Photo by Julio Delgadillo, Skanska USA
Will Senner, left, an assistant project manager with Skanska USA, and Glen Smith, right, a superintendent, demonstrate how they can use Vela's tools for taking BIM to the field on iPads. Here they match a model view with a project location to "see" in-wall utilities of ductwork, mechanical piping and fire protection piping at the James B. Hunt library construction project at North Carolina State University's campus in Raleigh.

A set of new products that graduated from public beta status in late May will let users of Vela Systems' field data management services add new interactive building information modeling tools for the iPad.

One tool, Field BIM Interactive, is a plug-in that lets users upload Revit or Navisworks model files to a Vela Web service and then download them to view and navigate on an iPad in the field.

FB-I, as it is called, also can be combined with a plug-in for Navisworks and Revit called Field-BIM Data. It connects workflow documents and notes made in the field to a Navisworks model. Field changes automatically can be integrated with the source model when there is a live connection.

Users also can activate checklists and documents tied to objects using either Navisworks or Revit, and, in Navisworks, toggle between visual or data views of the model. The toggling feature is expected for Revit, as well, by December. 

To conserve bandwidth, when users access PDF files such as a maintenance manual, or add content to a form tied to an object, those workflow items are stored in the Vela Systems cloud, says Josh Kanner, vice president of marketing at Burlington, Mass.-based Vela.

Will Senner, an assistant project manager with Skanska-USA who has been using FB-I in construction of the James B. Hunt Library at N. C. State University, in Raleigh, N.C., says, "With equipment integration, you can now push a button [on your iPad] and quickly access the info model. It is helpful to go right to the model and be able to go back and forth between the model and full equipment without having to jump between Excel sheets and Navisworks.”

Nicolai Karved, senior BIM consultant for Betech Data, Copenhagen, Denmark, says that a source model is useless in itself, but it helps when you can add information to equipment, get that into the model and deliver it back to the owner. “When you’ve installed a pump at a building site and can register the serial number and feed it back into the system, that adds value that no one else has today,” he says.

Since Vela began beta testing the products in January, releases of new features have come every 30 to 45 days. “The cloud and iPad-based platform allows for agile development,” says Kanner.

For Field BIM interactive, the newest feature, released May 24, is called "BIM Goggles." Like popular star-finding apps—but for BIM—it uses the iPad's gyroscope to coordinate the model view with the orientation of the pad. As the pad moves, the view of the model shifts to track with It. The pad can behave, in effect, like a window to "see" through walls. Other BIM software vendors have similar tools in development.

Senner says FB-I is not yet perfect and sometimes crashes, but he says navigation has improved since the beta release.