Smartphones, UAVs, and a path toward the as-is.
At Monday’s 19th annual ARC Industry Forum, Bentley Systems announced the acquisition of France-based Acute3D, provider of the popular photogrammetry software Smart3DCapture. Bentley explains the acquisition as a move to advance what they call “reality modeling,” the process by which observations of a physical asset are captured and then represented within design and construction modeling environments.
How will the acquisition advance reality modeling? Bentley Systems CTO Keith Bentley elaborated. “The world-class Acute3D developers have already achieved two breakthroughs, which remove the barriers to the adoption of reality modeling. First, Acute3D has made it possible for anyone to sufficiently capture existing conditions with just a camera. Of equal importance is the value of the Acute3D result. Rather than a voluminous cloud of discrete points, Acute3D produces a 3D ‘reality mesh’ – intrinsically in the same geometric idiom as engineering models, readily aligning the real-world context.”
In an interview with SPAR, Bentley Systems Senior VP Styli Camateros explained that the plan is to integrate all of Acute3D’s technologies into the Bentley platform. Once the integration is completed, he said, “all Bentley products and services” will have the ability to generate point clouds and reality meshes using photographs from any imaging device–including smartphones and UAV-mounted cameras.
The move seems to show Bentley’s confidence in the smartphone’s usefulness as a reality modeling device. The ubiquitous handheld devices can be used in a wide variety of situations, though Camateros emphasized that they are particularly useful in “any workflow that requires a field worker to capture in situ information, either at a point in time or over a period of time so as to manage change.”
Smartphone-based photogrammetry could be used, for instance, in monitoring progress throughout the architecture, engineering, and construction stages of infrastructural projects. It would also offer a less expensive way to capture conditions at all stages, as many employees will already own a smartphone capable of running Acute3D’s technology.
Camateros also confirmed to SPAR that Bentley’s plans include a place for the UAV, another low-cost and easy to use device. “Bentley believes that the UAV will be an ever-increasing source of digital image information that can be converted to a ‘reality mesh’ and used in the context of Bentley’s vision of reality modeling.”
With smartphone and UAV capture incorporated into Bentley’s full array of solutions, the company takes a step toward the constant capture and modeling of physical asset conditions. This, in turn, is an important step toward creating a model of an asset “as is” rather than “as designed” or “as built.” In other words, the acquisition of Acute3D may help Bentley bring the asset’s model into close alignment with the asset itself.
The company believes that such technology will save its users money and benefit infrastructure overall. As Camateros explained, “Bentley feels that every infrastructure professional will find the new technology useful because the capture of the contextual info is a cornerstone requirement of most infrastructure workflows.”