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Steady Progress On Collaboration Tools Knocks Down Data Siloes For Bentley Power Users

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A software vendor's sustained focus on collaboration is paying off for infrastructure developers across many sectors with the evolution of a collaboration ecosystem built on common tools and philosophy.

Bentley Systems Inc., Exton, Pa., presented a bevy of new product and acquisition announcements and project awards at its annual "Be Inspired" conference in Amsterdam on Nov. 12-16. The event is for invited power users of Bentley's array of infrastructure design and development software. While most announcements focused on specific sectors—ranging from geospatial engineering to oil and gas, telecommunications, utility development, and civil and structural engineering, among others—the common denominator is that the announcements represent enhancements and variations to the common collaboration system Bentley has been developing for many years.

At the heart is ProjectWise, an information management system using either client- or Bentley-hosted servers to empower what CEO Greg Bentley says is the company's "federated" approach to project data management. In this approach, a participant's original files, whatever the authoring tool, are not converted and copied into a central server for sharing but referenced at their sources and monitored for changes to generate and maintain up-to-date, viewable and markable collaboration files. A management system can automate circulation and synchronization with the source files when changes are required.

DPR Construction, Redwood City, Calif., is one flagship user who also announced on Oct. 10 that it is standardizing on ProjectWise for collaboration and work sharing in all its large projects. DPR says it has 2,000 project team members using it to access more than 2.5 terabytes of data, "anywhere, anytime," including on mobile devices from jobsites.

ProjectWise is built around a main integration server, with additional servers added to extend specific capabilities. They include local caching servers to improve performance for distributed teams; servers and connectors to enable browser access to databases; and Bentley Navigator, a review, markup, clash resolution and visualization tool that is helping to extend 3D viewing, query and markup functionality to mobile devices.

Represented by case studies from early adopters, new additions to the fleet this year include servers to manage transmittals and a dynamic rights-management product, built on Adobe's LifeCycle Digital Rights Service, which lets publishers control use of documents even after they have been distributed.

Another new tool is an i-Model Composition Server, which automates the process of collecting many file formats, including PDFs, 3D and 4D construction sequence simulation models, CAD files from various vendors and Microsoft Office documents into intelligent bundles that can direct revisions back to their sources. One demonstration created animated work packages for use by nuclear-powerplant construction field crews with mobile devices.

One announcement made just before the conference also drew a flurry of attention, as Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Trimble Navigation and Bentley announced a strategic partnership to integrate links between Trimble's surveying and positioning devices and Bentley's geo-referenced software.

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