As engineering firms move toward developing a digital strategy, a new phrase – going digital- will resonate with engineering, architectural, and construction professionals, as well as infrastructure asset owners, is now part of the infrastructure lexicon. Going digital refers to the business transformation being realized as infrastructure professionals take advantage of a connected data environment by leveraging a cloud computing platform that digitally connects and converges people, processes, data, and technology to yield significant benefits.
In its broadest sense, going digital means moving data that used to be locked in application-specific files or even paper documents, and making the data inherent in these files and documents available to be consumed and analyzed by other software and processes. Through going digital, 3D digital engineering models created during the planning and design phase can provide the interactive 3D environment for operations and infrastructure asset performance modeling, leveraging cloud computing, predictive analytics, and operational data from the Industrial Internet of Things and other sources. These models can now be referenced throughout the full lifecycle of an infrastructure asset, improving performance, safety, and sustainability.
But what about an infrastructure asset that does not have a digital engineering model? Reality modeling, an exciting technology that involves the process of capturing existing facilities and site conditions with the use of digital photographs and/or point-cloud data – enables the rapid creation of 3D, engineering-ready mesh representations of the existing, as-operated conditions. The process is simple: overlapping photographs taken with a camera either handheld or mounted on a UAV are uploaded to a cloud processing service that automatically reconstructs the 3D model for use in engineering applications. Further detail and accuracy can be added to the model through close range photos or point-cloud data from laser scanners.