For many construction companies, interoperability is a chief objective. By putting data in the hands of those who need it—on mobile devices, tablets, or desktops—teams can streamline project workflows. The good news is technology providers are offering solutions to address this need.
Consider the example of AGTEK, which delivers on its slogan of providing “Dirt Simple Solutions.” The company offers tools to accurately takeoff and estimate construction quantities, model construction processes, and measure progress throughout the construction lifecycle.
Matt Desmond, president, AGTEK, says, “We try and empower the people on the ground. And then to empower those people—they’re desktop users—we try and get all of our software in a simplified version out to them on mobile apps.” For example, SmartPlan takes plans to the field and documents site conditions and determines material quantities, while SmartDirt calculates dirt volumes in the field, and SmartTrack identifies where machines are working in realtime.
Perhaps the biggest value of what AGTEK can provide the construction industry is interoperability. As Desmond explains it is a “melting pot of data sources.”
“We try and inject data from as many sources as we can and combine it together to make the best decisions for the customer,” he explains. “And often that starts with a simple PDF that we can vectorize and automatically extract the line work out of that data. And then we have a whole lot of tools, to edit the data, and elevate it to make it 3D.”
AGTEK does this in a few different ways. The first is by working with other product portfolios provided by its parent company, and the second is by working with other products in the market. Back in March 2018, Hexagon AB announced the acquisition of AGTEK. As Desmond points out, the way Hexagon makes acquisitions is that the companies “have to stand on their own rock,” meaning AGTEK has always been an independent company in how it has had its system be interoperable.
For example, AGTEK has very tight integrations with Leica Geosystems, which was also acquired by Hexagon back in 2005.
“We have a very clean data flow and an easy way to push data directly from our solutions out into the field, through the cloud,” Desmond says. “But …as part of our philosophy, and as part of open standards, we want to have solutions that are easy to adopt. So if you have an existing ecosystem, our solutions should be able to plug into that existing ecosystem. And that’s the same philosophy that Leica has, that we want to be able to work within the environment that the customer has.”
Here’s how it works. Within the AGTEK software, there is a button that can send model information to the machine control system. It pushes the data up to a cloud and then the machine control system automatically gets a notification that there’s a new model available. Then, inside the cabin there will be an indication that there’s a model that is available for download and an update. Basically, with the push of a button, the driver will immediately get notified that there’s been a change made and he can pull down that new file without any interaction. Taking this a step further, another example of a data connection is Leica also produces UAVs (unmanned aerial systems) and AGTEK can also inject the data from those UAVs and make sense of it very quickly.
While this is revolutionary for the construction industry, Desmond explains there are two levels to this. First, there is open standards and being able to support the standards that are available today. However, another element is being able to provide the data in a way that makes sense to the person consuming the information. “So even for our own internal tools or internal customers we know that the guy in the field looking at a problem on a phone has a very different set of requirements of how they visualize and interact with the data than somebody that’s in an office on a PC looking at the problem,” he explains.
Still, there is another side to this that needs to be addressed that Constructech has reported on time and time again—the access to skilled labor. Desmond says training people on the product and getting them up and running with the technology can be a real challenge.
“If you have products that have a really long learning curve or steep learning curve, it becomes difficult to get value out of those new hires. And with high turnover and lack of a lot of skilled labor, that makes that whole problem quite difficult to solve,” he says. “On the other side of it, another big problem is getting the data in the first place. So it’s better than it was even three years ago or five years ago or 10 years ago. It’s coming along.”
In order to help address this challenge, AGTEK will be at the Hexagon stand at CONEXPO-CON/AGG in Las Vegas, Nev., March 10-14. Here the company will demonstrate the real-life journey of how the tools can work together.
“We can show how we push data up into those machine control systems, how you can take advantage of laser scanning on site, how you can take advantage of UAVs on site. We have a real-life example of what happens from bid through the construction process and how simple they are to use and how they can benefit the contractor,” says Desmond. In the end perhaps construction companies will get what they have always been looking for: interoperability.
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