A major barrier to efficient collaboration today is caused by the complexity involved with data exchange between Applications. Collaborative patterns around data mean high frequency, non-linear and non-repeatable data pipelines between a vast number of stakeholders using a range of specialist Applications which makes automation a huge challenge for solution providers.
Existing project management Apps and technical Building Information Modelling(BIM) frameworks have failed to deliver a valid solution to data exchange on our processes and instead, burdening the industry with an inefficient file based mechanism for data exchange between collaborators.
Autodesk provides a set of APIs as a part of Forge today to support the data exchange mechanisms of industry. This includes a file conversion API but takes a long time (relative to the speeds expected by the modern user) to convert from one format to another and results in large file sizes which are also unsuitable for the era of the internet.
Autodesk have worked with industry partners and listened to customer concerns and they think that they have created a solution to the data exchange and collaborative problems.
Their innovation is split into two APIs and is promised for release in 2019.
The Data Platform API represents access to the new feature set of the new data model that Autodesk are adopting. It is based on the concept of a shared database that can facilitate data exchange not just between Autodesk Applications but from third party vendors too through an evolving common data model.
Developers will be able to create a contract that defines rules for accessing data held in the central data model(Forge Data Platform API) at a granular level i.e Object level access. Autodesk aims to play the role of a trusted Escrow(Legal) that facilitates the requirements of a complex collaborative relationship for data exchange that removes intellectual property, ownership and liability challenges coupled with file based alternatives e.g IFC.
We expect to see features rolled out to support their own SaaS Application data models but also a demand for third parties to integrate without delay.
Creation of rule based project data access provides developers with a new opportunity to create event driven Applications that manage data throughout its lifecycle which leads me to the next API presented - The Workflow Automation API. The workflow automation API will allow a third party Application to define rules for data pipelines in and out of Autodesk/third party applications.
Implementation and testing has been carried out with Autodesk partners that highlights how the use of these APIs can impact custom workflows. Developed to enable delivery of complex processes and remove project risk, Autodesk could support their users by helping them to define data flow requirements in advance of the project that incurred no lost important information throughout the collaborative data exchange mechanisms supported by new Forge APIs. Evan Lavelle from Front Inc. acknowledges its benefits, as follows:
“It isn’t about whether it is difficult to make or how, it's about a process that eliminates all errors and uncertainty, and that’s desired on EVERY project.”
The workflow diagram above represents a model of collaboration between three different stakeholders engaged in a workflow. The architect working in Revit requires information flow to the landscape architect. Traditionally this would be done through a snapshot of design data through IFC, RVT or DWG file formats and will often incur investment in an Application to extract relevant data by the land surveyor. Alternatively, a contract can be created through the Data Platform API which provides access to the data required by the landscape architect and the same principles can be scaled throughout the entire workflow process between all the stakeholders.
We see the potential for this API to provide a new model of collaboration for industry to adopt and predictable building data design outcomes. As is the nature of all of Autodesk APIs, the ability to access these tools will depend on an Organisations ability to design and develop custom workflows to take advantage of these APIs. Interested to collaborate? Contact us.
View the full webinar on Forge 2019 API updates here.