I wrote about Autodesk’s experimental BIM collaboration environment, Project Bluestreak, last November, being interested in both its promise of accelerated building information modelling (BIM) and its deployment of Web 2.0 tools to help speed up the application’s development. On his StressFree blog, David Harrison has written a long and detailed paper, Bluestreak and the birth of a collaboration kernel, about how Project Bluestreak has the potential to become the ‘glue’ that will enable a host of currently poorly integrated technologies to talk to each other. This could revolutionise collaboration in the architecture, engineering and construction sector – assuming Autodesk is brave enough to attempt such a mission.
David makes the key observation that, given the diverse range of different interactions that need to be managed, “no single technology is capable of satisfying the digital collaboration needs of a project team“. Even using two or more different tools (he evaluates telephone, email, document management systems, traditional CAD, BIM, and micro-blogging) can lead to lack of process integration, create issues relating to identity management, resulting in repetition of functions and data. What is needed, he says, is to establish a cohesive, Internet-centric ‘collaboration kernel’:
“The most efficient and reliable means of solving this problem is to establish a collaboration kernel that can act as an intermediary between the disparate tools. This Internet-centric service would in effect become the project’s digital post office, overseeing the exchange of messages that support, summarise and promote the collaboration interactions taking place within the project team. A collaboration kernel’s presence would be subtle, but its influence on collaboration would be significant.”
He goes on to examine how promising a candidate Project Bluestreak might be for such a kernel, but reckons it needs to be repositioned and substantially developed further as a social messaging service with APIs to existing Autodesk functions and to third party applications.
Analysing its potential vis-a-vis the Project Information Cloud, David identifies various functional improvements that it needs in order to operate as a collaboration kernel. I won’t detail the points he makes (though it does address some of Piotr Zudek‘s suggestions); instead I encourage you to read his article. It is fascinating, and should be read in detail by Autodesk and by the many other software developers looking at how they might achieve better integration between their various platforms. Forget short-term projects to build data exchange standards between collaboration platforms (the UK’s NCCTP tried that and has made little progress – post) – the picture is much bigger than that, and requires a broader, multi-partner approach.
Update (08 January 2010): Incite CEO Sean Kaye makes his own observations on David’s paper in a post Who owns the cloud?.