TechInvest was recently given an exclusive opportunity to sit with Bentley Systems co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Keith Bentley.
As someone who has seen his company grow from virtually a family business in 1984 to a position where Bentley now has more than 3,000 colleagues in over 50 countries, more than US$600 million in annual revenues, since 2009 has invested more than US$1 billion in research, development, and acquisitions and is now a key partner with the likes of Microsoft and Siemens, Keith Bentley has been right at the coalface of the development of industry leading collaborative software solutions.
In our interview with Keith, we asked for his opinion on what he sees as being the key drivers for technology development over the next 10 years.
As one of the early supporters and innovators with Cloud technology, it was no surprise that he highlighted the huge opportunities the Cloud provides and also pointed to Machine Learning as another area that will have a major bearing on business and individuals.
“We have automated pieces and we have made each individual in the process more efficient, but I think that people are now looking forward to a world where it is not just the pieces that are optimised, but the whole,” Mr Bentley told TechInvest.
“Everyone is absolutely fascinated by the idea that with the computer, instead of you telling it something, you ask it something and it will tell you what you should have thought of.
“So I am sure the answer 10 years from now will be some optimisation of the process enabled by studying past trends and learning from what succeeds versus what doesn’t, and the issues that may cause litigation, how to mitigate safety risks and those kinds of things that today, of course they are considered, but it’s all about a human or a company’s job to say optimise your part of this to make sure we don’t have any safety violations.”
So now people say we would like to think of the output of that process as being a single database, for want of a better word, a connected system of integrated information that can be quarried so that you could find stuff in it quickly and also fed to downstream processes for trying to analyse it for finding patterns.”
Keith Bentley says the best way of introducing new technology and ideas to industry is often to take a softly, softly approach.
“Most CIOs are risk adverse, they don’t want to change anything but they are all petrified that the competition will learn it quicker and then they will be at a competitive disadvantage, so they are somewhat perplexed and wonder how do I get there from here.
“So one of the challenges for vendors like us when we are trying to innovate is how to improve the overall process by changing incrementally so you don’t end up scaring off the customer.
“For example, suppose we invented a whole new system for designing an asset and the only thing you had to do was tell the customer to throw out all of their old data, start again, re-train all of their people, and if you could do that we would promise you that the outcome would be incrementally better. However, the risk of if it not working, means that no-one would ever try it.
“So starting from where we are, and getting to the new world is a challenge, and every technology company is trying to innovate around the new opportunities in the Cloud.
“The Cloud provides an advantage from the technology providers perspective in that, you know we can write programs that take huge amounts of resources but we don’t have to sell it to someone and say you need to buy enough computers to run this program, and we can say you don’t have to buy the software at all, we will run it for you.
“So the business of being a technology provider is changing because of the technology evolution. Like who would have thought the Cloud, the concept of a vast sea of available computers, would materialise when at one time all we were trying to do was make a single computer faster on an individual’s desk. Ten years ago, you know that was state-of-the-art.
“The challenge for technology vendors is to try to innovate in new worlds mostly centred around machine learning and cloud computing and we need to get there in an incremental way where people will say we will try a little bit of this and if we can get a little bit of value, then we will continue to do it,” he told TechInvest.
That approach was certainly borne out in two of Bentley’s recently announced new services.
A very excited Keith Bentley made a very rare stage appearance at Bentley’s recent Year In Innovation event in Singapore when he introduced the company’s “iModel 2.0” cloud platform and its first new service, iModelHub, which he says will accelerate “going digital” for users of its ProjectWise Design Integration services.
“With our ‘iModel 2.0’ cloud platform, I foresee an accelerating ecosystem of innovation for true digital workflows around infrastructure assets,” Keith Bentley told the Singapore gathering.
“To get there, our first priority has been to make possible substantial improvements in infrastructure project delivery and asset performance outcomes, without needing to change current BIM workflows.
“iModelHub cloud services provide the solution for many infrastructure engineering challenges where BIM modeling has created the potential for advancement, but where information misalignment has limited its value. Indeed, we have engineered the iModel 2.0 cloud platform to instill digital alignment, change-based accountability and synchronisation, and immersive visibility as its core tenants.
“The best news is that ProjectWise Design Integration users can set up their iModel Bridges to connect to iModelHub without retraining users or changing their existing applications or work processes – and without introducing any risk to their projects. If nothing else, the value of change-based visualisation through Navigator Web will prove so indispensable, I predict most organisations will never want to do another project without it.”
Another new offering announced by Bentley in Singapore is its ProjectWise CONNECT Edition cloud services, powered by Microsoft Azure.
The Azure-based services complement the ProjectWise Design Integration service, the proven workhorse for work-sharing across collaborating engineering teams – which can be deployed on-premises, as a cloud service, or in any hybrid combination.