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The Bentley Systems evolution

The Bentley Systems evolution

At Bentley Systems’ recent Illuminate event in Sydney, industry leaders from the construction sector converged for a glimpse of the future of infrastructure intelligence.

A standout moment was the keynote address by Mike Campbell, chief product officer at Bentley Systems (Bentley), who not only addressed the pressing challenges facing the industry, but also spotlighted the transformative opportunities presented by cutting-edge technologies, particularly artificial intelligence (AI).

Inside Construction had the chance to sit down with Campbell, delving into Bentley’s evolution as a solution provider and uncovering the key technology trends poised to shape the sector.

In his keynote, he categorised the industry’s challenges into four areas: complexity, resource scarcity, population growth and climate change.

“These issues are central to many of today’s conversations, as was evident at Illuminate, involving construction and engineering firms, as well as asset owners,” said Campbell. “While it’s not necessarily about doing more with less, it’s clear that more needs to be done.”

Campbell highlighted the substantial project backlogs burdening many companies, with recent studies indicating backlogs of 30 to 40 per cent.

“It’s important to recognise that delivering these projects isn’t solely about enhancing business or profits; it’s essential so that we, as citizens of the planet, can thrive. This profound existential aspect should not be underplayed.”

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He also underscored the complexities surrounding workflow, data management and inefficiencies, which compound the primary challenges and require urgent action.

“As the chief product officer at a software company, I recognise the pivotal role of technology, particularly AI, in addressing these industry challenges,” said Campbell.

Reflecting on Bentley’s four-decade history and the profound impact of technology on various aspects of life, Campbell highlighted AI’s potential in leveraging vast amounts of data. He views AI, and Bentley itself, as integral to solving industry problems.

“Our expectation is that we utilise AI to drive meaningful value, increase productivity, eliminate inefficiencies and generate better answers for the challenges that infrastructure engineers, contractors and owner-operators face,” he explained. “Either we, as software vendors, are going to leverage AI to get to the next level, or somebody else will, and we’ll be left behind.”

He urged engineering and construction firms, as well as asset owners, to view AI in the same way – as a phenomenal opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

While Bentley has been advancing capabilities and supporting projects with AI for several years, particularly in computer vision and anomaly detection, generative AI is the beginning of another transformative solution.

“This is the current focus of our research, as I mentioned in my keynote at Illuminate,” said Campbell. “We are just beginning to unveil this part of our strategy, and the feedback has been very positive.”

“We’re receiving feedback from many of our clients indicating that they see generative AI as having significant potential to enhance productivity, automate mundane tasks and facilitate knowledge reuse.”

Campbell anticipates that by this time next year, Bentley will have introduced new technology in this domain. Over the next five to ten years, he expects AI, cloud technology and an improved user experience to be key trends.

“Today, there are many examples in infrastructure engineering where work is done locally on laptops and data is stored in individually managed data centres,” said Campbell.

He acknowledged that while performance, network latency, graphics capabilities and security have historically favoured this approach, these considerations are evolving. He does not envision a complete shift to web-based operations in the next five to ten years but notes a continued reliance on desktop computers for certain tasks, especially as more AI is integrated.

Nevertheless, he stressed that embracing the industry’s challenges and devising solutions – such as improving collaboration, stakeholder involvement and data integration and orchestration – will depend heavily on cloud infrastructure.

“So, I expect increasing adoption of cloud technology,” said Campbell. “While cybersecurity threats continue to rise, so does the security of cloud infrastructure.”

Another significant trend is an increasingly engaging user experience. In the past, engineering software providers could justify complex user interfaces, but today’s users have different expectations, influenced by their everyday experiences with smartphones and various software products.

“Software is all around us,” said Campbell. “Whether it’s managing expenses, organising a birthday party or conducting structural analyses on a bridge, users increasingly expect intuitive interfaces and seamless interactions.”

“This shift is already underway and extends beyond the user interface to the entire user journey, from accessing software to interacting with it.

“Additionally, considerations such as device form factors – whether laptops, large monitors, mobile devices or VR headsets – are increasingly important. We are just beginning to understand how these factors will impact the overall user experience. We’re at the cusp of this transformation.”

At the forefront of these industry developments, Bentley is keeping pace with the rapidly changing landscape through the release of groundbreaking technologies. However, the core of the company’s evolution lies in its client relationships. Supporting many of the world’s largest contractors and construction projects, Bentley has placed a growing emphasis on intimacy, understanding and engagement with its customers.

Campbell highlighted that this evolving strategy ensures Bentley remains aligned with the needs of its customers, the construction, infrastructure and engineering sectors, and society as a whole. This alignment enables Bentley to present effective solutions to challenges such as complexity, resource scarcity, population growth and climate change.

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