By James Creasy, VP of Engineering, SKUR
A common question we often hear early in a technical discussion around BIM software is “What file formats do you support?” The unexpected urgency of this question reveals an unexamined attraction to our technological past.
There was a time when file formats were indeed paramount, because one needed software that can read the files to access their content. This software usually had to be installed on each user’s workstation, creating a barrier of access to the reading functionality. In this environment, not having the right software installed meant you might be unable to read BIM data in certain formats. Installing the software often meant tracking down the install disks or worse, buying expensive per-seat licenses for proprietary products.
Today, we no longer have these limitations. These days a company like SKUR bundles readers for dozens of formats in a scalable, universally accessible compute resource hosted in the cloud. This makes SKUR effectively agnostic to file formats. No longer siloed on difficult-to-maintain machines under people’s desks, a web page can funnel uploaded files to scalable readers of multiple formats. These readers digest the various formats into our internal data format.
I say “data format”, but in reality, our internal representation is far more flexible and expressive than a mere conversion to a different format. The same mindset that elevated the perceived importance of file formats also elevated the importance of software for converting between formats. When the data-at-rest has to be in a particular file format, it follows we create a dependence on file format converters. There is no such requirement today, and so SKUR’s internal data format is better described as just “data”.
Now that we have freed data from a file format, we can use more powerful and flexible means to manage that data, such as databases. The challenges of 3D sensor and BIM data requires modern database techniques to manage effectively: a topic for a future blog article.
Similar to ingest, an array of file format writers are centrally available to express BIM data from our data sources into specific file formats when needed.In the cases where SKUR’s analytic data is needed in a design environment, be it from AutoDesk, Intergraph, Trimble, or others, we simply call the correct writer and the user can download their results in that file format.
SKUR also visualizes data directly in the browser, eliminating the need to download anything. For the more sophisticated integrations, users can query our always-available external API to get SKUR’s Reality Analytics in an on-demand basis.
While SKUR can be agnostic at a high level to file formats, we do understand different formats offer different capabilities. Making the most of these differences is also in SKUR’s mission, so look for future articles discussing these as well. However, the clear meaning of cloud-architected products such as SKUR means the consolidation of code for reading and writing different BIM formats, which breaks down traditional technological barriers and brings the advantages of transparent interoperability to the BIM community.