Virtual Australia & New Zealand Infrastructure (VANZI) is a step closer to modelling Australian cities and towns – including buildings, roads, railway and power lines, and water pipes – in 3D with volunteer group Code for Australia agreeing to develop a prototype for the project.
VANZI is a not-for-profit company and is supported by Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Spatial Information, buildingSMART, the Victorian Partnership for Advanced Computing, the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Australasian SME Alliance, and Regional Development Australia.
In 2010, VANZI CEO Michael Haines had a vision to go beyond spatial modelling and use realistic 3D simulations to help construction companies better plan, design and build offsite and transport logistic companies to move in and out of locations quickly. This requires the integration of geographic information systems (GIS) and building information models (BIM).
In 2012, buildingSMART Australasia released a report (National BIM Initiative) that recommended all Australian government building procurements should use 3D BIM models based on open standards for information exchange by 1 July 2016.
There are three initiatives under the project, which Code for Australia will help with. The first will link 3D models of buildings and infrastructure to a cadastre, which is data on property boundaries. The organisation will also use Geoscience’s spatial data and Geocoded National Address File (G-NAF) information.
The second will enable information on legal rights of a property or asset to be visually displayed in a 3D model.
The third will create a ‘data bank’ where Property Exchange Australia (PEXA), lessees, construction companies, councils, insurers, emergency services and utilities can securely share information.
Information on legislation and legal rights of each property and asset will be attached to the 3D model so that the different parties do not have to do the time consuming task of sourcing all this information. This includes leases, convenants, easements, body corporate areas and rights of way.
Where someone has a right or no right to access a particular part of a property, it will be visually represented in the 3D model so that it's easy to understand and stays intuitive, Haines said.
“In the case of a lease, the legal object would show a coloured box either on the inside surface of a wall, in the centre of the wall, or on the outside of the wall – depending on your rights in the real world," Haines explained to CIO Australia at the Digital Built Environment Conference in Sydney this week.
“Also, if the lessee has the right to move a partition in their leased premises without lessor approval, they need to have the same right to move it in the model. And they need to be able to delegate access to the model to their shopfitter who is charged with moving a partition – so they know where to move it without the need to create a separate set of drawings," he said.
Haines also spoke at the Australia 3.0 forum in Melbourne last month. He cited a ACIL Tasman study from 2010 that showed by integrating models from different architects and the engineers just in the design and construct phase, there’s about $5 billion a year in productivity savings.
He said by building a complete digital environment, it reduces the likelihood of errors happening on the building site, and preventing construction projects from going over budget.
He added that there are many companies taking a piecemeal approach to using 3D models to plan logistics before construction takes place, and there needs to more integration of information from all the different parties that affect a project.
“Talking to architects, engineers and construction companies, they love the idea of a single portal they securely access, build their business systems around that link instead of having to continually relink to everybody’s different model for every project.”
Haines – who comes from a port logistics background as former CEO of Westgate Ports – said information such as routes, the height of the overhead bridges and loading docks, and the width of the roads is crucial to how efficient transport can move in and out of an area.
“If I’ve got a complete 3D model of the premises and all of the road networks, I can very easily see what trucks I can get in without ever having to drive there and have a look at it, which is what you have to do now. That saves time and errors,” he told CIO Australia.
“If you’ve got to pick up and drop off a container, and you’ve never been there before, the person can tell you ‘I want you to put the container here beside that fence’ and you are looking at the 3D model while the person is explaining to you what he/she wants done with it.”
Haines also pointed out that 3D modelling technology is also used to support Google’s driverless cars, and he sees this kind of technology becoming more prevalent in future.
“Driverless cars are going to need really, really accurate 3D models of the built environment because they will use those to sense where they are in relation to the road [and each other], where the car is for the next corner, what the incline and the curve of the road is so the car can know if it needs to prepare to slow down as it comes into the bend.”
Besides transport and logistics, there’s much opportunity for insurance companies when it comes to 3D models of properties. Under insurance or claim disputes is one of the biggest problems insurance companies face, as they mostly rely the customer's word on the state and condition of a property before an incident.
“You can imagine, if I give to my insurer a 3D model of my entire property and have it spatially located in the 3D model of the city … it’s easy to show what was the before situation. And I take another 3D model to show what is the after situation,” Haines said at the Australia 3.0 forum.
“I can locate the images spatially, I can confirm the title, I can confirm the terms of insurance, and I can confirm the before and after. No more under insurance, no more claim disputes.”
Sensors inside the home can also be linked to a 3D model so that emergency services can see where a fire occurred inside a house or apartment and if there’s a nearby back street or path that allows rescuers to access the property more easily and ultimately save people more quickly, Haines said.
“It’s coming that our smartphones will be able to video a building and deliver back to us a 3D model of our home, office or whatever.
“You can also use the 3D model … like a filing cabinet. So where is my warranty for my dishwasher? I just point my smartphone at my dishwasher… the app knows and goes straight through to the 3D model that’s stored my maintenance history, what it is made from, where I bought it – anything and everything about it.
"Manufacturers are creating their own models for their manufacturing purposes, and as they add this data I can put that information in my 3D model when I buy it and install it [an appliance] in my house,” Haines added.
The ‘data bank’, a distributed database for the 3D models, is a major part of the project. Different parties will be able to control what information is shared with whom and under what circumstance.
VANZI is working with analyst firm KuppingerCole on ensuring the system is secure.
KuppingerCole analyst Graham Williamson suggested the system should follow similar security protocols to banks, particularly using dynamic authorisation management where the system can authenticate in real time the right user is accessing the right resource.
“If a builder is looking to get some drawings, in real time we want to say ‘yes, that person is a builder and is authorised to get access to that drawing’,” Williamson said at the Digital Built Environment Conference this week.
“And we do that based on the attributes they have. The attributes are important because there are many different types of builders, many different types of surveyors. So we need to know as a particular user tries to access a resource, we need to know who they are and if they have authorisation to do that,” he said.
He also suggested fine-grained access controls be built into the system so users can decide who can access a property or asset during a certain time of day or only a particular building or project.
Williamson said some of the standards that will need to be included in the system are:
- Security assertion markup language (SAML), a protocol for transmitting request for security access
- Extensible access control markup language (xACML), a protocol for granting fine-grained access from the user to the resource
- System for cross-domain identity management (SCIM), a protocol for exchanging identity information between the data repository and the service.
Haines also gave an analogy of how the underlying data bank infrastructure would operate similar to an actual bank network.
“It’s a regulated secure cloud where the banks have messaging between each other and they set the security policies around the access, and then the customer determines at their own account level who gets access to their account to put money in or take money out.
“So the banking network provides the infrastructure to securely transmit the money, and the banking network holds your data or model of the property and you will decide what sorts of people get access to it under what circumstances.
"But the infrastructure that manages all of that is a common infrastructure through the banking network,” he said.
Follow Rebecca Merrett on Twitter: @Rebecca_Merrett
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.