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Open Standards are the building blocks for interoperability and vendor neutrality

When it comes to data related to the built environment, we cannot ignore the lack of uniformity: file and data formats are offered in various variants. The software landscape for the design, construction and management of built assets is vast and there are lots of excellent tools out there for all kinds of professionals. But more often than not these tools come with their own proprietary data formats which work very well for a selected few but become an obstacle when you want to scale-up with a wider group of people. And this while you usually deal with a large group of stakeholders during a construction project.


Due to the fragmented nature of the construction industry it is already difficult to ensure proper data flow between different stakeholders but using proprietary formats creates even stronger silos which make the whole process inefficient and unnecessarily complex.


That's where the danger lurks. Communication is so much easier when we speak the same language. This is where open standards come in. Open Standards are openly accessible, usable by anyone and maintained through collaborative efforts and a consensus-driven approach. Open data standards are vital for ensuring better collaboration and accessibility of data.


Future Insight is an avid supporter of open standards and we have built all our solutions with full support of open standards both in BIM (IFC, IDS, openBIM) and GIS (CityGML, 3D Tiles). The standards have matured, the technology for using them is there. You don’t need to support a million proprietary closed formats but you do need to demand the use of open formats.



Open standards = open market

It is especially important for public clients in public design and construction projects to demand open standards. This is one way to make sure public money is used efficiently and in the best interests of the market.


The EU BIM Task Group has emphasized the importance of openBIM in a position paper sent to European Commission in 2021. Similar position papers and open letters have also been issued by European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC), Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE) and the European Federation of Engineering Consultancy Associations (EFCA) which all highlight the importance of vendor neutrality and open standards.


By using open standards you support an open competitive software market where you have the freedom to choose the best tools for the job without any fear of vendor lock-in or lost data.


Focus on open standards, not open “everything”

Using open standards doesn’t automatically translate to “open data”. Data can hold a lot of value and makes up an integral part of a business model. You don’t want to just give it away openly to anyone. That is why it is important to highlight that you can license and commercialize your data in open standards. Making data sharable and accessible on a technical level does not limit or restrict you in business. On the contrary, this will allow you to more easily deliver value to your customers by making your data more accessible.


Clearly.HUB, the Open Urban Platform, which Future Insight is developing, has been explicitly developed for this purpose - to connect users with the data and services they need to do their work better. Data stays with the source and is shared via open standards.


Governments often focus too much on the requirement of “open source code” when developing or implementing e-services. Although this sounds like a reasonable thing to do with public money, it often ends up costing more and creates complications regarding software maintenance, security and future development. SaaS solutions on the other hand are much easier and cost-efficient to manage because the vendor takes care of the maintenance and development while the costs are distributed among all software clients.


Utilizing commercial SaaS solutions that use open standards gives you the best of both worlds - assuring vendor neutrality and giving you most value for your money.


 

This article is written by Jaan Saar, Chief Evangelist of Clearly.BIM at Future Insight. Jaan has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry. He has helped both commercial and public organizations to implement digital tools to make processes more efficient and human-centric. He is a strong proponent for openBIM and international open standards because they enable better collaboration among all stakeholders in the building lifecycle.

 

For more information about this article, contact Jaan Saar:

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