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Cautious welcome for technology vendors’ interoperability agreement

In BIM+ (see full 9 May 2024 article: Cautious welcome for Autodesk and Nemetschek interoperability deal), the GIIG (part of nima) has given a cautious welcome to the recent announcement by Autodesk and Nemetschek (both are nima patrons) that the two software vendors have entered an interoperability agreement.

Many digital construction professionals had welcomed the announcement, but others were less than impressed, their critical views born of experience. To seek a balanced view, BIMplus turned to GIIG consultant and nima vice-chair Paul Wilkinson for the group’s considered reaction.

In April 2023, the GIIG’s Delivering Valuable Data: An interoperability code of practice for technologies in the built and managed environment was launched at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London (see Interoperability Code of Practice launched). Drafted by a working group led by Wilkinson, this supports the whole-life information needs of industry clients. It also aims to enable the wider supply chain to manage their contractual information exchanges.

Open BIM

Wilkinson said: “The interesting thing about Autodesk making an announcement like this is that it’s not the first time they’ve done so. … They did, for example, announce an agreement with Bentley in 2008. And there was another one with Trimble about eight years later, and eight years further on we’ve seen this announcement with Nemetschek.

“From what I can see, they have been promoting Autodesk Platform Services, which is a set of tools that Autodesk uses to help create connected and open data models, helping businesses move away from documents and proprietary formats to make data more open, accessible and interoperable. So that’s obviously to be welcomed.

“Also the announcement talked about their ongoing commitment to open industry standards, such as openBIM by buildingSmart International. Nima incorporates the UK and Ireland chapter of buildingSmart International, so there’s a good crossover with our ongoing activity there.”

New information management approach

The Autodesk/Nemetschek announcement comes at a time when the landscape around information management is evolving. Nima chair Anne Kemp is leading the Construction Industry Council task group that is reviewing the existing information management mandate (see March 2024 post: Opportunity to participate in the Information Management “Mandate” Review). Meanwhile, the earliest 19650 standards are set to be reviewed. The UK BIM Framework is also set to evolve in tandem with these developments.

In light of these, Wilkinson said: “We would love Autodesk and Nemetschek to have inputs to that mandate process, perhaps, to get engaged in a workshop with the interoperability code of practice community. That way we could we could find out the extent to which the two firms’ agreement supports the principles of the code of practice and its definition of interoperability.

“It would also give them an opportunity to explain how their initiative helps them achieve some of the technical requirements relating to the principles. The code has underpinning principles: longevity, security, information value, information ownership, and competition.

“It would be interesting, for example, to understand how Autodesk and Nemetschek envision their initiative meeting the code requirements for open APIs (that’s one of the technical requirements of the code of practice) and how far the initiative enables competition between vendors, including those outside such agreements. That’s an area where we’d welcome a bit of enlightenment from Autodesk and Nemetschek.”  

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