LONDON, UK (Bentley Year in Infrastructure 2014) - So magical did SITEOPS appear on the main stage in London that I had to ask for a closer look. Greg Bentley, CEO, was moving a building footprint around a parking lot. Parking spaces were fluidly disappearing and reappearing, as if by magic. Entire rows would be redrawn. Automatically, and in real time -- or so it seemed --with the parking lot virtually healing and rebuilding. Then there was the claim that SITEOPS could best human beings at design. Let your best civil engineer lay out a building site and then let SITEOPS have a shot. No matter how good your engineer is, SITEOPS would still save an additional $15,000 per acre.
Mike Detwiler, cofounder of SITEOPS, which is now part of Bentley, was kind enough to provide some insight and explanation. Not only did he show me the $15,000 saved per acre (it was a Lowes site) but said in some cases, the savings were even greater. But could SITEOPS lose to a human? Like IBM was beat by Kasparov? Mike had never seen it. It always saved money. It ran multiple, sometimes a thousand cases, varying grades, cut and fills, trading off one parameter for another. Humans can't do that. The best site planner will run a few and quit. What are the chances he will find the optimized solution?
SITEOPS runs on something like a thin-client on the desktop, doing its calculations on SITEOPSservers in the cloud. Amazon provides the cloud service at the moment, but SITEOPS will probably move to Microsoft Azure servers, in line with Bentley's other operations.
Where had SITEOPS been that I could have missed it? In the past few years, the company had been branding itself after its product name. The company name, BLUERIDGE Analytics was too often confused the CFD company, Blue Ridge Numerics that Autodesk bought. I had not seen anything like SITEOPS and wondered out loud if I had missed a whole class of AEC optimizing products. Nope, says Mike. We have nine patents. SITEOPS has PhDs who have developed cutting edge optimization routines and put them to work. "You'll not see anything like SITEOPS anywhere," he seemed to be saying. "We own the technology."
Napkin to Dozer
Maybe I am too easily impressed, but SITEOPS works like software at its best: smartly taking the drudgery out of a job, replacing repetitive tasks. Now witht the addition of Bentley's portfolio of products, SITEOPS has the possibility of shortcutting processes, ideally going from a concept to breaking ground, which Mike refers to as "napkin to dozer."
So what price all this magic? SITEOPS is reluctant to give prices, as pricing is being overhauled with the acquisition. SITEOPS technology will be used in Bentley products and will also be sold as a standalone.
What of the Partners?
SITEOPS users export designs to a variety of 3rd-party CAD software for detailed documentation. In fact, there is still more mention of DWG (AutoCAD drawing format) support in some of the old company marketing literature than there is DGN (MicroStation format). Mike promises that SITEOPS will stay "CAD-agnostic" even as it is now housed in Bentley, and that current and future customers -- even those outside Bentley's world -- will not be stranded.
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