We are seeing the convergence of engineering and architecture with 3D technology and this is enabling a full lifecycle perspective in designing and constructing infrastructure where we not only aim at better project delivery, but also better asset reliability and performance. A key technology contributing to this advance is reality modeling. This is the convergence of reality capture using 3D technologies, for example, generating reality meshes from digital photographs, and building information modeling (BIM). Geolocation plays a key role in reality modeling. Greg Bentley, CEO of Bentley Systems, refers to the central role of geolocation in reality modeling as geo-coordination. Geo-coordination means that if engineering drawings, models and as-builts, point clouds, meshes, and photographs captured from smartphones, drones, helicopters and planes are geolocated, it makes it very simple to integrate data from diverse reality capture sources as well as reuse existing engineering data. As I have blogged about this before, geo-coordination is essential for a full lifecycle approach for infrastructure assets. At SPAR2016 I had the opportunity to chat with Greg about geo-coordination in more detail, which I will include in a future post.
The reality modeling technology came together during the preparation for the visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia during the week of September 21, 2015. ESM Productions, a full-service event production company, was responsible for planning for the event which was expected to bring over a million people to the streets of Philadelphia. In planning this massive event, ESM needed to coordinate with Philadelphia’s many public services, as well as the U.S. Secret Service, Pennsylvania state agencies, and the local Philadelphia Catholic Diocese. Bentley Systems, which is head quartered near Philadelphia, contributed their 3D reality modeling technology as well as services provided by many Bentley volunteers.
In a very interesting application of reality modeling, ContextCapture (previously Acute3D) software was used to build a highly detailed, photo-textured 3D “reality mesh” model from 28,000 digital photographs, with high geometrical accuracy. Base imagery was provided by Pictometry, high-resolution aerial photography was taken by helicopter by AEROmetrex, and ground footage was captured by Bentley volunteers – including building facades, street views, and the inside of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Inside the cathedral where the Pope would conduct mass, 800 pictures were taken which required 16 hours of processing to generate the reality mesh representing the interior of the cathedral. Data collection required capturing structures and real world location. All of this data was geo-coordinated, which means that real world coordinates were essential for integrating the data from Pictometry, aerial photography and ground footage.
A precise 3D model was populated with 2D and 3D maps and designs, resulting in a 28 GB dataset. The dataset was used to communicate the details for the 56,400 temporary structures, main and secondary stages and event seating, 33 miles of security barricade perimeter, special U.S. Secret Service security requirements, and local road closures which impacted pedestrian traffic flows for the estimated million people who lined the Pope's route. Once reality meshes for the entire route and inside the structures where the Pope was going to spend time were generated, security and other folks involved in the preparations found that they could do most of their work in the office using the 3D model and did not have to visit the actual route and sites, which saved a lot of time.
The model could also be used to simulate crowd flows and different times of the day. The software allowed moving people in crowds, vehicles flowing in traffic, dynamic sunlight conditions, and seasonal trees and plants to be modeled and visualized which enabled decision makers to simulate the expected operational experience.
ECM found the 3D reality capture approach was a real "game changer". It raised the bar for event planning and ECM plans to adopt the technology for major events in the future.
Greg provided another example of how reality modeling was used in monitoring the construction of the Comcast Tower. In this case a virtual reality approach based on reality capture and the BIM model was used to design and construct the building. At each stage of construction it was possible to compare what was designed with what was actually constructed. In the future Greg said that Bentley intends to automate the process of comparing design and as-built to automatically identify variances - areas where there is a significant difference between what was designed and what was built.