What a common visualisation environment means for data integration and collaboration

For decades, across almost all industries, including civil infrastructure, data sets have been siloed by department or function, hindering cross-project collaboration. 

Now, finally, civil infrastructure and construction are moving towards a one-data-environment world that is now a possibility.

We’ll walk you through how, by taking a one data-led platform approach that integrates with your tools, the process of data collection, accessibility, visualisation and understanding becomes easier—where you can have all project data at your fingertips.

What is data integration?

With the explosion of data, sources, use cases and tools to manage data, it can be difficult to get the clarity required to make the right decisions with confidence. Data is worth nothing if it just sits there, and housing it in different places and systems can lead to largely disjointed processes and practices.

Not only does data need to be made accessible to those who need it before its full potential can be achieved, but it needs to be integrated so information can be leveraged that would otherwise be hidden. Doing so can help increase communication between departments, help streamline operations, improve decision-making, and overall increase productivity. Without a single view of everything, we are limited with the data-led decisions we make.  

The integration of data involves combining key data residing in different sources and providing users with a unified view—all in one common visualization platform. A Common Visualisation Environment (CVE), presented in our platform, means that not only can data be located in one realm, as a Common Data Environment (CDE) already does, but the data can be visualised within the project environment. For example, proposed CAD plans can be overlaid on top of your site scan data so that plans can be seen in situ. 

A CVE becomes significant, particularly in civil infrastructure and construction, where the traditional supply chain has been historically disjointed, yet outcomes against plan and policy are so critical. To surface information and get to the right answers faster should be at the core of any platform to ensure data, analytics and information work best for you and stakeholders across the supply chain.

While some information systems or point solutions of today have been good at storing and recording information, such as project schedules, designs, plans, financial numbers (such as costs and invoices), as well as employee details, they address basic needs and have been limited in their ability to understand and contextualise data to any great level that helps us really make beneficial changes to the way we work.

In Sensat’s recent snapshot poll questioning civil infrastructure professionals on the status of their data integration, all of the respondents identified that they struggled to integrate data and systems effectively and currently held their data in several variations, be it physical site plans or spreadsheets. Through the use of an integrated platform, users would be able to generate valuable insights to help solve problems across the asset lifecycle.

Rewards of a CVE 

A common visualisation solution can deliver trusted data from various sources and systems to one place to support data decisions and keep up with growing data volumes and day-to-day business demands. Therefore, the ultimate goal of data integration is to be able to access one platform to generate valuable and usable information to help solve problems and gain new insights.

The rewards gained from unifying data into a common visualisation platform can and will help access untapped information from within the data sets, eliminating data silos between departments, integrating legacy systems and merging databases between partners. 

Data integration can help to make sense of all the data that is encapsulated within your organisation, whether the data is generated internally, cross-functionally or collected externally. Consolidating data can help bring proprietary, legacy data into new systems that can easily be accessed by any team member.

In removing data variations and creating a structured data platform in a CVE, you will be able to find data more easily, analyze patterns, and make sense of it much more efficiently meaning you can “Create once, deliver to many”. 

By creating a central data source, data users within a project can access the same information helping to reduce the number of questions asked, increase the speed of data access, and limit the possibility of having erroneous replicated data. Not only does this add value by saving time and money, data integration is also useful for much larger projects and processes improving business intelligence, decision-making, and data maintenance.

Integration = collaboration

By integrating your site data into one CVE where data can be visualised, teams are able to better collaborate using site data. 

In recent years, the way we communicate and collaborate has evolved, particularly since the pandemic. Previously where most project managers and teams would have been required to be on-site to communicate with project partners, now, with a CVE, anybody from anywhere can be a part of the conversation on-site or remotely, supporting clearer communication channels and collaboration, and greater productivity. 

As a cloud-based system, a CVE provides democratized access and visualisation to everybody working on the project. By creating a secure online environment, teams can communicate on project changes, make decisions and see issues emerging before it’s too late, with the ability to notify one another and solve them—all completely digitally without setting a foot on-site.

For example, health and safety in construction remains a key challenge for the industry. The hazards for workers are many and varied across different phases of the project. Those hazards exposed to surveyors—from environmental or process/activity such as vehicle or machinery movement to dangerous substances, high structures or structure stability, adverse weather conditions and more—have traditionally made lengthy risk assessments a requirement. Technological innovations such as the use of drones to capture topographical site data mean that surveyors don’t necessarily need to be on-site or in dangerous areas to acquire data, making accessing it safer and easier, especially in hard-to-reach areas. This, in turn, makes collaboration on otherwise lengthy risk assessments that much easier, as it can be done remotely and speed up data collection from months to hours.

Likewise, collaborative platforms can also connect the site with the office. So no matter where you are you can share and visualise annotations or markups to make decisions faster. 

Companies are already experimenting with smart devices to enable workers to be more fully connected. In the future we’ll see more online/onsite collaboration, whether it’s being able to access up-to-date installation manuals, share videos or images from a wearable camera or sign-off documents, a connected workforce will improve workflow, quality and interdependence while avoiding costly mistakes.

As the construction industry continues towards a more data-led, digital future, the adoption of technologies such as the CVE, will be the difference between propelling business forward or falling behind. 

Check out our eBook where we deep dive into what each of the states looks like today and what they should look like tomorrow. Alternatively, watch the third webinar in the series as Sensat’s data professionals explore states two and three: Data accessibility, visualisation & integration which features Sensat CEO, James Dean, giving a live demo of Sensat’s platform.

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