The most widely used web-based collaboration platform for the construction industry, BIW Information Channel from BIW Technologies, can now deliver drawings and other documents much more quickly. BIW’s Accelerated Transfer pack condenses file revisions to a fraction of their previous size allowing faster transfer – up to ten times faster in the case of some files.
BIW is also launching another Accelerator option: Accelerated Publishing for AutoCAD. This speeds up drawing publication for AutoCAD users of BIW’s collaboration system by automating several tasks currently undertaken manually. Early users report 50%-plus time savings.
“We are investing heavily in addressing external issues that adversely affect users of our collaboration technology,” says BIW chief executive Colin Smith. “I regularly hear that broadband will solve everyone’s performance problems, but this is just wishful thinking. There are many problems to address, and developing robust technology solutions to each of them is difficult and very expensive – putting it beyond the reach of smaller players. Our Accelerator Pack technologies further differentiate BIW’s class-leading platform from its competitors and will make a profound difference to the productivity of many thousands of our users.
“This announcement also marks a further step towards real-time collaboration. Poor internet connectivity often means users delay sending the latest information until there is less internet or network traffic. With Accelerated Delivery, individuals can publish new revisions as soon as they are ready, cutting delays in circulation to fellow team members.”
Combining BIW’s unique differencing technology – VDEFT: verifiable delta file transfer – and compression techniques, BIW Accelerated Transfer dramatically speeds up data transmission, resulting in faster publication, faster upload and download, and faster online viewing of documents (in some situations, internet file transfers may even be completely unnecessary).
“Despite improving telecommunications, many users still experience lengthy delays while sending and receiving large files,” says Smith. “Using VDEFT, our Accelerated Transfer technology focuses on the differences between an original file and its subsequent revisions, and communicates these changes rather than the complete file. Moreover, it does this automatically, without the sender or recipient needing to initiate any third party application. There is no discernible difference to the working of the Channel, apart from much faster access to the file.
BIW has tested the technology on a variety of common PC set-ups, using different types of internet connection (from dial-up modem connections, through 128Kb ISDN and ADSL, to office networks), and a variety of file formats. download times were significantly reduced; for example:
- drawing transfer times were halved (downloading a revision to a 1.7Mb DWG file was cut from 31 seconds to 14; uploads of a 0.5Mb plot file were cut from 20 seconds to seven)
- transfers of a 2Mb Excel spreadsheet were cut from 45 seconds to seven seconds
- transfers of a 3.5Mb Word file were cut from 74 seconds to just 11 seconds
BIW has also used peer-to-peer technology to eradicate the need for some internet file transfers. “With VDEFT, team members no longer need to download data that has already been accessed by colleagues on the same area network,” says Smith. “For example, if a services engineer needs an architect’s drawing and one of his colleagues has previously downloaded the same drawing, VDEFT detects that the drawing already exists on the local network and supplies it from there - ruling out the need for another internet download.”
Accelerated Publishing for AutoCAD
BIW’s new application cuts the time, effort and expense involved in publishing drawings from AutoCAD.
AutoCAD is used by well over half the UK architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) designer community. However, publishing information to a collaboration system can be complicated – depending on the project, this can involve files in DWF, PLT and PDF formats (perhaps also the source DWG), usually captured in a ZIP file.
“Creating and readying these files for upload relies on third-party applications and can be laborious, time-consuming and therefore costly,” says Smith. “We have developed an application that is activated from within AutoCAD. It creates the required files automatically, binding in X-refs where appropriate, and prepares the meta-data needed for rapid publication to BIW Information Channel. A multi-step process has been cut to just two, much faster stages.”
BIW Accelerated Publishing for AutoCAD has been used by design staff in the Galliford/Costain joint venture working on over 100 water-related projects for United Utilities. One technician reported:
“It used to be a really slow process. Sometimes you needed to publish 10 drawings at once. Creating the additional PDF, DWF, PLT and ZIP often took 10 minutes or more for each drawing, and you couldn’t get on with anything else while your machine was processing the files. With the plug-in, the process takes half the time – often less. With 10 drawings, that means saving almost an hour of my time. I wouldn’t go back to the old way of publishing drawings.”
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Notes to editors:
- Project collaboration services from BIW Technologies were first employed in 1999 on UK construction projects for Sainsbury. BIW believes it is the European leader in web-based collaboration systems for the construction and property industry, measured by both number of projects and number of users.
- At 4 January 2004, the total number of registered users of BIW Information Channel had reached 29,990, from 3250 different companies. The total number of projects was 1606, with a total capital value conservatively estimated at around £13 billion. The total number of drawings hosted was 586,432; the total number of documents stood at 377,510.
- BIW Information Channel is a sophisticated web-based supply chain integration technology, designed specifically for construction projects or programmes. Each client is provided with a unique, project-specific website created around a knowledge database. Using this, all data can be made available to every project team member – from the earliest concepts and specification, through detailed design, buildability studies, pre-fabrication, construction, maintenance, operation and improvement to the eventual demolition or dismantling of the facility.
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) is a communications model in which each party has the same capabilities and either party can initiate a communication session. Recently, it has come to describe applications which allow a group of computer users to connect with each other and directly access files from one another´s hard drives.
- A survey by Business Advantage Group (Autumn 2003) showed AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT used by 54% of the UK AEC market. Globally, pundits suggest Autodesk commands around 75% of the PC-based CAD market.
- BIW, BIW Information Channel, BIW Information Channel: Accelerator Packs, BIW Accelerated Transfer, BIW Accelerated Publishing and VDEFT are registered trademarks or trademarks of BIW Technologies Ltd.