Digital engineering is the art of creating, capturing and integrating data using a digital skillset. It has opened the industry to a world of many possibilities and opportunities. It offers invaluable solutions and advantages for engineers, for the clients and critically, for society at large.
From hand-drawn sketches and cardboard models to developing virtual models and simulations, the processes of design, construction and business operations have constantly evolved, and will continue to evolve. The rise of virtual reality, augmented reality and smart technology proves this to be true. The digitisation of engineering has provided practitioners with new ways to envision and deliver design, enabling them to innovate and develop solutions that push the boundaries of imagination and creativity.
Long before drones, 3D laser scans, and advanced computer applications came to the fore, engineers had to do a lot of meticulous tasks manually – from research to project completion. Designs were created on drawing boards. People power was needed on site for long hours to either capture data, monitor progress and to deliver the project.
But digital changes the way we undertake the process of design.
To create buildings of the future, engineers employ high-level data capture and digital design. Across the construction cycle, engineers are changing their tools from analogue to digital. They are using new technologies to provide services with greater even accuracy and scope to innovate.
Today, designs are created in a digital environment, enabling engineers to examine and test which designs will work best and which won’t. Building information modelling creates room to innovate, challenge ideas and iterate design solutions, without having to worry about potential cost if the design needs to be reworked or tweaked.
But more than using high-tech gadgets and tools, digital engineering means working in a safer environment. With the help of drones and other smart tech gadgets, engineers can avoid going to potentially dangerous and risky situations. Observations can be gathered, time spent in potentially high-risk environments is minimised and safety in design solutions created to protect workforces delivering projects.
Not all clients are engineers or can understand the language of engineers. At times, technical jargon can impinge collaboration during the planning stage, simply because clients may not fully understand how design solutions will work in the real world.
Using digital technologies like virtual reality, clients are provided with a glimpse of what the project will look like before it’s built, letting them see and experience not only how the design will be delivered but also how it will function. Clients can better understand the implications of design changes and improvements, and then provide input with their own expertise on how the building or infrastructure project will be used and should be designed in a human-centred way.
Aside from close collaboration with clients, going digital also paves the way for better and effective communications and stakeholder engagement with the project’s end users. The same way with client engagement, smart technologies and virtual reality can explain to the public how the project will assist them, affect them and improve the lives of their community.
The future is unpredictable. If there’s anything that big data, the internet of things (IoT), and artificial technology are telling us, it’s that this is just the beginning.
Digitalisation has provided businesses and organisations with a better view of what the future could look like with the endless possibilities being offered by technology. There are still a lot of things that we can explore, a huge amount data to utilise, and a lot of information to uncover. Digital tools and platforms allow us to push design parameters and to engage more deeply with stakeholders so that we can design a better future.