It is impossible to talk about the development of transportation infrastructure in the 21st century without also discussing technology.
If infrastructure is going to be the engine for economic progress that many hope it will be, then those involved in building and operating road and rail networks must embrace technological innovation, harness it and through this drive greater efficiencies across the whole life of an asset.
Transportation may well lag behind some other sectors, notably aerospace, in terms of technological innovation. But software development company Bentley Systems is very much in the vanguard of the technological revolution that surely must come, particularly in the rail and road sectors.
Through its ever-growing suite of products, Bentley can help its infrastructure clients deal with the increased capacity and reliability demands that are coming down the line, and which cannot be dealt with through traditional means.
As Bentley’s chief executive officer Greg Bentley put it when speaking at the New Civil Engineer UK rail conference last year: “We can’t build our way out of it”.
If that is the case, what can be done to help the engineers who will build and operate the next generation of roads and railways?
For Bentley, it is about enabling infrastructure professionals to work smarter, and much of this process comes through digital transformation, and the convergence of information technology (IT), operational technology (OT) and engineering technology (ET) .
Improving infrastructure delivery
Digital transformation can improve the delivery of infrastructure in three key ways: by making project delivery faster; by increasing the capacity of engineers and contractors and by hugely reducing their exposure to risk
And these improvements can apply as much to existing infrastructure as to the new projects that will define the sector’s future.
Whether it is through advances in the collection of data from road and rail users or advances in design modelling technology such as that produced by Bentley, today’s engineers are able to work much smarter than they have ever been able to do in the past.
By using laser scanners and digital cameras, Bentley’s ContextCapture takes data collection and reality modelling to the next level. It allows users to generate highly detailed 3D reality meshes with precise geometric accuracy. The technology far outstrips traditional survey methods in terms of speed and efficiency, as well as increasing the safety of personnel working in dangerous or hostile environments.
In terms of reality modelling, the software developer’s OpenRoads ConceptStation can use the data and information gathered using ContextCapture in the preliminary design phase of a road projects.
Critically, the software models how a road network will look, how it will behave and what it will cost at a very early stage in the process. It ably demonstrates how good modelling can help engineers explore numerous scenarios in their search for the most efficient or optimal solution.
Building on its preliminary design software, OpenRoads Designer provides a fully immersive 3D modelling environment within which engineers can produce the detailed designs and deliverables demanded by building information modelling (BIM) and digital construction.
IT, OT and ET
Taken together, Bentley’s software tools demonstrate the convergence of IT and OT with (ET) and how this has the potential to drive real change at a time when the transportation sector most demands it.
The next step is for owner operators and the eco-system of organisations that support them, to realise the potential these and other new tools can have on existing business processes. In other words, they need to see that there is a serious long-term return on investment in transformative technology, in terms of increasing delivery capacity for new projects and making existing infrastructure work more efficiently.
Bentley expects its offering to be crucial in helping the rail industry deliver on its ever-growing pipeline of projects. The number, scale, complexity and variety of new rail links and next generation of metro networks around the world presents a significant capacity challenge for engineers.
Efficient data collection
This is a challenge that can best be met through more efficient data collection, improved information management, and greater adoption of new technology.
But there may be a problem in terms of the perception of the effectiveness of new technology. Research carried out last year by “New Civil Engineer” and Bentley found that while there was enthusiasm for digital technology among civil engineers as individuals, they often saw their employers as blockers, holding back adoption and denying staff the chance to experiment with new ideas.
What is certain, however, is that the growth of digital modelling and the increasing primacy of BIM means that firms – whether they like it or not – will have to become more agile when it comes to use of technology or they risk being left behind.
Recently, when speaking about reality modelling in a recent “New Civil Engineer” interview, Bentley chief product officer Bhupinder
Singh remarked:“The companies that adopt it will survive and those that don’t will fail.”
In Association with Bentley Systems