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Many years ago, the construction industry started working on industry foundation layers (IFC) – a data model for describing architectural, engineering, construction and operations (AECO) data. The specification has made it easier to export data between tools. One significant bottleneck, however, is that the IFC only tells construction software vendors what kind of data to include, not how to represent it in a particular file format, which can lead to ambiguity and considerable manual effort to share data between tools.
Now, however, Nvidia is implementing IFC on the Universal Scene Description File Format (USD) as the foundation for Nvidia Omniverse. This complements Nvidia’s broader efforts to connection development for various 3D creation tools for the AEC industry, including Autodesk Alias, Autodesk Civil, Siemens JT, SimScale and Open Geospatial Consortium formats.
The implementation of USD for IFC is still in the early stages, but once the effort is rolled out, it promises to streamline the build process that involves a variety of tools from different vendors. It will make it easier for engineers to take advantage of Nvidia’s Rich AI Engine analysis 3D DataSimulate the impact of various design decisions and automatically generate 3D inventory to improve maintenance and operations.
George Matos, senior product manager for Omniverse AECO at Nvidia, told VentureBeat: “Ensuring consistency across multiple platforms is a daunting task for different software companies. “Previous development of open and standardized file formats allowed connectivity between different AECO authoring applications. As the technology and its functions within AECO evolve, we are looking at more extensible formats to enable full cross-platform collaboration, as well as extending functionality across the file format. open. This is meant to allow for an open dialogue, so to speak, between design applications and USD. While technology is constantly evolving, we are working towards full fidelity and consistency between authoring applications and formats and the Nvidia Omniverse, and enabling proprietary functions and at-source computing. author or in the Omniverse. “
Matos sees these efforts as seeding to leverage data that builds across more processes. For example, a car manufacturer might make a digital twins factories and their cars and then use these same real assets in their sales, marketing, and customer configurators. This requires all AECO data from the company’s factories, CAD data from the company’s assembly lines, design data from fabrication models and even autonomous robots. these facilities must fully contribute to a virtual model. These workflows require standardized data formats and frameworks to keep all 3D content and data in sync at high resolution and fidelity.
IFC helps transfer
In the late 1990s, there was no easy way to move data across different engineering and design tools. So AECO companies and software vendors have come together to simplify the process. However, instead of focusing on a specific file format like GIF for images and MP3 for audio, they developed a data standard, for each vendor to implement it into a file format. IFC makes it relevant to understand how different elements in a building connect, such as how handles, doors, walls and rooms fit together in a structure.
This makes data sharing easier, but limited.
“For the most part, IFC is used as a kind of one-way transfer mechanism,” said Greg Schleusner, director of design technology at HOK and co-director of the engineering department at BuildingSmart, which manages the IFC standard.
This one-way flow helps teams export data for analysis, detection of scheduling problems, or simulations. But organizations often fall back to the original tool when a change is required.
A fundamental challenge is that different CAD tools may use different ways of representing 3D data. For example, some use the grid approach, while others think the world is solid.
“All of these tools have distinct views of the world and representation of geometry, and that’s where interoperability is hardest,” says Schleusner.
As a result, tools will link to data as a reference instead of performing design transfer, which will allow teams to bring data into a new tool and work it out.
“It’s certainly possible and technically possible, it’s just not used very often,” he explains.
USD to modularize data
Nvidia’s implementation promises to make it easier to present IFC and other data about the built world in a more consistent format. In addition, it makes it easier to extract information for specific use cases. Schleusner believes this will make it easier to share subsets of information with contractors. This can also make it easier to implement recommendation systems that recommend specific types of door assemblies for a particular project, in a similar way. GitHub’s The Copilot tool makes coding recommendations.
Nvidia is betting on USD to become the dominant format enabling collaboration, compute, AI workflows, and design across industries. Omniverse is built entirely on USD. Matos said it is working with AECO leaders, including Autodesk, Bentley Systems and Graphisoft, to build connectors to the Omniverse platform.
Nvidia is actively developing capabilities internally and with its ecosystem partners to connect more integrated systems and data types, including IoT, BOM data, pipelines, and devices. device (P&ID), etc. with Omniverse.
“Simulating the real world and virtual data together will enable facilities to function optimally,” said Matos. “This is one of the key drivers behind the open data format approach of using USD with Omniverse.”
Essentially, Matos hopes this can allow the AECO industry to move from building several static stand-alone models to building full-blown digital twins directly. This will provide a single source, live virtual representation of buildings, environments, and cities. This can help train AI agents on thousands of scenarios before deploying them live in the real world.
“I am delighted to see the likes of Nvidia, Unity, Unreal finally entering the arena of the built environment. Steve Holzer, principal at HolzerTime, an architecture and planning consulting firm, and a member of the infrastructure working group at the Digital Twin Consortium, said. “As the novelty of these tools wears off, it demonstrates the incredible value of their real-space interactions for a wide range of subjects.”
He believes that one of the biggest opportunities is to make it easier to analyze data in context for specific use cases. He believes that IFC is a very heavy data structure. Only a few teams have figured out how to leverage it across domains, such as COBie for operations, SPARKie for electrical, HVACie for HVAC, and WSie for water. USD can make it easier to develop new AI models for structural analysis in a way NLP Tools parse medical entities from health records.
“AI/ML will increase the value of data exponentially in every respect as the industry understands how to use it beyond novelty,” Holzer said.
Barry Bassnet, a digital twin engineering specialist, has been using photogrammetry to capture 3D models of built environments for 43 years. He is excited about the potential USD can transform the construction industry.
“USD provides us with a language to simulate to some extent how our brains work and apply it to new processes, especially AI,” he said.
He believes the missing link is a meta-tagging tool for the built environment. Today, people have to manually create links about and between spatial entities and other document types, such as PDFs and their contents. The combination of USD and auto-tagging makes it easy to assign a key to a window and then link to a 3D repair manual or obtain a replacement key.
Bassnet excitedly watched as VRML appeared and then faded out due to bandwidth consumption.
“The USD is the best opportunity to find a way for the metaverse and the concept of digital twins,” he said.
Schleusner believes that the AEC industry can learn from the success of the USD in the entertainment sector. Increasingly, the entertainment industry is improving USD over proprietary file formats. As a result, the entertainment process can exchange data directly between tools instead of going through more complex transformations through APIs. Schleusner believes the AEC industry needs to adopt a similar approach to achieve the kind of innovation promised by digital twins for the built environment.
“The ideal thing for the construction world to take away from USD is that it is much easier to talk to one dataset than it is to have to talk to multiple application APIs,” said Schleusner. “The new IFC implementation for USD will shift the direction towards more of an exchange rather than an interactive approach. That’s the only way we’re closer to success.”
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