Geo Week News

November 4, 2014

Bentley Announces Next-Gen CONNECT Edition Software Platform

Greg Bentley

Promises entirely new, more mobile, and more interconnected editions of all Bentley software.

London — During the press event to kick off Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure conference, CEO Greg Bentley wasted no time getting to the big announcements. He dedicated his time on stage to Bentley’s recent acquisition of site optioneering software SITEOPS, updates on the success of their AECOSim software, and, most enticingly, news about Bentley’s new CONNECT Edition software.

In Mr. Bentley’s own words, this edition is a major update to their whole platform that “is to provide, for the first time, a common environment for comprehensive project delivery.” What does this mean? 

First, it means that the CONNECT Edition software uses Microsoft’s Azure cloud services. 

This allows Bentley to make the most of what they call our “hybrid computing environments” by offering “app-lication” versions of their software. For instance, the Navigator “app-lication” includes a mobile app and a desktop application that are virtually identical. “It’s the same code,” Greg Bentley said, explaining that they have “done this right so there’s an immersive environment that is as you’d expect” on both “your iPad-type devices” and your Windows flat-screen devices.

Also speaking on the Navigator CONNECT Edition, Senior Vice Preseident Bentley Software Bhuphinder Singh said that you’ll have “the same file format, the same richness of data, the same punch lists, the same redlines, across all these environments.” With the CONNECT Edition applications, he continued, there are no “disconnected workflows.” Update a punch list or resolve a clash using the Navigator app in the field, and then complete your work using the desktop application when you get back to the office. Presumably, other CONNECT software will work according to the same logic.

Hooking the CONNECT Edition up to the cloud has added benefits for the distribution of data among different project participants as well. ProjectWise, for instance, is expanded in the new version to include what Singh calls “the entire project ecosystem.” This allows you to make necessary data available “across all departments, across all project participants, across organizations, even.” That is, in addition to enabling the sharing of data between your tablet and your desktop and the sharing of data within your enterprise ProjectWise system, the CONNECT Edition enables the sharing of data to outside ProjectWise systems. Use it to better keep outside project collaborators (such as contractors) in the loop.

The presentation demonstrated these sharing services within ProjectWise to great effect. The process reminded me of using Dropbox or a similar service–you just update a shared file, and anyone who has access to that shared file gets the updated version automatically.

What’s more, is that all Bentley’s programs are now even better integrated with one another than they already were. When you create a model in MicroStation CONNECT, for example, that model supports what Bentley is calling calls “functional components.” These are intelligent objects that allow the model to translate smoothly to the different CONNECT programs. As Singh explained, these functional components will “behave differently in different contexts, from a 2D schematic context to a 3D modeling context.” From what I can gather, you can create a model in one CONNECT application and then use it in another application as if it were native.

Honestly, it was difficult to keep up with Bentley’s presenters as they announced the numerous capabilities of the CONNECT Edition platform. It is an ambitious undertaking, dedicated to breaking down the barriers that prevent you from making your data available to whomever needs it, whenever they need it, for as long as they need it. As Buphinder Singh put it, “With the CONNECT Edition, it was a fundamental driver for us to deliver information mobility with integrity across all disciplines, across the lifecycle, from the time of construction to operations, across geographies, and across the supply chain.” 

MicroStation CONNECT is currently in Early Access release, with many other CONNECT Edition applications seeing Early Access release by the end of the year. Bentley announced that the other CONNECT Edition applications will see release throughout 2015 and 2016.

A few other selected highlights: 

  • The CONNECT Edition platform is highly personalized. Vice President Marketing Huw Roberts described it as being “aware of who you are and what you’re doing and what your project is.” Because of this awareness, he says, it presents you with “information, services, data, standards, workflows, and applications that are relating to you as an individual with a personal playlist of materials and applications relevant to your role.” On top of that, it provides a playbook including all necessary information, standards, and so on for the project itself.
  • The CONNECT Edition platform features new performance dashboards, which pull data from all the CONNECT programs to give you analytics, reporting, and accounting. One presenter showed off a slick 4D representation of a project schedule–select a week and see a model of where the project should be by that point. Take it to the field and compare the plan to the actual.
  • The optioneering capability that Bentley gained with SITEOPS has now been extended to its other programs. Want to know what the optimal routing is for the piping you want to install? Let those cloud servers crunch the numbers for you and offer the best options. This is an obvious time and money saver. 
  • Bentley’s decision to use Microsoft’s cloud services enables even those with scant computing resources to try out the sort of optioneering described above. Greg Bentley explains that the CONNECT Edition will offer you the use of “near-infinite” computing nodes to process your data for you.
  • ProjectWise can combine data from different sources–for instance an Excel file along with your other Bentley files–and organize it by project.
  • The CONNECT Edition platform offers a deliverable tracking function, which lets you view all “transmittals, submittals, and RFIs” and their statuses in one place.
  • The updates to support a “bring your own device” strategy to allow younger workers to use the devices they are accustomed to. (Makes sense to this Millenial.)

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