengal, is particularly poignant as the resultant 4,000 km-long pipeline aims to provide reliable, equitable, and potable drinking water to approximately a million villagers.
In essence, the conference provided some fascinating insights into the advancements in the field of infrastructure in various parts of the world, and truly left attendees inspired to do more.