Spin-offs, plugins, themes and other stuff build on top of BIMserver by third party developers.

In the spotlight: BIM as a Service

There are many many spin-offs of BIMserver products. Some really large BIM software product use BIMserver as their backend without anyone seeing it. You might even been using BIMserver without noticing. Since there are so many we cannot advertise all of them, and really don’t like to favor one.

But there is one special one. Just recently “BIM as a Service” came online. All of a sudden. Also for us out of the blue. We just want to stress that we are nót affiliated in any way with this initiative. The reason why they are in this blog is  because they just  seem to get it. They understand.

“BIM as a Service” is a product from Mitra Innovations. An international company with a great track record in online services. Mitra combined WSO2 and BIMserver to build the BIMaaS product. They published a paper on how they did that.

The nice thing about BIMaaS is that they don’t centralize BIM and don’t try to get everyone on one island to collaborate. We’ve been supporters of that concept for a while now. BIMaaS uses the power of WSO2 to link to excising/legacy systems in your organization. The BIM data is ‘just’ another data source. Great vision that we fully support and share.

To top off, BIMaaS is open source and publicly available. This means the guys from Mitra also understand where their added value is and work according to a great business model.

All in all a message that we thought deserved to be in the spotlight. Have a look at www.bimaas.uk


BIMserver isn’t BIMserver anymore: 5 years of quality focused BIM innovation

revision In October 2008 we started to build a ‘simple BIMserver’. Everybody told us it was impossible to store IFC in a central database and have multiple AEC project partners connect ‘live’  to that database. But nobody could tell us why that was impossible. In the margin of a research project about Augmented Reality, we decided to do some experiments to find out what the fuzz was all about. We found that indeed due to the nature of IFC (a network structure) it was very difficult, but with lots of creativity and intelligent programmers we managed to have a proof of concept at the end of 2008.

And then something strange happened. We actually published it under an open source license to share the knowledge. Something very ‘undone’ in our industry. We anticipated this would stir up things in the BIM world, but we couldn’t imagine it would have such a huge impact as it has today, almost 5 years later.

Lot’s of things happened in these 5 years and because we had the luxury not to have the requirement to make a profit with BIMserver, we could focus on the quality of the software. Our goal always was, and still is to help others make a profit with BIMserver. Today, BIMserver is seen as a solid start for others to build on. And many others take the benefit of the strong foundation that BIMserver is. There are many people that make a living with BIMserver ‘under the hood’ of their software.

We started with the idea that BIMserver would be the central point of contact of all AEC partners. Thanks to good research and feedback from the industry we now know that working with aspect models and federated data is much more effective. Somewhere along the way BIMserver transformed into a plugin driven framework with lots of other developers hooking in. It is not a surprise that we joined the open source BIM collective to make a strong fist for innovative BIM solutions.  At the moment we feel the good times for open source BIM and BIMserver are yet to come. We have a strong believe in the federated BIM concept and the BIMSie standard. More and more commercial spin offs are starting and we thing we are at the verge of a new business model for BIM and BIM software. We are very excited and look forward to a bright future for the AEC industry!

New version of BIM Surfer and integration in BIMserver platform

The BIM Surfer project is, just like BIMserver.org, part of the open source BIM collective. It is developing an open source WebGL viewer for BIM models based on open standards (for now only IFC). The project was an initiative from our team, but created by Rehno Lindeque. Due to several reasons there was not a lot of progress at BIM Surfer, until some guys from Vienna picked it up. During the Google Summer of Code students worked on improving BIM Surfer with cool new features. The most visual ones are the two sliders. You can see all about it in de youtube movie below. There are also numerous other improvements. Read all about it on github.
The BIMserver.org team, in close collaboration with MOST and TUWien, is working hard on the integration of this new viewer with BIMserver. We are using the new JSON interface to interact with BIM Surfer and load the objecttypes one by one to speed up the loading time. More info will be available in our new beta release which is coming up in a couple of weeks.

UPDATE November 13: Integration with BIMserver platform.

The BIMserver.org team has intensified the communication between the open source BIM Surfer viewer and the BIMserver.org platform. The ‘get model from server’ now works, and there is much more user feedback with progress bars and partial loading of models. Have a look at the video above.

New query language BimQL

Recently Wiet Mazairac from Eindhoven University of Technology has presented his new developed ‘open Building Information Model Query Language’ BimQL. Wiet used the open source BIMserver core to test and develop his query language and expressed the wish to integrate the BimQL work into BIMserver.org. In a close collaboration the core team at TNO created a new plugin type for Query Languages. Wiet used that to create the first Query plugin for BIMserver.org. It will be in the next (beta) release available for testing. We like to urge that this is a first result of a new initiative. Interested participants are welcome to join this effort. More information can be found in the white paper, on the website www.bimql.org (including examples), or the source code for the plugin on github.

COBie and BIMserver find each other (even more)

We are very enthousiastic and proud to announce that the first external plug-in for BIMserver 1.1 is a COBie import/export plug-in . From the 1.0 release to the 1.1 release of BIMserver, some major changes have been made in the code structure. From the ‘one big chunk of code’ that 1.0 was, we grew into an agile open framework with a stable plug-in infrastructure. The idea behind this is to enhance and stimulate the development of plug-ins, add-ons and extensions to the BIMserver platform. In the coming months more extensions and plug-ins created by other organizations will be made available for BIMserver, but in this blog post we would like to create some attention for the first plug-in that was made by the US army corps of engineers. The plug-in we are talking about is actually two plug-ins: a COBie serialiser and a COBie deserialiser (import and export).
Advanced and fanatic BIMserver users will probably note that the COBie export was already in the 1.0 release (thanks to Nick Nisbet) and that would be correct. In the new 1.1 release, a plug-in for COBie will be available in the new plug-in infrastructure. The big advantage of this new plug-in is that it is build to directly interface the BIMserver core. This makes the performance much higher. Another advantage for the development teams is the complete split between the BIMserver core/framework and the COBie plug-ins. In practice this means that the COBie plug-ina and BIMserver can (will) have separate update sequences.

The COBie plug-in is still under development and has some disclaimers, but we believe in its great potential. For more information about this plug-in you can contact Bill East.

More plug-ins from teams outside the core BIMserver-team will be available on short notice. We will keep you up to date about them on this blog and on extend.BIMserver.org.

The release of BIMserver 1.1 (final) is planned for the first quarter of 2012. A developers beta is already available.

Quick note on the ‘common BIM files’

Just a short and quick note about the ‘common BIM files‘. Some websites are mentioning that they are on BIMserver.org, but this is not the case. Read the original, full story about the common BIM files on http://www.buildingsmartalliance.org/index.php/projects/commonbimfiles

As you will notice, the BuildingSMART alliance has used the BIMserver.org software to create a special (unsupported) version of BIMserver.org to support COBie data exchange. This feature will probably be in the next official BIMserver release as well. More on this in our next blogpost (in a few days).

For those of you who visit this site for the first time and want to know more about the BIMserver.org initiative, feel free to see what our users think of the project: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4-BIYP4jDs

Changing the license: moving in opposite directions

It was an open secret in the BIMserver developing community, but now we are going public with this announcement: there are some license changes in the source code. The core and some serializers of BIMserver.org are now Affero GPL licensed. Most projects stay in the GPLv3 license. There will be some binary builds that are dual licensed LGPL and Affero.

These changes are inherent to the changes in the structure of BIMserver. As most of you know our vision to BIMserver.org is to create a stable, reliable but also open kernel to use in the AEC industry. By publishing the core under Affero license, the improvements are more likely to flow back into the project. On the other hand, the LGPL binaries lower the threshold to use the BIMserver.org kernel in commercial software (beware, this only goes for the binaries).
For those of you who want details: the exact licenses are available in the source of the projects. And of course, all source code released prior to the change will always be available under the ‘old’ GPLv3 license. In case of doubt, feel free to ask your question on our support forum or e-mail to license@bimserver.org.

Since the 1.0 release, most of our efforts have been on loosening the different modules. The core, GUI, IFCEngine and (de)serializers are now individual projects in the code repository. This makes way for extending BIMserver.org by creating your own GUI or plugin.
Lots of programmers all over the world are developing serializers and new user interfaces for BIMserver at this moment. This also has an effect on the projects in the code repository. For example, bot the Cobie2Serializer and the O3D project have been removed from our project list. We focus on the BIMserver core and want to create the best BIMserver software with open interfaces to integrate and connect. Other projects and their programmers are working on much cooler COBie serializers and WebGL viewers than we could ever create. More on this later, but a sneak preview can be found on bimsurfer.org

The integration between BIMserver.org software and other (open source) software initiatives is coordinated by the open source BIM network. This osBIM.org network now has 6 projects under its umbrella and has a strong focus on integrating (and accelerating) the open source BIM software efforts. Members of the BIMserver.org team are also involved in the osBIM.org network.

Integration of BIM and DMS/Workflow

DMS and Workflow for BIMserverThe BIMserver.org development team always gets a lot of questions like ‘can I link pdfs to IFC objects?’ or ‘is there a way to create a workflow in the BIMserver?’ We strongly believe that the open source BIMserver is a BIMserver in its core and should stay that way. We kindly reject all feature requests about Document Management and Workflow. We just do what we are good at: IFC and BIM. However, the SOAP interface of the BIMserver has been around since release 0.1 and was always indented for other applications to interface with the BIMserver and its IFC data. During the BIMserver breakfast there were two Birds of a Feather presentations that both showed applications interacting with the BIMserver software using SOAP. One of them was a ‘send to server’ and ‘get from server’ button in Revit. This way a user doesn’t have to export nor import an IFC model and upload/download it from the server manually. The button in Revit does this automatically. This was developed by ICN solutions.

Another presentation showed the progress of an Alfresco plug-in to interact with BIMserver data. Alfresco is an open source Document Management System (DMS) that is very professional. An agile company from Amsterdam called Perfect Blue has created the plug-in. Features of this plug-in are: linking documents (like pdf) to specific IFC objects, latest IFC objects, BIMserver projects or revisions. The plug-in also enables the Alfresco workflow module to interact with your BIMserver. This is a great way of using workflow for BIM. By using the plug-in the user completely uses the Alfresco graphical user interface. The BIMserver GUI is (for obvious reasons) ignored. Feel free to have a look at perfectblue.nl/bimserver/ (in Dutch) for more information. The site doesn’t state the license of the plug-in, but because the developers are open source fans, we trust that it will be free and open source.

BIMserver in the cloud

Cloudcomputing is become more and more a trend. The AEC industry also found the benefits of web applications in the cloud. The open source BIMserver is also available for cloudcomputing. TNO has tested this a few months ago (which let into the use of a cloudserver for the BIMcaseweek). Recent tests have shown that BIMserver software is stable in the cloud. The BIMserver development team has a special relationship with rackspacecloud that makes it possible to run a BIMserver in the cloud. Feel free to contact us for more information.

Guestpost from Artesis

As part of a PhD research, Saskia Gabriël is conducting an anonymous survey to identify what is lacking and what can be improved in the future development and implementation of BIM. You can access the survey at this link.
First of all,  we kindly ask you to take the survey and secondly, I would like to ask you to spread the survey to any other colleagues and team members who would like to help create a better world, using BIM. The survey holds 26 questions and takes maximum 10 minutes of your time. Please enter your email address under the last question if you want to receive the results of this survey. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.
Sincerely thanks,
Saskia Gabriël, PhD Candidate in Architecture, Artesis University College of Antwerp, Belgium