The 2018 midterm elections are over, and the split U.S. Congress will need to find ways to work together to accomplish goals that benefit the American people. Historically, infrastructure is one of those issues that can get buy-in from both sides of the political aisle—Democrats and Republicans—because an investment in the nation’s infrastructure often equates to an investment in its future economic success. President Trump has made some big promises, but the Federal Government’s next move in infrastructure investment remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, in the private sector, businesses are investing in technology that can advance infrastructure design, construction, and operations. Bentley Systems, a provider of software solutions to the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) industry, at the Year in Infrastructure 2018 Conference in October, announced the release of its iModel.js library, which helps developers and IT professionals create immersive applications that connect infrastructure digital twins with the rest of their digital worlds. The unique open-source initiative improves the accessibility of infrastructure digital twins in terms of both visualization and analytical visibility.

Bentley says its collection of JavaScript packages builds on popular, open, and flexible standards for cloud and Web development, and it’s designed to help users easily create a Web-based experience that shows “interactive ‘nD’ views” (i.e., 1D, 2D, 3D, 4D views) of iModels that are assembled from BIM (building information modeling) files and other digital engineering models. Importantly, these views can also include digital context and leverage realtime sensor data or other data from enterprise sources and analytics.

What might this release mean for infrastructure at large? The iModel.js library gives users the ability to work with complex project information in a way that’s accessible, extendable to the cloud and contextualized to a 3D model. It also allows for flexibility, as changes inevitably come up as a project moves from start to finish. Someday, these types of data-enhanced insights will inform all future infrastructure projects from start to finish.

By improving project management, IoT (Internet of Things)-enabled technologies can help maximize the use of resources and simultaneously reduce waste, for instance, by nipping site problems in the bud. The use of technology tools during the design and build phases of an infrastructure project can also improve the lasting operations after the completion of a project. A smooth digital handover can mean years of seamless operations and maintenance for the project owner, even long after construction is complete.

While many citizens and government officials agree that America’s infrastructure needs investment, the path to improvement isn’t always clear-cut. Funds must come from somewhere, and there are plenty of demands on Americans’ tax dollars, ranging from the building, repair, and upkeep of roads and bridges to national defense and Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs. However, technological innovation applied to infrastructure construction projects in the design, build, and operation stages of a project’s lifecycle can help tax dollars go further, ultimately boosting project performance in several key ways, including time to completion, total cost, worker safety, and job quality.

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