Digital technology is having a rapid and dramatic impact on the physical world, as concepts such as smart cities, intelligent infrastructure and Industry 4.0 manufacturing processes increase the complexity of real-world projects and change how they are designed, developed and maintained.
Working in the built environment requires planners and developers to get things right in the present while also thinking about the future. This alleviates the need for expensive remediation work should circumstances change and leads to greater investment in the use of technology for planning and simulation purposes, through the use of advanced modelling, simulation and management tools.
An example is the growing use of Building Information Modelling, (BIM) which uses intelligent 3D model-based processes to assist with planning, designing, construction and management of projects, and is especially suited to complex projects involving large numbers of stakeholders. Interest in BIM is growing rapidly. Esticast Research & Consulting estimates the market for BIM solutions will grow from $US3.6 billion in 2016 to $US18.8 billion by 2024.1
Spend in another recent advancement – digital twins (digital replicas of physical assets) –, is estimated to grow from $US3.8 billion in 2019 to $US35.8 billion by 2025.2
Both technologies provide enormous opportunities to streamline the design, delivery and management of complex engineering projects by providing a centralised location for the storage and analysis of project data. But they also require significant investment in the underlying technology needed to implement and run them.
The deployment of smart sensing and control technology through Internet of Things (IoT) deployments is also delivering an increased ability to understand the condition and performance of equipment in real time.
The data these devices generate is of little use, however, if organisations don’t also investing in the processing power needed to interpret it. And as projects become more sophisticated, the need to be able to communicate and collaborate with different parties using digital tools is becoming vital.
The result of these changes is that industry sectors such as oil, gas and energy and engineering, and architecture and construction, are seeing rapid change in how organisations invest in technology. This often comes in the form of investing in latest-generation computing systems capable of handling the demands of advanced analytics systems, but which can also manage multiple applications simultaneously to support users’ productivity.
While concepts such as building information modelling (BIM) and digital twins have yet to become commonplace within smaller engineering and design firms, there are plenty of examples of how modern technology is delivering capabilities that point the way towards a digital future.
For example, at the global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm, HOK, Lenovo ThinkPad P50s are used to display detailed architecture models running Autodesk Revit. The devices feature NVIDIA Quadro M500M GPUs with 2GB VRAM and 6th generation Intel Core i7 processors, which provide the computing power needed to manage complex applications. They also have a lightweight profile and offer 20-hours battery life.
Lenovo’s technology is also deployed at the University of Wolverhampton Racing (UWR) to help with innovating processes around car manufacturing and racing from the ground up.
Lenovo ThinkStation workstations are being used by four UWR racing design teams, including the first and only university-based Formula Three (F3) team to enter the F3 Cup Championship, to do everything from designing new parts from scratch to performing advanced data analytics and even running race simulations.
These examples demonstrate how companies in a diverse range of industries are investing in technology infrastructure to support their ongoing transformation. The bottom line is simple: an organisation’s digital future is only be as solid as the technology foundation that underpins it.
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