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Advancing infrastructure for better quality of life: Echowater wins Going Digital Award

On October 12 we had the opportunity of attending day 2 of the 2023 Year in Infrastructure and Going Digital Awards, organised by Bentley Systems, which started with some keynote sessions by the company’s executives and guests.

Kaushik Chakraborty, SVP, Regional Executive for APAC, welcomed everyone before the first keynote, titled Going Digital: Towards Infrastructure Intelligence! CEO Greg Bentley highlighted the widening engineering resource capacity gap, a situation that infrastructure intelligence strategies can help overcome, noting that infrastructure organisations are going digital by choice and also by the necessity to close that gap.

Digital twins leverage ET, IT and OT technology to improve asset performance, maintenance and resilience

He then reviewed the learnings from the award nominations and announced the Founders’ Honorees, chosen by the company’s founders as encouraging examples that transcend beyond their categories and stand out for advancing infrastructure while contributing to a sustainable economy and environment. This year, 15 projects were recognized for Founders’ Honors. Bentley Systems is responding to the increasing importance of sustainability in infrastructure projects with the newly announced creation of the Chief Sustainability Officer role, filled by Chris Bradshaw. “For us, sustainability includes attracting and empowering future engineers”, added Greg.

The CEO also emphasised the priority of engineering resilience after this past year’s events that have highlighted infrastructure vulnerabilities. In this regard, digital twins leverage ET, IT and OT technology to improve asset performance, maintenance and resilience. As an indication that digital twins are becoming mainstream, the proportion of Going Digital Awards finalists crediting iTwin has risen to 64% in 2023. He also commented on the role of generative AI as a strategy to accelerate infrastructure intelligence, not replacing engineers but acting as a copilot that would allow more time to be spent on creative tasks, and to be locally trained to address data privacy.

Greg Bentley, CEO of Bentley Systems

Joining him next was special guest Dr Victor Khoo, Director of Survey and Geomatics at the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), in charge of Singapore’s world-leading digital twin initiatives. Completed earlier this year, Virtual Singapore is the first digital twin of a country, a detailed 3D model that has been shared across government entities to improve infrastructure management. Singapore’s digital twin journey started in 2017 and currently digital twins are further advancing Singapore’s green plan. The SLA supports the building of the digital twin of Singapore, not really a single digital twin, but different data sets that are continuously updated, with the updating frequency depending on use cases. Greg also touched on the importance of subsurface aspects of digital twins, especially in a place like Singapore, where growth will continue but in the Z direction, down or up, stressing the importance of having detailed three dimensional utility data underground.

Bentley Systems announced the addition of iTwin capabilities in Bentley Open Applications, for modelling and simulation, starting with MicroStation

Afterwards, the Product and Technology keynote continued on the topic of Accelerating Infrastructure Intelligence. Speakers delved into the importance of adopting a data-centric approach and making effective use of digital capabilities. These are fundamental to achieving infrastructure intelligence, whether it's powered by digital twins or driven by AI. 

Mike Campbell, Chief Product Officer, Bentley Systems, announced the addition of iTwin capabilities in Bentley Open Applications, for modelling and simulation, starting with MicroStation. With this move, “all our users will also be able to leverage digital twin technology to improve their efficiency and effectiveness during design,” emphasised Mike.

Lori Hufford, VP of Engineering Collaboration, welcomed guest speaker Henry Okraglik, Global Director of Digital at WSP Australia, who talked about the benefits of becoming data-centric. “As we’ve digitally matured, we’ve been able to embrace capabilities from Bentley Infrastructure Cloud to improve construction staging and planning, track and export quantity data across project phases, reduce the need for physical site visits, and a lot more,” said Okraglik.

  • Julien Moutte, Chief Technology Officer at Bentley Systems
  • Mike Campbell, Chief Product Officer at Bentley Systems

The keynote session continued with the participation of Susanne Trierscheid, Vice President, Modeling and Facilities Engineering and Julien Moutte, Chief Technology Officer. He provided examples of generative AI for infrastructure engineering. “We believe iTwin-powered generative AI capabilities will support engineers by augmenting the work they’re already doing. We see iTwin becoming a copilot to support better decision-making, reduce repetitive tasks, and increase design quality. It can help close the engineering resource capacity gap – not only by empowering current engineers to produce more, but also by enabling a more rewarding work experience, enticing future engineers to join the community advancing infrastructure,” he said.

We see iTwin becoming a copilot to support better decision-making, reduce repetitive tasks, and increase design quality

Once the keynote sessions wrapped up, participants were able to attend several breakout sessions. The themes of the sessions were Transforming Construction with Model-based Delivery, Digital Transformation Drives Innovation in Transportation, Accelerating the Energy Transition with Infrastructure Intelligence, and Connected Water Infrastructure for Sustainable, Resilient, and Agile Communities.

Gregg Herrin, Vice President of Water Infrastructure, introduced the Connected Water Infrastructure session, where industry experts discussed how water leaders are embracing the digital revolution to ensure a water-secure future. Data is critical for this transformation, but there are challenges that include data overload, isolated systems, and lagging data literacy skills. Bentley offers tools that help overcome those challenges: they are open and interoperable, connect IoT and analytics, and can leverage AI, so that water utilities can achieve better outcomes.

Gregg Herrin, Vice President of Water Infrastructure at Bentley Systems

Next, Cecilia Correia, Senior Water Solutions Manager at Bentley Systems led a discussion by a panel of experts that included Dr Sanjay Dahasahasra, Member of the National Task Force of 24x7 Water System for the Government of India; Harvey Aquino, Program Officer at Manila Water, and Dr Thomas D Krom, Industry Director, Environment, for Seequent. Water service providers are under pressures that include providing services to an increasing number of people as people migrate to cities, climate change, as well as regulatory pressures.

The panel members discussed the challenges they face, with a lot of development foreseen in the coming years to expand water access to unserved populations, and how water technologies are helping to manage water in a holistic manner, enabling better decisions. As water systems become larger and more complex, we need more advanced, yet intuitive technology to improve collaboration and mitigate risks around water supplies, ultimately addressing the challenges ahead.

After the breakout sessions concluded, we also had the chance to experience an immersive digital twin, thanks to a new project from the iLab: a digital twin of Singapore powered by iTwin technology. It is a highly accurate digital representation of Singapore’s cityscape, focusing on data in the realm of infrastructure, such as energy, water, transportation, construction, and nature.

The highlight of the day was how it ended, with the Going Digital Awards Ceremony and the announcement of the winners for the different categories. The winner of the 2023 Going Digital Award in the Water and Wastewater category is the EchoWater Project, by Project Controls Cubed, in Sacramento, California. Recently completed, the project tested and implemented Bentley’s digital construction solutions for a decade to upgrade the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, the second-largest full advanced secondary and full tertiary wastewater treatment plant in the U.S.

The conference came to an end, but stay tuned as we will be publishing more interviews with Bentley’s leadership team.