BE Conference – May 21-25, 2006, Charlotte, NC

By Hal Reid

This race car was in front of the tech support table at the BE users conference.

When I attend a company’s user conference, I can easily get lost in the trade show, the new product releases, the receptions, or even in cool displays like the race car (right) that was in front of the tech support table. Not so at Bentley's BE Conference (May 21-25, Charlotte, NC). I learned about the release of MicroStation V8 XM, the enhancement to ProjectWise and the soon-to-be-released Bentley Map. In addition, the company addressed five areas that point out the company’s directions beyond traditional CAD, infrastructure and geospatial techniques applied to infrastructure:
  • Acquisitions
  • The Real-Time Asset Management Lab
  • A focus on learning for current customers and students
  • The concept of federated data stores for all products
  • Continued expansion of the use of PDF files.
In his keynote address, CEO Greg Bentley described the acquisitions the company made this year as having augmented the company’s market share. The acquisition of GEF-RIS in Leimen, Germany, provides both market access and an increased range of technologies. (GEF-RIS specializes in the utilities, local government and business markets and has a suite of Standardized Information Systems (SIS) products.) Bentley enhanced its data store access through the acquisition of Cook-Hurlbert, which gives Bentley not only enhanced network design capability for electric and gas distribution, but also seamless interfaces with ESRI, Smallworld, AutoCAD and of course, MicroStation.

Real-Time Asset Management Lab
In the lifecycle of projects initiated in CAD, the challenge always lies in maintaining a current set of drawings. The Asset Management Lab explores not only techniques like 3D laser mapping of in-place plant assets, but other technologies as well. A lab which was run at the conference by a consultant to Bentley, Francis Rabuck, had working displays of:
  • Laser mapping
  • RFID and sensor networks
  • Visualization derived from sensors, video, laser mapping
  • Mobile notebooks, digital pen and paper
  • 3D printing.
Tony Flynn, Chief Marketing Officer, expressed concern that colleges and universities are not producing engineers in the quantities large enough to replace those close to retirement age. In addition, practitioners now in the field need to upgrade their computer skills to be current with advances in software. Bentley has two programs, one offers software and sponsorships to colleges and universities and the other provides training via its own professional learning center.

In addition, Steve Serbun, the eLearning Technical Manager, runs several types of distance learning programs for Bentley customers. The most robust learning system is a Web interface that allows remote customers the opportunity to become part of a virtual classroom. Far faster and slicker than the typical Web meeting, it lets the instructor and the students exchange views of a project-in-progress.

Federated Data Stores

The company has embraced the concept of federated data stores, which allows data to be accessed regardless of location and format. In other words, data lives in a "federated relationship" when it’s all on the data server.

The GeoSpatial Data Server (an extension to ProjectWise, I believe), works with the federated data concept, and has a very interesting search function. If the data are on the data server, the program can search within CAD project files, (Bentley's DGN and others such as DWG), and also search the other project documents that are related to a set of drawings, and the links contained within these files. I was particularly impressed by the ability to extend the search down to the component level. For example, if you search a pipeline or network project, you can get to the individual pumps, repeaters or whatever is contained at the component level. This type of search can be performed from within the company’s products if they are connected to the GeoSpatial Data Server.

PDF Files
Bentley's strategy regarding PDF is to counter the efforts of its competitor, Autodesk with DWF as an easily read and distributed CAD file format. The latest versions of Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader support not only redlining and use of a PDF within Google Maps, but also support 3D CAD files. The PDF file is becoming very robust and offers much of the functionality you would expect to find in a good redlining tool, such as viewing complex projects and adding annotation. The Bentley advantage is that almost every PC in the world has Adobe Reader.

Published Saturday, June 3rd, 2006

Written by Hal Reid

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