A unique solution developed on top of Autodesk Forge enriches the galaxy of digital twins
This week, we have the pleasure to receive an innovative spanish startup called POWERBIM, which provides a digital twin solution for owners. We are happy to welcome Fernando Morales, BIM Manager and head of Digital Twin project at POWERBIM. Fernando Morales Tosar. Director and CEO of BIM6D Consulting & Performance in Barcelona. He’s the creator of POWERBIM, a digital twin platform, Architect, a certified BIM Manager, an Expert in technology, energy efficiency and sustainability.
Hi Fernando, could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us from which domains you come from originally?
Thank you very much Emmanuel. It’s a great pleasure for us to be interviewed by you. I’m an architect with more than 15 years of experience developing projects. I have been collaborating on big and complex projects like hospitals, skyscrapers and large buildings. I have a lot of expertise and curiosity in other areas and this is why I have made some research and learnt BIM, Sustainability, Energy Efficiency and all of them linked with software and apps development. At a specific moment in my career, I got tired to work for others and therefore I wanted to go for my own challenges and use all the expertise I had acquired. This is how BIM6D was born.
How and when did you decide to create PowerBIM? What were the main reasons for that?
Thanks for the question. At the beginning of BIM6D, we were offering BIM services, specially BIM modeling, coordination and management, but I always ended up disenchanted because the submittal were always plans, 3d views, 2d plans and data extracted from 2d documents. Also there was an amount of work done by our team that never came to light, especially the data. Also, we thought that BIM had no sense if we couldn’t use it to calculate, to simulate, to monitor, to predict and to connect to the real time data from the real state of the assets that BIM are representing, and this is why I decided to go ahead with POWERBIM.
POWERBIM is a play of words integrating Power BI and BIM, but that nobody knows that POWERBIM’s name comes in fact from the need to switch on BIM. Because for me, BIM is always offline because it is not connected to the real asset, but POWERBIM consists in switching on BIM by connecting it to devices and systems like Scada, BMS, CAFM and IWMS systems among many others throughout data technology. I discovered the concept of DIGITAL TWIN later on and my surprise was that the concept of DIGITAL TWIN for AECO sector is exactly what POWERBIM is offering.
Can you present your company, how you’re organized and how you work with your customers? Do you only develop software or do you also provide implementation services?
BIM6D offers BIM services for all stakeholders and stages, but from the beginning, we’re putting lots of efforts in a technological growth inside our company thanks to the research and innovation processes that are always part of the DNA of our company. At the same time, we are developing projects, we are making researches in VR, AR, simulations, automation development using different techniques, data analytics, software development and cloud computing… a lot of things that need to come to light through new services and new products, such as POWERBIM, but there will be more.
What I have learn from my customers is that all of them are different, and it’s an error for us to offer the same services or products for all of them. We are a B2B company and we need to understand first what the client really needs, what their challenges are, not only for the work that they want to submit at a specific date because we want to understand each business model and discover the strategy of digitalization for them. We appreciate providing the contracted services but at the same time, also include extra benefits by offering innovative solutions in automation, app solutions or plugins among others, just to convince the clients to be ambitious in digitalization because all companies need that for building performances (MEP systems) for process and cost optimization, for a better interior air quality and for a more efficient energy consumption and carbon emissions, and just to summarize, in general, for more sustainable assets.
You present your company using the analogy of BIM dimensions from 1D till 6D. Why?
Yes, we like to organize everything in my company by BIM dimensions as it maintains the initial concept. BIM services is organized through 6 BIM Dimensions, in where each dimension contains specific tasks for development and including as new dimensions the 1D and 2D (1D – strategy related to BIM Management 2D – BIM data analytics, software development and all that is not 3D) and the more important 6D is for us all that you can do once you have a BIM model ready to integrate to other disciplines, 6D is the dimensions for simulations, energy performance, crowd flow simulations, structural and MEP calculations using BIM, Facility Management integration and of course DIGITAL TWIN.
The chart for the 6 dimensions that today you can find in multiple web sites and BIM content on the internet, has been created just for the company business model definition, taking as a reference the famous chart from 3D to 6D but including 1D and 2D. Yes, today there are people talking about 10 or more dimensions…But I think that we can explain everything just with 6 of them, because all of them include all the lifecycle for assets.
So what is PowerBIM and what does it do precisely? What are its main benefits?
POWERBIM is a digital twin ecosystem integrating multiple technologies in where BIM is only one of them, and automation is the key to make it easy to use. POWERBIM organizes by 6 dimensions a set of tools, most of them related to data but there are others, very useful to organize scopes related to specific areas (dimensions) and can be used from design stage, construction, but of course in real state for facility management and operation purposes.
Benefits are multiple, but I wanted to highlight just a few of them:
- We integrate the most powerful CDE on the market – BIM360 – to the most powerful data services platform in the cloud – Microsoft Azure using automation and Autodesk Forge technology together with multiple frameworks. This means that we can automate the data mining processes for unlimited projects/models on just one SaaS platform.
- We automate Power BI data reports creation from any BIM model (Revit, IFC, Navisworks, DWFx, Rhino, AutoCAD and other file formats) just with one click. Users can create their own data report templates based on their needs and the report will always be bidirectional and connected to related components from the data report.
- We can federate multiple models in just one from POWERBIM, no worries if they are coming from different file formats, we create a FUSION that can create automated Data Reports for the FUSION, and the most important is that we can create data reports that compare one model to another, one version to another.
- We can integrate single IoT devices, like cameras in streaming, smart lighting, sensors or any other device, we can do that by offering a raspberry POWERBIM kit to integrate multiple individual devices for an asset. Our last challenge is using GO-PRO cameras by integrating streaming and recording videos to BIM while at the same time the user is geolocated in the model.
- We integrate complex systems for real time data, like Scada or BMS using bacnet and Modbus protocols, among other integrations, we have created to CAFM systems and IWMS for clients. So we can create a complex DIGITAL TWIN platform for complex buildings like Hospitals or Industrial / Logistic projects.
- We can perform BIM Audit automated process in 1D dimension by creating rulesets that will be checked against the BIM data, the result will be automated into Power Bi data reports. This is a great feature that will provide an easy way to check our models from the EIR protocols or BEP in BIM projects.
Is it only designed for Building or also for City management usage?
We learn how to improve our products from our clients needs, and recently we have included a great feature in POWERBIM which consist in to integrate GIS to BIM in a quite different way, we can draw and extrude shapes that can be linked to BIM models so we can geolocate multiple projects and multiple data coming not only from buildings but also from the smart city.
For example, a Water Management company needs to integrate the water distribution network and the real time data in there to the facilities that are property of the company, like industrial wastewater treatment plants, Pump Rooms Plants and others conforming to an unique ecosystem. In POWERBIM, we can integrate in the same platform the large scale of the network using GIS technologies to the assets created in BIM and more importantly, to collect data from all of them and to analyse and visualize it over the models and the city.
Is it mainly targeted at Owners and Proprietaries or is it also interesting for Architects, Engineers and Construction Companies? If yes, why?
This is a good question. From the beginning, POWERBIM is for all stakeholders and stages. Once you create a project in BIM360 this can be referred to any stage and multiple stakeholders collaborating in a Common Data Environment, POWERBIM takes profit of it and can work with multiple models and connecting all the stakeholders.
What POWERBIM provides is the capability to automate the data analytics for different purposes, this means that architects can automate the facade data by calculating the relationship between opaque and hollow and a budget estimation, and an engineer can calculate an approximate load calculation from various data sources. A construction company is able to integrate Go-Pro cameras to visualize in streaming and locate the operators in the field, and the owner/facility manager can obtain warnings in real time from the BMS system or predictive analytics for IoT devices by integrating machine learning techniques to stored datasets.
Do you create BIM models for your clients? Or is the first requirement that the client already has the BIM model created?
BIM6D as digitalization services company can create BIM models for their clients, and not only this, because we can develop an implementation strategy for BIM oriented to goals and developing one or multiple BIM dimensions. But of course, POWERBIM, as an independent product, can be used with any kind of BIM model independently of its quality. What we recommend is to perform a database quality check audit process, instead it is not mandatory because POWERBIM provide results in an automated way.
There are more and more digital twins and BMS/FM solutions. So what are POWERBIM’s main differences?
I think it’s good to have more and more digital twin solutions on the market, because until now, our clients couldn’t compare our solutions to many others. What we offer is a complete solution for all lifecycle stages in a project, GIS integration and the possibility to work with multiple projects and models at the same time, so we can integrate any kind of data sources and, highlighting that POWERBIM is flexible enough to adapt to any scenario. Some of the unique features in POWERBIM are bidirectional connection between BIM360 and Power Bi + Azure cloud services and data report generation in an automated way, together with the integration of technologies like IoT, Bigdata, Machine Learning, Facility Management, that are expensive ones, but we offer them at a competitive price, so we presume that we are going to break stereotypes. In short, we think that our competitors should be concerned about the arrival of the power of a single digital twin platform called POWERBIM, no one is indifferent when testing it.
Is your digital twin solution proposing a BOS (Building Operating System)?
POWERBIM integrates basic functionalities to operate a building, like creating issues related to multiple components, and to automate the notifications when values in monitored systems are out from KPIs ranges. But the main goal is that POWERBIM becomes a digital ecosystem that integrates BOS, IWMS, CAFM, Scada and single smart devices. There should be a specific integration created client by client and we can integrate all systems that client needs. This a development in demand, coming first from industrial sector but extending to multiple typologies.
Where is the data stored? On any kind of servers (Amazon, Microsoft, etc.)?
We decided to rely on Microsoft Azure, especially for Power BI app integration capabilities, but at the end, we are connecting to multiple data services, like IoT Hub, Machine Learning or Streaming Media services among many others… but our nature is to integrate, and we have experience with Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services and we like challenges that are always coming from client needs.
What is the ROI of your solution? Do you have some numbers on the kind of benefits it can bring?
We are just arriving to a break-even point, we are just finalizing a hard work and a hard internal investment in resources to talk about benefits. We have auto financed POWERBIM with our services and the idea is to offer a very competitive product in price related to functionalities we offer, this is what I can say today.
You decided to develop it on top of Forge. For which reasons?
Autodesk Forge is the most advanced and amazing technology to bring BIM to other level. Without Forge, our project would not have been possible in time or resources. We decided to use Forge because there is a great team of developers in Autodesk open minded to give us the chance to try new challenges from new features that the APIs allow to generate.
You also have an awesome way of managing Cities and get information from IoT sensors in the city as well. Do you manage any kind of data like temperature, humidity, etc.? Is it also useful for air pollution, traffic, parking places, etc.?
For the moment, we have tried to integrate multiple sensors from public data like the ones you are mentioning, but we are also testing to integrate data for mobility, public transportation and geolocation of devices. This is a great opportunity to integrate smart city to smart building data, also for critical infrastructures like water distribution, oil and gas, and many others. By integrating GIS to BIM, there are a new world to explore and we have already made some steps in this area.
Is this capability related to the fact that you use an ESRI technology in combination with Forge?
The integration between GIS and BIM in POWERBIM is new, and for the moment, we are just integrating city data and BIM models to our city viewer that is independent from ESRI technology, but is not the first time I have been asked to integrate ESRI / ARCGIS to POWERBIM. So if customers want this, why not?
Thanks to Forge, you’re able to manage a big quantity and types of data, from 2D to 3D and BIM and others like PDFs, etc.. Could you tell us more about that?
Thanks to Forge and thanks to BIM360, by using the Data Management API we can transfer multiple file formats between POWERBIM and BIM360, we are discovering that it is very useful to integrate PDF files and other formats to a group of selected components by the user, and also integrating other formats like videos or just pictures. By combining the capabilities of a Common Data Environment and a Digital Twin, we are sure that customers will find a product that really meet their needs.
What are your Customers References so far?
I cannot reveal all of them, because multiple ones are pending to be clients after testing the platform, but there are architectural offices, big construction companies, public organizations and owners for multiple sectors. Zalando is one of the top clients we have at this moment and SIA Architects is a very good client while at the same time it is converting to become our best partner in France and Belgium.
What is the business model of your solution? Is it a rental model?
For the moment, we are going client by client, we are looking for companies that really understand the need to highlight the DATA usage in BIM, attending the client needs and improving the solution with each client. But we are close to have the first version launched on the market and the idea is to have a subscription based model but related to a “pay as you go” model. We want to be paid just for the time POWERBIM is used only, but we need to analyse the best formula to make it viable.
Do you have offices in France? How can we contact you?
We have a partner called SIA Architects that can represent POWERBIM in France at the moment while we are opening a new office in France, which is planned to be possible this year in 2021 thanks to some new important projects that we will start in Paris and other cities
Do you have anything particular that you would like to tell our readers?
We need our clients to be ambitious and look forward anything else than to only have a nice 3D model on the screen or in printed plans. We need BIM to make sense, since for us BIM is not about making a digital model, BIM is about using digitalization to improve the design, construction and operation and maintenance of buildings and infrastructures we live in or use. And it is not enough to connect devices to buildings, a digital twin must serve to generate more efficient and sustainable infrastructures, healthier for people but also for the environment, the objective of BIM6D and POWERBIM is to achieve the client’s objectives with technology while at the same time global goals are meet at the same time.
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Fernando, thank you very much for your time and this exciting presentation of your innovative solution. We wish you the best for the future.