Forge Data Platform and Workflow Automation APIs - DevDays ‘19 Summary

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.”

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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.





AEC Hackathon comes to Galway

The pan-global AEC Hackathon event stopped at Galway over the weekend of the 12th -14th October attracting attendees to develop innovative, technology-based solutions to industry problems in an agile collaborative manner unrivalled by that of industry today.

For a background on the event and the ethos supporting it, you can read the pre-event press release here. The event kicked off with a presentation from event host John Egan from BIMLauncher on an introduction to the Autodesk Forge platform. Not least for being the first AEC Hackathon on Irish soil, this was the first AEC Hackathon to be run in parallel with another event happening simultaneously in London. Made possible by Google Hangouts, both events shared access to the presentation followed by a welcome from Damon Hernandez, founder of the AEC Hackathon organisation.

Shortly after, it was time to reveal industry challenges from our sponsors and renowned BIM talent and BIM technology lecturer at GMIT, Gerard Nicholson. Gerard alluded to the political failure to increase carbon tax during our last budget and challenged attendees to think about how a solution could come from within the industry. All challenges were open to attendees at both London and Galway venues.

Without further ado, the hacking commenced late into Friday evening and over the course of the weekend. Attendees were fuelled by an abundance of free barista quality coffee and attendees seemed to successfully turn this into industry solutions.

The hacking continued until Sunday 2 pm. Anticipation grew in favour of a showdown for what would become a competition between Ireland and England to claim the award for best overall prize. Our pride was at stake and the work that was put into the weekend justified the reason why.

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Thanks to Google video streaming technology, a connection between both venues made sharing presentations a breeze and intense competition ensued between teams from both sides of the pond. Ireland claimed not only the best overall prize, but also the best use of Forge technology and solution to reduce the impact of climate change.

The best use of Forge technology went to “The Burriors” made up of Gavin Donohue, Sean McCann, Michael Naughton and John Egan. Responding to a current industry challenge, Gavin Donohue of AGL Consulting describes the background to the eloquently presented solution making use of the Forge viewer: “I was looking for a way to automatically populate a drawing with earthworks test results so that a site team could assess where design criteria was or wasn’t achieved. During the Hackathon weekend, I worked with a team of computer scientists who helped integrate a Microsoft Excel Online document with AutoCAD Civil 3D using the Autodesk Forge API. Test results were output to the Autodesk Forge 3D model viewer which doesn’t require a license to review.”

The best response to changing the construction industry to reduce the impact on climate change went to team “LowCo2”. The team was made up of Faheem Noonan, Alan Kelly, Neil Anderson with a special thanks to Belinda Dillon, acting mentor from Digital Construction Technologies Group who helped them reach this success over the weekend. This solution provided a streamlined approach for decision makers to review the environmental and cost impact for using ecologically friendly building components. After a great presentation from the team, this was a hands down winner in this category demonstrating a great combination of Revit schedules with Excel tools.

Last but not least, the best overall project went to Andy McNamara and Ian McAuley as “Team GSD”. Both acclaimed experts in the BIM technologies space, it was no surprise that this solution was awarded the best overall project for both the London and Galway events. Over the weekend, the pair produced a tool that allows design consultants to make informed decisions about the environmental impact for project materiality selection. Confident in the backing of an acclaimed lifecycle assessment database, designers can be confident in the quality of information displayed to them through a reactive dashboard as they configure designs in real time.

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An award ceremony concluded the event with presentations from industry veteran and BIM expert Jim O’Connor, lecturer at GMIT. He thanked attendees for giving him fond memories of the early days of collaborative construction hacking based around developing LISP scripts for the AutoCAD platform. A collective spirit emerged and it was an honour for attendees to receive certificates of accomplishment from Jim.

See the video below to see what the event participants had to say about the event:

Team GSD (overall winners) presented their work at CitA Tech Live which took place in Croke Park on November 8th & 9th. BIM Launcher will provide assistance to Team GSD to scale the app to the wider industry. The app is now open for beta testing; enquiries by email to andy.mcnamara@gmit.ie

The AEC Hackathon event organisers and BIMLauncher would like to thank the attendees and event sponsors for making the event a huge success. Thanks to Evercam who provided API access, Stewart Construction for challenges, Ian Keough and Comhar Design who provided challenges but did not make it past team selection stages. We would also like to thank local cuisine providers, and media support from BIMIreland.ie and Galway Media. We look forward to welcoming you all to Galway next time.