GeoConnect+ delivers quicker decisions and insights on projects and built assets

Since delivering one of the first Level 1 BIM projects back in 2006 in Westfield Stratford City, GroupBC have been on a journey with our retail, finance and utility customers towards standardised digital delivery to help them communicate, structure, capture and better manage information, providing a platform for making better, quicker, more cost-effective decisions throughout the lifecycle of their built assets.

The eleven years since has seen unparalleled transformation of our own personal lives through technology catalysts. Global proliferation of mobile broadband coupled with the mass adoption of smartphones and other mobile devices combined with Apps and cloud services has created new economies and has transformed the way we communicate with each other and how we make daily decisions. At the heart of many of these decisions is geolocation: whether we are checking the need to pack an umbrella in the morning, working out a roadwork-free route to the in-laws, or trying to remember where we parked the car, the data mapping and software services in our pockets (and increasingly on our wrists) bring invaluable context to our daily decisions. That this value is now at the point where we take it for granted is the true measure of geo-technologies’ success.

Our first geolocation journey

One year prior to our Level 1 BIM enlightening, way back in 2005 we were embarking upon our first real journey into geolocation. A contractor client of ours needed to bi-directionally link project documentation in their BC CDE to geospatial datasets such that they could visualise this same information through their desktop GIS application. This innovative project – key to which was allowing the CDE users to contribute to GIS information without the need for any training in the GIS application – was a great success and both companies took added comfort that the service we were providing was helping to save the great crested newt population!

Two years ago, we were invited to revisit this space, through an introduction by PCSG to our friends at Ordnance Survey. It was immediately clear to all involved that the goals of BIM and those of GIS are intrinsically linked and we embarked jointly upon an R&D project the results of which – GeoConnect+ – we are delighted to finally launch this month.

12 years in the making

That it has taken 12 years to transform our original project into the product offering we proudly launch this month is reflective of the maturing of multiple streams of both technology and process.

The second of these; the industry-wide adoption of BIM has been slower than the advancement of internet, web and GIS technology, but driven very much by the same ambitions – to place trusted, spatially located data in the hands of decision makers so they can make better, more-informed decisions, more quickly; reducing risk and improving quality. As co-authors of the original BIS Report and huge proponents of Level 2 BIM adoption within our own customer base, we have seen first-hand the benefits which can be achieved merely by capturing and coding information – whether document, drawings or models – to a standardised asset, project and programme hierarchy.

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Lessons learnt from adopting standards

Ironically, the technological hero in this journey, and what makes GeoConnect+ possible at all, has been the adoption of standards. What we can achieve now in our CDE thanks to modern web standards – e.g. placing a complex 3D virtual building model in the hands of every customer or visualising project and asset locations on a map – is a long way from the dark days of browser incompatibility and proprietary extensions, but without the browser industry deciding to cooperate around open standards none of what we benefit from daily would be possible.

A lesson for us all, perhaps?

Indeed, open standards are at the heart of GeoConnect+. The same year we embarked upon our GIS journey, a small company by the name of Google released Google Maps. One year later OpenLayers opened up the same capability to web developers across the world and a geospatial revolution was born. Between them, through the development and promotion of web standards for geospatial data, OSGeo and OGC have made available technology enablers which can, through hard work and innovation, finally place geospatial data in the hands of all supply chain users of a Common Data Environment.

At the heart of BIM is the need to answer plain language questions quickly and simply, by ensuring quality, trusted data is available and computable. Without the surrounding geospatial information, a user may be seeing only half the data picture. The above geo standards have contributed to a wealth of geospatial information that can be cultivated and made readily available to GeoConnect+ users, allowing common plain language questions to be answered quickly and directly without the involvement of GIS specialists.

This is a game changer. If GIS specialists can now be freed to work on the production of high-value data sets and complex reporting and analysis, GeoConnect+ – by placing this information at the fingertips of all CDE users combined with project and asset data captured from the supply chain – can finally present users with a complete, current asset information picture from which to make better, more informed decisions.