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Data Silos are a Thing of the Past

How the research project SCOPE aims to overcome digitalisation barriers and achieve cross-discipline data networking.

Compared to other branches of industry, digitalisation in construction is proceeding quite slowly. It has become clear, that the difficulty to implement data networking – across all disciplines and trades – is one of the biggest hurdles. “Unfortunately, digitalisation in the construction sector has so far not resulted in the desired increase in efficiency. The problem, however, is not the large number of actors involved in a construction project, but rather the fact that the respective processes principally cannot be mapped in software systems isolated from each other. We urgently need functioning data networking solutions that involve all sectors,” explains Wendelin Sprenger, who, as Project Manager of the SCOPE research project, is working together with a sixteen-member project consortium dedicated to exactly this problem.

Process and software – a challenge

Things are easier in industries where automatisation plays a greater role: sequential processes, e.g., for assembly lines, lend themselves much better for digitalisation, as it is easier to isolate their individual tasks. In construction, on the other hand, processes generally tend not to take place one after the another, but simultaneously. In addition, the sector is dominated by different software programmes which, due to the insular nature of their data silos, hardly allow for information networking: and this despite the fact that networkable digitalisation technologies have long since been established on the World Wide Web.

Technologies which would also be tailor-made for the construction industry. Using them and creating web-based structures to overcome digitalisation barriers – that is the explicit aim of SCOPE. All the components of a digital building twin are reproduced independently of any software and can be addressed via web interfaces.If it succeeds, it will mean that all the digitalisation activities required on behalf of all companies, disciplines and trades involved in the process of creating the building twin can then be carried out independently of one another but can still be networked. It would, of course, be necessary for all contents to be made available based on the same technical parameters, i.e., using the same server structure and the same data scheme.

“In our research project, we try to avoid specifying any terms or classifications for the representation of information, simply creating a structure in which information can be provided and processed – as is the case with the Internet,” explains Sprenger. Descriptions of building elements originally contained in the digital building twin can thus be outsourced to the website of the building element manufacturer, for example, where they can be addressed by different building twins at any time.

In the first eight months of the project, the project consortium succeeded in reproducing the first complete component descriptions in the World Wide Web for-mats RDF and OWL. For this purpose, the functionalities of the core geometry open-CASCADE were transferred to addressable web structures. The SCOPE team has also carried out first successful application trials in the course of which it has been able to reproduce the rough framework of the group’s Z3 building in Stuttgart.

Access rights management system in development

Another focus of the SCOPE project lies in the development of a universal access rights management system that is indispensable for cross-company data administration. “The companies involvedshould be able to connect their systems independently. At the same time, we offer them a basic structure for web hosting that they may use for data storage without requiring any development efforts of their own,” says Sprenger.

In the long run, a kind of data web can be created from the project results, which allows any likability and addressability of all information relevant for the construction project. At present, the data silos of the software programs involved prevent cross-discipline data evaluation, but some of the applications can be synchronised with the data web via programming interfaces (APIs). These development steps are already part of the SCOPE research project, too.

SCOPE at a glance

Name: SCOPE – Semantic Construction Project Engineering

Partners: Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (project coordination), Ed. Züblin AG, Institute for Numeric Methods and Informatics in Civil Engineering of the Technical University of Darmstadt

Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy Logo
Sponsored by Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy

Duration: June 2018 to May 2021