I am indebted to a reader, Pierre-Alexandre Losson of Brussels-based Telio, who asked me a very interesting question about innovation:
“In my opinion all vendors are more or less providing the same toolchain, using the same techniques. What would be in your opinion the next disruptive idea that could or should be pushed in the coming years?”
Over the past decade, we have seen some different technologies come and go, and different terminologies applied (I was reminded about application service provision on Tuesday, for example – ASP is hardly mentioned now that SaaS is more widely used and understood).
Some of the changes have been slow and strategic. In the construction collaboration context, as I wrote earlier this week, document sharing/collaboration is increasingly a commodity – lots of people provide services in this sector, and the savvy SaaS vendor has applied its industry-specific knowledge to manage particular areas of workflow. US-based e-Builder, for instance, has focused on owner/operators and their needs for strong cost control and scheduling and helped push that SaaS vendor into a different niche, but that’s not exactly been disruptive, has it.
More disruptive, perhaps, has been the emergence of building information modelling (BIM). When I wrote my book six years ago, this was on the future horizon, and it has now become a hot topic in many markets, not least in the UK. This is set to change the nature of collaboration and herald a further switch away from paper-based, asynchronous, 2D design towards model-based, real-time, nD collaboration – assuming, of course, that the industry can make the necessary people and process changes to support the technologies involved.
And after a decade talking and writing about SaaS, perhaps we might also see disruptive approaches to BIM provision? Could we see BIM-as-a-Service delivered on a utility computing model, with designers and other project team members interacting with the BIM and each other via the web, with the underlying software perhaps hosted in the cloud, and even developed collaboratively as an interoperable open-source project rather than continued reliance on proprietary BIM tools? Certainly, there are moves in this direction – BIMserver.org is a leader in this field (and Léon van Berlo tweeted me about a rather nice sketchbook offer helping raise funds for the project).
Linked to BIM, I can foresee mobile tools and location-based services (eg: GIS, GPS) becoming increasingly important, and perhaps Comindware (see Monday’s post) hints at another disruptive idea for collaboration with its focus on the semantic web and an increasingly connected world where technologies interface more seamlessly – through the ‘internet of things’ (friends will know of my enthusiasm for Pachube, Usman Haque’s connected environments platform allowing direct real-time feedback from buildings to the architects and engineers who designed them and to the owners/operators running them). With carbon reduction increasingly important, such tools could provide vital insights for the whole cradle-to-grave approach to our built environment.
What have I missed? What other disruptive ideas and technologies might influence collaboration in the built environment? Let me know.