New BIM 360 Features: Unify, Review, Integrate and Share
For those fortunate to be given a paid leave pass by their employer, the annual Autodesk University (AU) conference in Las Vegas represents an opportunity to share your achievements, learn from others, meet vendors, and of course talk with Autodesk staff. There is a little something for everyone. And after the conference if you are unable to come away with even a few bite sized nuggets of information for improving your business, then as the saying goes, 'you're doing it wrong'.
Being an Autodesk-driven event, one of the more exciting aspects is understanding Autodesk product features which have just been released and what's coming up in the future. Forward-looking statements of upcoming features (under the Autodesk Safe Harbor), has historically been a delicate topic. But this is the new Autodesk. One that is now far more open and transparent about their development path without signing an NDA, so that they can provide product roadmaps, and more detailed information throughout their AU sessions. And there’s no product talked about more than Autodesk's BIM 360 at both the AU main event, and the Design & Construct Summit pre-conference event.
A2K was there to capture many of the juicy details, with the following as a high-level summary from the sessions.
*Note, as per Autodesk's Safe Harbor policy, any future-looking features noted below come without a timeframe for release and are also subject to change.
The Document Management (DM) module is the bedrock of the BIM 360 platform, i.e. a common data environment (CDE). With the primary purpose of storing documents, other modules can leverage the DM repository thereby expanding data access to all other project members throughout the entire project delivery process.
The week prior to AU three, new features were released. These include:
- Unified Issues - The formally separate 'design' issues and 'field' issues have now been merged into a single feature, making the creation and reviewing of issues a consistent experience.
- Approval Workflow (i.e. Reviews) - Facilitates the automated review and distribution of drawings and other documents.
- Bluebeam Integration - This is a less formal announcement; the Bluebeam integration allows BIM 360 users to create a Bluebeam Studio Prime Session for PDF review and marking up. Note that A2K is also a Bluebeam partner.
BIM 360 Bluebeam App
The Design Collaboration module, as the replacement for the older Collaboration for Revit, enables the Revit user Work-sharing features from a BIM 360 project. It uses the Document Management as the CDE to store the design files.
Shown off at AU was the above-mentioned Unified Issues to capture design-related issues during the Design Collaboration review process.
The Project Management (PM) module contains a number of features for, you guessed it, assisting with general management of the project delivery between the design office and site.
Furthering this, here are some expected future features:
- Meeting Minutes - Record meeting minutes alongside other the project data.
- Email Communication - Better email notifications, and the ability to reply directly to those notifications from the email client.
- Further Bluebeam Integration - Bringing this integration into the Submittals process. We were told that this is Stage 2 of development for this feature.
The Field Management (FM) module primarily captures onsite delivery information, such as checklists and issues. And while this may sound like it has limited scope for new features, Field Management could be considered one of the most important modules moving forward as it continues to intertwine with the rest of the BIM 360 platform and asserts its influence on overall project delivery.
Alongside Field Management and yet to be released, is the asset management. As the middle stage between the design BIM and the downstream operations of the building, elements defined as assets will provide a contextual location to attribute actionable data and operational documents. Assets will understand system hierarchies, and be trackable through data-driven workflows and via barcodes/QR codes.
Photo of slide from AU session
In addition to assets there will be expected enhancements in:
- Daily Logs - While this feature already exists, there are plans to add more granularity for capturing onsite activities, and add approval workflows.
- Photo Library - A central location for viewing and using project photos. While not stated by Autodesk, a photo library when used with Autodesk Forge could better lend itself towards using 3rd party computer vision and machine learning algorithms, or even used better by BIM 360 itself.
The Model Coordination (MC) module coordinates design models to head of construction issues prior to the design information being issued to site. i.e. Clash management.
The week prior to AU this module received the Unified Issues as mentioned under Document Management above.
The Cost Management (CM) module tracks project costs before and during construction. Formally announced during AU, the release of CM is on a 2-stage release plan. Stage 1 is set for a limited availability pre-release at the end of November and general availability is expected in early February 2019.
Stage 2 is currently planned to include:
- Pay applications - Which we understand will allow for progress payment.
- Project forecasting Allowing for granular forecasting of costs.
- Reporting and Analytics, such as in the Insight module. More on this below.
The Quantification module will assist with quantifying BIMs for estimating and other reasons. Note that there is currently no mention of estimating directly in BIM 360. We saw a live, early-development demonstration of this feature during the Design & Construct Summit. It featured similar features to Assemble Systems that already had BIM 360 integration, and who Autodesk acquired earlier this year.
Needless to say, the future ability to quantify the BIMs on BIM 360 is exciting, bringing both 4D and 5D capabilities closer to the rest of the design and construction data and workflows.
Screenshot supplied by Autodesk
The Project Home is the homepage for actionable items. The user can start their day with a review of the Project Home to better understand current activities, and bring to the foreground any actions which they are responsible for.
Future expected improvements include:
- A Customisable Dashboard - The dashboard is made of information 'cards' which will be customisable via their repositioning and adding new cards. This way the user creates their own dashboard with just the cards that are relevant to themselves.
- Details for additional BIM 360 Modules - As other BIM 360 modules are added and enhanced, their data will also be accessible through dashboard cards.
- 3rd Party Cards - With BIM 360 as a CDE platform that 3rd party vendors can connect to via Forge, it makes sense that so too should some of that 3rd party data. 3rd party vendors will be able to develop cards to amalgamate their data onto the dashboard.
Provides a unified approach to analytics of services across the entire project. Insight gives the user a high-level overview of the project's performance across Quality, Safety, and Project Controls.
During AU the first stage of the Reports feature was released. The Reports feature currently covers the Document Log, Issues, Checklists, RFIs, and Submittals, and the reports are downloadable for sharing with users outside of BIM 360.
Expected improvements in the future are:
- Schedulable Reports - Automatic report delivery based on a predictive schedule.
- Account level analytics - Currently under investigation is the ability to bring the same project analytics to the account level.
Back in 2016, Autodesk was the first company to deliver machine learning (some call it AI) to a construction delivery platform through BIM 360's Project IQ. Available only to a limited customer base, it has been in active use on real projects for the past two years. And while Autodesk may not be ready to release Project IQ to the masses, yet, the slides during sessions as AU have shown that it has come a long way and is getting closer to a broader release.
But what is Project IQ?
Project IQ is a risk management tool that uses predictive insights and reporting to help prioritise and head off costly incidents before they happen, whether that be for general project delivery or preventing worker injury. It puts the correct, and more urgent, information in front of the right users at the right time. It's like having a personal assistant who is vetting and prioritising your daily workload.
Managing risk is one of the most important tasks a project manager can perform, and this desire for better analysis was reflected by the capacity filled room which this session was presented in.
BIM 360 Ops
Autodesk says the current BIM 360 Ops is a mobile-first asset and maintenance management solution. It connects contractors, building owners, and occupants to the building data which has been generated and organised throughout the design and construct process.
Ops has been in a relatively quiet development, often seen as going their own direction and disconnected from the broader 'next-gen' BIM 360 platform. But what became clear at this year's AU is that their work is in preparation for some of the above-mentioned future features to be delivered first, especially asset management.
Regardless of the bigger Ops integration to the core BIM 360, the following future features were discussed during sessions:
- Matterport Integration - Providing a BIM for operations is good, but it doesn't always show the complete picture. Using the Matterport scanner, lightweight scans are connected to the project and the assets associated data. As you can see from the image below, a 'photographic' scan can show more context to the user. This is not to say that a BIM is no longer required, but rather a case of providing the user with the relevant data for their task.
- iBeacons - iBeacons have historically been seen as a solution looking for a problem. They are small Bluetooth devices which transmit micro-targeted messages to nearby mobile devices. You may be more familiar with consumer trackers, such as from Tile, which uses crowdsourcing to track all Tile devices across the world.It is this same crowdsourced tracking principal that BIM 360 Ops is looking to leverage. By placing a small iBeacon on moveable assets, their location can be transparently tracked throughout the building by staff. Using the iOS BIM 360 Ops app the user will be able to identify where an asset is located, along with directions to get there.
It's been a huge past year for BIM 360 with many of the development teams moving ever closer together. We are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as Autodesk's grand BIM 360 plan unfolds. The pace of development has increased significantly with no signs of slowing, and there are simply numerous other smaller features which we couldn't possibly include in this article.
And in case you've skipped over all of the above, here's a quick summary:
- Existing modules like Document Management and Design Collaboration have continued to mature.
- Project Management, next-gen Field Management, and next-gen Model Coordination have all graduated from their Preview status.
- New modules such as Cost Management are reaching an imminent release, with Quantification on its heals.
- BIM 360 Ops quietly moves forward as it waits for other core platform features to be delivered.
- Autodesk Forge integrates many 3rd party apps and platforms for a closer, and unified project delivery.
- And all of this is will be overseen and managed using Project IQ to delivery work tasks and mitigate risk.
Contact A2K to speak about BIM 360 and its new capabilities including integration.