BIM Photospheres and Augmented Reality for Facilities Management

Visual data management using photospheres

In a previous post we described progress on our joint R&D project with the University of Bristol after six months.

The purpose of the project is to provide the education sector (schools, MATs etc.) and the commercial sector with access to affordable, leading edge, 360° technology to help maintain buildings, estates and assets.

The project has now successfully developed a 360° photosphere environment which school business managers, bursars, facilities managers and site teams can use to maintain their estates. This has been developed as a significant extension to Altuity’s AltoSites software which already uses maps, floor plans or site plans to provide a 2D perspective.

How does this tech benefit you?

By integrating a 2D view of the world via maps, floor plans and site plans with 360° photospheres maintenance and facilities staff now have a much better level of visualisation available to them.

Integrated photospheres and floor plans
Integrated photospheres and floor plans

Combining a 2D perspective with a 360° photosphere provides several benefits:

  1. A high level overall perspective of assets and facilities requests is provided via a plan based view. This data is also integrated into photospheres delivering intuitive understanding and visual comprehension about a location’s data.
  2. 360° photospheres can be connected together allowing you to ‘walk’ the estate or building. This is ideal for managing large estates or buildings which are spread out over an area such as a group of schools in a MAT. It reduces or eliminates the time and costs in making site visits.
  3. Using augmented reality (AR) enables a smartphone or tablet to be held up and panned around a space and the user will see asset or facilities information being displayed in its correct real world location. This provides real time, on site access to data in a visual environment.
  4. This AR capability can also be used off-site. The photospheres provide a means for a user in, for example, a central office to view a space in the same way that an on-site engineer is viewing it. This helps with communication and reduces the likelihood of mistakes or redundant on-site visits.
  5. This technology also makes it easier for users of a building, e.g. teachers in a school, to report issues or facilities requests enabling site teams to provide a better service to their stakeholders.
Photospheres and markers
Photospheres and markers

Photospheres also provide benefits when used for external views. For example, they provide a perfect way to visualise roofing issues and to virtually walk a roof. A facilities manager now has a much better way of viewing and sharing information with colleagues than has traditionally been the case. Equally surveyors can provide their clients with an interactive view of their findings which increases client buy-in to recommendations that are being made for repairs or refurbishments.

Photospheres and Roof Surveys
Photospheres and Roof Surveys

This level of internal and external visualisation benefits operations and longer term planning. For example, it makes the process of securing stakeholder buy-in to required works much easier because other directors, governors or trustees can more intuitively understand issues than might be the case with a typical report.

Augmented Reality – on and off site

Using meta-AR provides a better and more reliable user experience
Using meta-AR provides a better and more reliable user experience

Our approach to using augmented reality (AR) has been to ensure it’s reliable and integrated to the main AltoSites system. This ensures that while on site a user can augment their view of a space by overlaying information such as asset or facilities requests.

Off site access to an augmented view of a distant space or room is also possible. This means that when off site a smartphone or tablet can be used to pan and zoom around the photosphere and the user sees a view consistent with being on site. This can be invaluable for explaining and communicating problems or issues and validating what was on site.

During our discussions with business managers and facilities teams they’ve identified that as well as using the photospheres for operational asset and maintenance purposes they’re much better than photographs in providing stakeholders with an interactive visual perspective of a room or space.  Typical uses would be:

  • At school governor meetings to better visualise and provide a virtual experience of the condition of school buildings needing refurbishment or replacing;
  • To show new or refurbished facilities to help promote a school to prospective parents and students;
  • To promote a school’s facilities for use by external organisations to help generate income.

The P(hotosphere) Team!

Our thanks to the team members below for their active participation in the project and to the UK’s Innovation Agency (Innovate UK) for co-funding the R&D.

The R&D Team
The R&D Team

Read more about this project in the press

QA Magazine – “School’s out for Legacy Software” (page 26)

IE Today – “Manage School Premises Internationally with Altuity”

AECNext – “A step back from the cutting edge: AltoSites uses photospheres to bring FM Tech innovation to small facilities”

Innovate My School – “Visualise your school’s savings”

Innovate My School – “The whole school power of visualisation”

What’s next?

Well discussions are underway with the University of Bristol on our next project. Follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter to be the first to receive updates.

To find out how you can benefit from the use of photospheres and/or site plans and floor plans get in touch for a chat!

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