From reality modelling and IoT sensors, to AI and simulation, Bentley is drawing on a vast portfolio of technologies to monitor infrastructure assets, such as dams, over time
Bentley is starting to carve out real niches in the AECO sector apply ing its broad portfolio of technol ogies to solve specific problems. – – In recent years, monitoring and inspection has become a big focus – assessing the health of a wide range of infrastructure assets from telecommunication towers and bridges to rail and dams.
Early solutions focused solely on photogrammetry, applying machine learning (ML) and object recognition to 3D reality meshes captured by drones. But through acquisition and investment, Bentley has been expanding the technologies that can contribute to the ‘digital twin’ from design to construction.
In 2021 Bentley acquired sensemetrics and Vista Data Vision, providers of software for Internet of Things (IoT) applications that allow digital twins to incorporate real-time sensor data. The tools support interfaces to hundreds of different sensors and related data types, including inclinometers, piezometers, strain gauges, crack meters, and many more.
These tools have now been integrated into Bentley’s iTwin platform in the form of a new product – iTwin IoT – that can be used to monitor, in real time, a range of environmental changes, such displacements, vibrations, deterioration, settlements and more; the idea being that any change on the condition of an asset can prompt interventions when necessary.
Bentley is now marrying iTwin IoT with iTwin Capture (a new product for capturing, analysing, and sharing reality data) to create two new solutions designed for real-time health monitoring – AssetWise Bridge Monitoring and AssetWise Dam Monitoring.
These solutions are not necessarily designed to eliminate in situ rope access inspections, but help consultants keep a close eye on the asset and develop a more informed inspection plan from the comfort of the office.
AssetWise Dam Monitoring employs a particularly diverse range of technologies, starting with the obligatory reality model captured by all manner of drones to create the foundation for a digital twin.
Early iterations of the product were able to use sensors to provide specific feedback about the dam, such as how much settlement was happening in a certain place or how much flow was causing pitting on the concrete. But, according to Santanu Das, chief acceleration officer, Bentley Systems, it was missing one big element, “We couldn’t predict where these cracks were, how deep the cracks were and what kind of crack propagation would cause problems in the future – the insights.”
Bentley looked to Niricson, a Canadian startup that had developed an AI-based predictive analytics SaaS platform designed to verify the structural integrity of concrete structures. The company has several hydro dam owners and engineering consulting firms as clients.
Rather than pursuing an acquisition, Bentley made an investment in Niricson through Bentley iTwin Ventures, a $100m corporate venture capital fund specifically set up to invest into AEC startups.
Niricson’s technology uses acoustic sensors on drones to go deep behind the concrete where the rebar is, then applies AI and ML to the reality model to figure out exactly where the spalling is happening. This is in stark contrast to traditional on-site methods, which leave a lot to interpretation, as Das explains, “Today, inspectors use a hammer, they listen for that void to see exactly where a lot of this delamination or cracking is happening.”
Armed with this information, engineering consultants can then precisely locate IoT sensors to monitor the dam moving more effectively forward.
With the open nature of the iTwin platform, data from Niricson’s Autospex software can then be fed into Bentley’s AssetWise Dam Monitoring product, then married with the reality model and sensemetric IoT data to see cracking analysis superimposed with temperature, displacement, vibrations and other metrics.
“An operator of a dam now has the ability to get information from disparate different repositories and sources under a single pane to look at some insights – exactly what’s happening to their asset,” says Das, adding that alerts can be set up to nofify operators if data from any monitoring source reaches a certain level.
Closing the loop
The story doesn’t end there. Bentley is also exploring how simulation can be used more effectively to study the future impact of cracks and other forms of degradation on dams and other concrete structures.
Bentley recently acquired Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software developer Adina, whose non-linear technology is well suited to analysing existing structures. “[Adina] shines when you have an asset, and this is how it really is – it’s degraded, it’s spalled, it’s cracked, it’s corroded. It can answer the question – what is the strength that remains?” said Raoul Karp, VP engineering simulation, Bentley Systems.
Results from simulations could be married up against data from sensors that have recorded the response of the structure over time. This allows the model to be calibrated more precisely so it can more accurately predict future events, and what needs to be done to minimise their impact, further closing the loop on the digital twin.