Research findings

Defined work packages to investigate the potential

The individual work packages are as follows:

  • Planning: Algorithms to automate routines
  • Interaction: Networked content and operation of VR/AR headsets
  • Communication: Infrastructure for planning, production and building site
  • Data security: Data structures and fast exchange
  • System integration: New standards for networking hardware and software solutions
  • Demo structure: Application and evaluation

Planning

Algorithms to automate routines

Processes during the design, construction and operation of structures are shaped by agreements, assessments and decisions in which the information relevant to the particular situation is not always available. Furthermore, providing the information involves costly cross-system transfers and correlations. The interfaces between the players, the different locations and the long planning, construction and operation phases pose fundamental challenges to consistent data processing.
Building information modelling (BIM) calls for standardisation methods with regard to a coordinated building data model and the exchange of that data. Procedures and processes can be improved with integrated communication technology, which leads to working methods that are efficient and user-friendly. Some of these methods have already been used successfully in the building industry, but consistent digital process chains are lacking. The challenges for the implementation of new digital construction processes lie in the horizontal linking of data flows and the vertical linking of process steps, equipment and players for the business partners involved.

Building and process data models and equipment are brought together at critical interfaces in order to achieve a consistent exchange of data. Such an approach helps to speed up the project- and company-specific integration of the tools described, indeed, in some instances, makes that possible in the first place.

The project-specific, simple and secure integration of the different players and the company-specific information in a software platform that is not accessible to third parties represent crucial innovations in terms of data exchange.

In addition, this work package investigates the data exchange with hardware components that enable the simple and secure project-specific integration of current and future machines and terminals (e.g. PCs, tablets, smartphones, AR/VR headsets) in factories and on building sites.

Interaction

Networked content and operation of terminals such as VR/AR headsets

Providing support for complex tasks by showing information within the field of view of the user has become much more significant through the development of new types of headset and powerful mobile devices and has led to new AR applications.
The availability of and connection options for such technology are important for its ongoing development and widespread use. The linking of planning data and the elaborate integration between project and corporate processes represent technical and economic risks, especially for the fragmented corporate structures of the German building industry. At the same time, the new technologies also create possibilities for substantially improving the processes in the building industry and the planning outcomes.

It is also necessary to answer questions regarding handling, user prompting and acceptance. The aim of combining new AR/VR technologies with high-speed communication networks is to establish an innovative system that assists users on building sites by providing them with planning data on their screens to render complex routines simpler and more efficient. In contrast to many current AR applications, which only permit a rough alignment of the additional information within the scene, DigitalTWIN will enable a precise registration of the virtual information with the real scene so that it is possible to address individual items and building components accurately.

Communication

Infrastructure for planning, production and building site

Expanding broadband communication infrastructures represents the foundation of a successful economy geared to future needs. The great significance of innovative communication technologies for applications such as Industry 4.0, telemedicine and driverless vehicles can already been seen in numerous pilot projects. In all of these, the importance of reliable, instantaneous mobile communications is growing constantly. Such communications will enable greater automation and speed up preparations, tasks and supervisory measures – in production especially. That in turn will require planning, production and assembly processes to be integrated into the design of fixed and mobile communication networks. One particular challenge here is to include the building site – currently usually outside the network – in a common communication infrastructure during the construction phase.

The construction value-creation chain is characterised by the many different players involved in the building lifecycle. Up until now, there were no established open platforms for mapping the entire process to other applications via defined interfaces. In addition, every building is generally unique, specific to a particular project, and designed, built and operated with different partners. That makes it difficult to develop standardised processes for exchanging data which will work for every project. Current use of digital methods is therefore limited to some parts of the value-creation chain and thus determined by certain players.

In order to be able to demonstrate the innovations in this heterogeneous environment, further advances are needed to incorporate factory and building site. Proposals are being worked out for a broadband communication infrastructure based on the services required during the construction and operation phases, a migration concept for staged expansion, an operating concept specific to the building sector for the reliable use of new terminals on the building site and services specific to construction. Virtual site visits that include designers, contractors, developers and end-users expand these services to demonstrate real-time applications.

Data security

Data structures and fast exchange

In order that integral process and building data models can improve or replace current procedures in the building industry, these methods must satisfy current knowledge regarding intuitive operation and data security. Besides secure, documented transmission and storage plus the authenticity, verifiability and reliability of the data, structuring the information and the question of level of information are important here.

System integration

New standards for networking hardware and software solutions

Some of the fields of research outlined above can already be implemented as isolated solutions using existing standards, current standardisation initiatives and established technologies. DigitalTWIN is being proposed as a path to an integrated solution for interfaces that currently require elaborate, custom solutions to be devised. Furthermore, solutions for the further development of building information models will result from the project findings and the gaps identified. Particular attention will been given to the system integration options for small and mid-size businesses. This work will also show how the data and communication technologies currently available and the newly networked devices, tools and machines need to be developed in order to be able to use a good hardware-software link effectively and to suit a particular project.