04 Aug 2017
So, who’s taking the lead with augmented reality, drones, BIM and blockchain? Here’s your answer…
The pace of technlogical change is staggering. Below are some of the jobs that may sound like something out of Star Trek, but are actually being done by real professionals right now.
Wondering what all this change means for professionals, such as surveying? We asked a panel of experts from across the world for their viewpoints.
The augmented reality entrepreneur
Name: Savannah de Savary
Current role: Founder and CEO, Built-ID, London
After graduating from Oxford University in May 2013, Savannah de Savary was working for developer Thor Equities in New York when an idea struck her that was to lead to the creation of Built-ID. “However senior you were, you were relying on word-of-mouth connections to find the best consultant or designer for a particular type of project. It seemed archaic and frustrating,” she says.
Over dinner with her mentor, a New York property developer, de Savary suggested creating a database of all the designers, financiers and consultants who had worked on a project. “She said she could have done with that for 30 years, and if I could create it, she would invest in it.”
Since the business was founded, its database has grown to 21,000 projects worldwide. Each scheme is geo-tagged and, by the end of the year de Savary believes there will be enough data to launch an app that will allow the user to point their smartphone at a building and instantly access project data via augmented reality technology.
“If you’re a new entrant or a foreign investor, and especially in fast-growing emerging markets, knowing who the credible players with the right connections are is hugely valuable,” she says.
The drone pilot
Name: Charlton Bland
Current role: Geomatics consultant and unmanned aerial system survey lead, Atkins Bristol
Charlton Bland discovered his love for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) while at university in Exeter, at a talk by a company that had bought one. “From that moment I knew it was the area in which I would specialise,” he tells Modus. “Comparing the fidelity of outputs from aerial photogrammetry to traditional vector-based techniques is like comparing night to day. The data richness is unparalleled.”
Bland’s dissertation on the best-practice use of UAVs for aerial photogrammetry, completed in 2014 as part of his master’s degree, won an RICS award for highest academic achievement. It also proved crucial in helping to secure his current role at Atkins.
Bland is now a keen proponent for the democratisation of data. He increasingly works with software designers to incorporate survey data into virtual or augmented reality environments to enable clients to view sites or different design options.
Once he becomes chartered, Bland plans to join the RICS Geomatics Professional Group and become an advocate for the best-practice use of UAVs for land surveying. “I’m keen to see this sector grow,” he says. “Drones have the potential to be a safer and faster method for capturing a very rich and versatile data set.”
The blockchain pioneer
Name: Neil Thompson
Current role: CEO, thinktank dotBuiltEnvironment, London
After setting up one of the first BIM consultancies in 2009, before leading digital research and innovation at Balfour Beatty, Neil Thompson is now turning his attention to blockchain, which he believes could transform the way construction does business by enabling greater transparency and efficiency.
Blockchain is a method of recording data such as transactions, agreements or contracts, across a network of computers. Data is stored as “blocks”, bound together cryptographically and chronologically into a “chain”, so the ledger cannot be altered, only added to. Anyone in the network can access the latest version of the digital ledger at any time, making it very transparent.
“The mechanism behind blockchain would enable us to trace each pound from the pocket of a taxpayer, through to the tradesperson,” says Thompson. “That level of transparency could help us to measure value for money and return on investment and, ultimately, help to get new projects financed."
Thompson’s company is now working to create blockchain prototypes for construction and identify a platform on which to test them. “We plan to exploit our strong contacts with institutions and other organisations to turn our ideas into proofs of concept.”
The BIM investigator
Name: David-John Gibbs
Current role: Head of BIM advisory and dispute resolution, HKA, London
While many in construction are struggling to get up to speed with BIM, David-John Gibbs is already carrying out forensic investigations of BIM models to help clients win dispute cases.
His career breakthrough came in 2011, when Hill International sponsored him to complete an engineering doctorate examining the use of BIM in dispute resolution. “It was straight after the UK government’s announcement of a BIM mandate,” says Gibbs. “Hill recognised that more projects would be using BIM and wanted to understand how it might affect disputes and its claims advice.”
A stint at BIM consultant Freeform followed, where Gibbs used 4D BIM – which maps standard 3D models against programme time – to reverse-engineer projects on which disputes had emerged and identify the specific causes of delays or other incidents.
Today, Gibbs and his team are delving deeper into BIM, and have written software scripts designed to quickly identify data relevant to disputes from BIM models. “We want to know when and where objects, materials or attributes have moved or been changed, and who made those changes. The scripts allow us to extract that information, in a format suitable for our experts to crunch.”
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