A Common Data Environment (CDE) is a central tool for all modern construction projects, as it is the single source of truth for all the documents used during the project lifecycle. It is used to collect, manage, collaborate, and share information with the project team.
The number and variety of CDE tools available for the construction industry are increasing. At the same level is also the complexity of the decision process and what aspects to consider when choosing a Common Data Environment based on Open Standards (Open CDE) for your project.
These are the main pillars of an Open CDE :
- Unified access to project information;
- Data access control;
- Data audit support;
- Open BIM Standards (IFC + BCF format).
Catenda Hub (previously Bimsync) is an example of an Open CDE that is committed to all these pillars above.
In addition to these features, AECO professionals also want to have a CDE that offers access to more innovations and the potential to create your own customizations and extensions in the future.
Basing your workflows around Open Standards is the most important decision. Here are 5 good reasons for choosing open BIM:
- Guaranteed access to data (also in 50 years from now);
- Innovative tools ecosystem;
- Prevent “vendor lock-in”;
- Better security;
- Flexible future-proofing.
APIs based on Open Standards (Open APIs) are both an enabler for point number 2 “Innovative tools ecosystem” (the innovation aspect that is often overseen) and a catalyst for point number 5 “Flexible future-proofing”.
Being able to tap into an innovative ecosystem is strategic and fundamental, as it may define the fate of all companies in this industry, small or big.
How do Open Standards contribute to innovation?
buildingSmart has been working on a range of upcoming APIs through the Open CDE (Common Data Environment) initiative. The most known is the BCF (BIM Collaboration Format). In addition, there are new APIs being proposed and worked on, like the Open CDE Documents API. The latter will simplify uploading and downloading documents across different tools (we will leave the details of this for another post). Catenda takes an active part in these standardization groups. Relative to its size, Catenda is probably the company with the highest contributions to these Open APIs in the world.
These Open APIs defined across the industry make sure the various AECO tools can interoperate and exchange data securely and remotely. They also enable new ideas to be developed and changes to be proposed without depending on a central controlling authority, contributing to an innovative ecosystem.
What are APIs?
API stands for Application Programming Interface and defines a “contract” on how data is shared among systems. This creates a platform that enables programmers to extend and create new functionalities, by creating apps that use and combine these APIs in different ways.
Good APIs are like Lego blocks. Here are the similarities between them:
- Both are a product, which needs dedicated marketing and sales;
- Both have good documentation, with comprehensive instructions;
- Both are easy to get started with and “play around”;
- Both can be used to create new innovative solutions based on the same building blocks.
Catenda Hub (previously Bimsync) provides a wide range of APIs that can be used like Lego blocks to extend the system’s capabilities. Here are the main capabilities areas exposed in these APIs:
- Optimized 3D/2D Viewer;
- User, Project, and Documents;
- Models and Data;
- BCF API.
Moreover, these integrations use Catenda Hub (previously Bimsync)’s APIs and can be divided into three categories:
- Plugins: Revit, Navisworks, Solibri, Archicad;
- Collaboration extensions: Sharepoint, Dropbox, Slack;
- External app integrations: Dim10, VRex, Imerso, Viscenario.
All these applications working together create an ecosystem that is much more powerful and innovative than the individual pieces by themselves.
In summary, to evaluate an innovative Open CDE you should not forget to consider the commitment to Open Standards through the quality and breadth of their API offering.
Good and explicit Open APIs support means a good commitment to Open Standards. This makes sure you will have a central Common Data Environment (CDE) tool in place and a great platform for an application ecosystem that will naturally evolve and innovate.
Leonardo Cunha, CTO at Catenda.