Geo Week News

October 13, 2009

Bentley Licenses Pointools’ Point Cloud Engine

This morning, Bentley Systems, Incorporated’s CEO Greg Bentley announced a breakthrough technology agreement to license the Pointools core Vortex API engine for Bentley’s portfolio of solutions, including MicroStation and all other software products that leverage Bentley’s platform technology. The announcement was made during the Be Inspired: Infrastructure Best Practices Symposium and Awards ceremony held at The Westin Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C. 

CEO Greg Bentley Champions Point Cloud Use

No stranger to 3D data capture, CEO Greg Bentley has long championed the value of point cloud technology for Bentley Systems customers–it’s part of the company’s drive to enable information reuse through interoperability and to improve user ROI. The integration between Bentley and Pointools will allow users of Bentley MicroStation and other applications to uniquely reference and geospatially coordinate point cloud files within the context of vector geometry and raster data. The integration ought to be good news for Bentley users who struggle to process and manage point cloud databases from disparate software solutions.

Similar to the extensive competitive analysis undertaken to license its Parasolid modeling engine now incorporated in MicroStation, Bentley carried out months of testing of point cloud solutions to find the best fit. The requirements were threefold: 1) a truly embeddable engine capable of displaying and managing point cloud data captured from a range of manufacturers’ instruments as well as integrating with Bentley’s vast portfolio of products; 2) superb performance, including speed and opening and displaying of billion-point cloud data files; and 3) uncomplicated interoperability with a number of file formats.

While point cloud files have increased in size to billion point databases due to greater hardware capabilities that capture more detail faster, many software solutions haven’t kept pace. Bentley’s Joe Croser, global marketing director, Platform Products & Subscriptions, said the company sought an API engine that could “handle them [databases]and handle them quickly. Our review showed Pointools to be the best and the fastest.” In fact, he says, company engineers refer to Pointools as being “the fastest point cloud software on the planet.”

Pointools cracks the speed barrier

“Pointools has cracked the speed issue,” Croser continued. “And that’s all about dramatically improving the user experience. You’ll also increase their loyalty and adoption of the product because you give them what nobody else is giving them: high performance. That will be a strong differentiator for us.”

In addition to meeting and even exceeding Bentley’s requirements, the Pointools solution can capture the true reflective intensity and RGB values of scanned subjects, increasing contextual realism for users. Pointools’ POD file can also now retain the origin of the point cloud data including scanner type, original scan file name, scan date, scan location and scan keywords. Project teams can also index and search for this information in Bentley’s ProjectWise collaboration system. Owner-operators will be able to utilize as-built models for operating assets in addition to projects under re-design or construction. Designers’ work will be supported by optimized design workflows and maximized information reuse.

“Users have big challenges managing large point cloud databases with today’s tools, especially when the data has been captured with different hardware by multiple teams at different times — stacking project bookshelves with portable USB drives and then relying on FedEx for data transfer has severe limitations,” said Tom Greaves, CEO of Spar Point. With Bentley’s ProjectWise file caching, collaboration servers drive AEC projects to interoperably manage, reference and maintain this point cloud content for continued lifecycle value. With these powerful new content management capabilities, owner-operators will be able to to capture, reference, retain and reuse as-built, as-maintained models, even for operating assets, rather than just those under re-design or construction. Greaves concluded, “With this platform-level integration for point cloud data, and content management and optimization services, the industry is at a new dawn of delivering current, field-validated data available everywhere, on demand.”

As Greg Bentley notes, “AEC workflows have to date been in the early stages of leveraging laser scanning.” The company wants to move the data out of the realm of being just an individual application for a specific industry into the company’s interoperability platform so any number of its applications can extract the data for more users and for more uses.

And more users equals the need for better interoperability, especially in this age of growing global teams. Pointools supports numerous file formats, including those from Leica Geosystems, FARO, Riegl and Topcon, as well as open file formats.

Pointools’ sole focus on software was another hook for Bentley. “Their focus is clear and unambiguous,” Croser said. “That’s why their speed and performance is so good because when they focus on optimizing things, they’re only going to focus on optimizing the software.”

This focus allows the Pointools team to deliver to Bentley not only its core engine technology but a few tailored requirements, as well. Pointools’ Founder and Director Faraz Ravi explains: “What Pointools has is an engine API that gives access to loading scan data, displaying and querying it—core platform technology for managing and working with point clouds. This alone satisfied many of Bentley’s requirements. Beyond that, we’ve developed some extra capabilities specific to Bentley’s requirements. For example, the MicroStation environment has up to eight viewports. So on a basic level, we’re making sure that it is supported correctly and that data can be viewed efficiently in all eight viewports. I think that’s also what makes us a compelling solution [to Bentley]—that we can adapt our engine to meet their needs.”

With Bentley’s broad market offerings, we asked Ravi if there are any particular areas he believes will benefit more from this agreement than others. “I think what’s interesting about Bentley’s market share is the high proportion of it that can immediately benefit from using this type of data,” Ravi said, specifically pointing to proven successes within the petrochemical and manufacturing sectors. Ravi also discussed how DOTs can realize high value with point cloud data, especially with the gaining pace of mobile scanning. Bentley expects innovations in every infrastructure application domain. We at Spar look forward to the promising opportunities, especially in the developing AEC space.

An update to ProjectWise Navigator design review tool is expected to be the first Bentley product to include the Pointools engine. Projection for its release is for the first half of 2010. Interested parties can expect to see a beta version in action at SPAR 2010. Improvements and updates are sure to sprout from there. Bentley says that subscribers to the company’s SELECT program for MicroStation and related AEC and geospatial applications will access the Pointools Vortex engine through the next V8i (SELECTseries) software updates.

“I think Bentley’s approach is right on,” Ravi said. “It really makes sense from both sides.”

This agreement promises to be a good thing for all Bentley customers, from the built environment, cadastral development, factories and power generation to mining and metal, oil & gas, rail & transportation, roads, and water and wastewater. The sharing of point cloud data for engineering, design, construction, inspection and maintenance that was once terribly constrained will now advance for masses of users.

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