Hatch provides engineering, project and construction, business advisory and operations services to the mining, metals, energy and infrastructure sectors.
Maurice Tayeh is the global CIO of Hatch and the inspiration and energy behind AssetXR. This virtual reality solution manages projects through planning, review and execution by design and engineering teams in different offices. AssetXR was made possible with the help and expertise of Infosys, a leader in digital services and consulting.
Bridging the physical and digital world
Hatch projects involve several engineering disciplines: civil for foundations and structures, mechanical for motors, compressors and pumps, electrical for motors and transformers, and chemical for materials and liquids. Projects could be a processing plant, a refinery or a railway bridge.
Hatch needed the ability to conduct immersive design reviews with contractors, customers, and employees. Traditionally, a project review involved twenty to thirty people flying to a central location and congregating for two weeks. The same group of people were repeating the review exercise a month later – a cumbersome and tedious way to conduct project reviews that wasn’t even possible during the pandemic.
Infosys has developed a cloud-based virtual reality (VR) solution for Hatch that would allow it to perform design reviews while fully immersed in virtual design. The solution uses headsets such as Microsoft HoloLens and HTC Vive. I reviewed Microsoft’s second-generation HoloLens augmented reality headset here.
Another requirement was the ability to review project progress over time.
Infosys selected for its prior knowledge in immersive technologies
Infosys was named a partner in this project primarily due to its previous experience in immersive technologies. Infosys used the Infosys Metaverse foundry. The Infosys Metaverse Foundry is essentially the collective knowledge of Infosys business domains combined with immersive design expertise. The Infosys Metaverse Foundry also includes strong relationships with the partner ecosystem, including Microsoft Azure.
A digital twin cuts review time from weeks to hours
A digital twin is a three-dimensional virtual model that accurately mirrors the physical asset. The digital twin helps visualize the asset, track changes, and perform analysis over time.
Digital twins receive continuous updates with physical asset data with multiple inputs, including Internet of Things (IoT), sensors, drones, cameras, light detection and ranging ( LiDAR) and point clouds.
A scatter plot is a plot of an object in 3D space. For example, in a building scanned with a laser beam, each position of virtual X, Y, and Z coordinates would represent a real point on the wall.
The Bentley iTwin platform is the foundation of the solution. The iTwin platform is an open platform specifically designed for infrastructure digital twins consisting of APIs and libraries for infrastructure assets.
The Microsoft Azure cloud hosts the solution. Bentley Systems has a close alliance with Microsoft combining Microsoft’s Azure IoT Digital Twins and Azure Maps with Bentley Systems’ iTwins platform.
The frontend is a custom application developed using Unity3d, a game engine. The server serves content using Google Protocol Buffer over a WebSocket, providing continuous communication between the server and the Unity application.
As mentioned earlier, Hatch also wanted to project a simulation to see how the project progressed, essentially adding the fourth dimension of time. The 4D time dimension is part of digital workflows. Inputs such as construction strategy, work breakdown structure, schedule, costs, resources, supply chain logistics, progress and construction variables (humans, materials, equipment, works temporary and space) would drive predictable project delivery performance.
As changes occur in schedule and field conditions, the solution provides visibility into project data and design, making it quick and easy to communicate and analyze the impact of changes throughout the project delivery process. Users can compare construction strategies to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of different scenarios, deriving information about the best possible construction outcomes.
Depending on the access permission, the user will see a list of projects. Upon selecting a project, the user can load the 3D model associated with that project, browse, hover, and teleport to different locations on the 3D model to perform a design review at 1:1 scale.
We’re only scratching the surface of the potential of immersive technology. Just think back to bulky cellphones compared to our smartphones today to get an idea of what will be possible.
One of the challenges is getting comfortable with the glasses without feeling claustrophobic. I was one of the first people to publicly use Microsoft’s HoloLens. It took us a while to get there, but the glasses will become less bulky in the future. If Apple enters the fray probably next year, I think we’ll see the market kick into high gear.
The immersive industry is still emerging, with companies developing on-the-fly processes with a standardized BOM and workflow still in the making. With the Hatch sample, you can see the combination of new ways of working with traditional video, animation, and game workflows.
The economic benefits demonstrated by this example and many other use cases are compelling. Today’s products developed in one location are rare, with globally distributed design being the norm. The recent trend towards working from home further adds to the challenge of effective collaboration between design teams. Bringing teams together reduces the time it takes to get everyone together in one room, eliminates travel costs and time wasted due to travel, and enables issues to be addressed and resolved quickly.
Hatch essentially uses technology to improve time to market for customers. Presumably being able to show and tell also improves the customer experience, as one of the unintended consequences of the project was to present Hatch’s sales team with a way to differentiate themselves in the marketplace from the competition !
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