BIM, augmented reality and collaboration

COMITReflecting my growing interest in mobile technologies and their application in the architecture, engineering and construction sectors, I have been involved with the UK-based organisation, COMIT (Construction Opportunities in Mobile IT) for some years [Disclosure: in late 2012 I joined the COMIT management board], attending events – like its BIM and mobility conferences (post) – and looking for cross-overs into my core SaaS collaboration interests.

FiatechCOMIT collaborates with the US-based Fiatech organisation, and the two bodies have just released a new report on augmented reality, Advancing Asset Knowledge through the Use of Augmented Reality Technologies (available here). The report covers the first two phases of a three-phase study, involving Bechtel, Bentley Systems, Bosch, Costain, CrossRail, Korec and Network Rail. The project aimed to demonstrate the application of augmented reality and how it can facilitate current industry processes, exchanges of information and collaboration, and used two UK infrastructure projects as a testbed.

Costain/Network Rail AROne of these schemes was Network Rail’s London Bridge station where Costain tested use of AR to show where temporary works (eg: site hoardings, barriers, etc) would be located in the station (I recently wrote about this for an article on BIM for a forthcoming issue of the RICS magazine Building Control; photograph, right, by kind permission of Costain and Network Rail). Fiatech/COMIT believe:

The use of 3D models and handheld devices, coupled with augmented reality technology, has the potential to enable a site operator, engineer, or maintenance technician to better understand advanced modeling data. In addition, it will allow these personnel to work in a more direct and intuitive way than they would with written instructions or electronic manuals.

Having tested AR tools on smartphones and more recently on tablet devices, I will be interested to see if and how SaaS construction collaboration vendors might support augmented reality technology with their platforms. It seems a logical progression for businesses concerned with supporting efficient communication and collaboration – which are increasingly taking place in real time.

[Thanks to Matt Blackwell of Costain for assistance in getting approval to use the photo.]

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