Geo Week News

November 8, 2011

Bentley acquires Pointools

Will incorporate Vortex point cloud engine into company-wide platform

AMSTERDAM and THE HAGUE, the Netherlands – Bentley Systems used its annual Be Inspired event and SPAR Europe to announce it has acquired point cloud engine maker Pointools for an undisclosed sum. Bentley already had a technology partnership with Pointools, incorporating its Vortex engine for managing point clouds into its MicroStation platform, but Bentley CEO Greg Bentley said, “to extend the usefulness of point clouds through the infrastructure life cycle, we needed a data management strategy, and that involves more than file management … In order to accomplish that, we needed to merge our code streams with those of Pointools.”

That was only going to happen with an acquisition.

Pointools, for the time being, will continue to operate “business as usual,” said Pointools VP Joe Croser. The software company’s vendor neutral approach will continue, as will its plug-in capabilities with companies that compete with Bentley, like Autodesk.

However, the integration with Bentley products is now deep and widespread, making point clouds much more accessible. Bentley can now offer point cloud processing and data management through its ProjectWise and AssetWise platforms, most impressively making huge amounts of point cloud data available streaming via the cloud, so that users can pull down just that portion of the point cloud they are working with at any given moment.

“You can deal with all of these large files now,” said Bhupinder Singh, senior VP at Bentley, and point clouds become “a fundamental data type. You don’t have to clog your networks with gigabytes of data being transferred. You don’t need to haul around hard drives.”

Now, as Greg Bentley put it, “point clouds don’t need to be throwaways.”

Further, the Bentley Descartes image management software now offers advanced 3D image and point cloud editing and processing. And through newly announced collaborations with Adobe and Bluebeam software, users will be able to export 3D pdfs with point clouds that they can navigate using nothing more than Adobe Reader.

Singh likened the acquisition of Pointools to that of HMR (Descartes), which Bentley bought 10 years ago. “Their unique value proposition was 2D raster image manipulation,” he said, “and that team has grown to be a critical part of Bentley Software … We see a similar trajectory for the technology that Pointools brings to the table, and the people.”

Pointools co-founder Faraz Ravi will remain with the company, as will the rest of Pointools’ employees. “In my new role,” Ravi said in a statement, “I look forward to helping realize the vision of powering next-generation point cloud workflows throughout the Bentley portfolio of products.”

Greg Bentley said this acquisition would ultimately be good for consumers, especially those who are passionate about open standards and interoperability. “A lot of the best point cloud software developers in the world work for hardware manufacturers now,” he said, “and that’s not ideal for open software development.”

Point cloud engines have been in demand lately. In the past month, AVEVA has purchased LFM from Z+F and Autodesk has purchased Alice Labs. This would seem to indicate that the market agrees with Greg Bentley: “We really believe the 3D raster will be everywhere, like the 2D raster. Point clouds are useful in their own right. They’re not just the beginning of the information stream; they’re increasingly valuable, and Pointools has proved that to the world.

“I believe there are uses for point clouds that aren’t anything like what we’re doing today.”

Bentley and Pointools will have their technology collaboration on display at SPAR Europe, which opened yesterday in the Hague at the World Forum and continues through tomorrow. LFM and AVEVA, and Autodesk and Alice Labs, will also be showing their combined solutions. 

For an example of Pointools capabilities, watch the following animation done from a scan made by Dave Southam of FARO UK, in his spare time:


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