Photo by Jeff Rubenstone / ENR
Trimble demonstrated its GPS and laser-based solutions for heavy-civil construction.

Following several major acquisitions, Trimble unveiled a new cloud-based interoperability platform for its design, build and operation tools. The core of the new suite is Trimble Connect, an online collaborative platform based on the GTeam software developed by Gehry Technologies, which it acquired recently.

The cloud-based Connect acts as a bridge between Trimble offerings, including SketchUp, Tekla, Prolog, Vico, Manhattan Atrium and Field Link.

According to Trimble, this interoperability is the result of a strategy devised over a decade ago. "Around 2002, we started to expand into the buildings business, and, since then, we've done about 12 acquisitions to get us into that space," says Bryn Fosburgh, Trimble vice president. "We found what plagues the construction industry is reworks and waste, so our strategy is not just to increase productivity but to target the actual waste component and reduce rework on projects."

By using Trimble Connect as an intermediary between different software packages, design files can be transferred among programs without losing rich data. This feature will allow an engineer to highlight a clash or design issue in one program so that an architect may address it in another, with Trimble Connect keeping track of revisions. The platform also supports some competitors' file formats. At the "Dimensions" conference, held in Las Vegas on Nov. 3, Trimble also announced an expanded partnership with Bentley Systems to improve interoperability among BIM platforms (see p. 20). "Very few of our customers are completely on Autodesk or Bentley or Trimble," says Forsburgh. "We talked to Bentley and just said, 'Come on, guys—it makes more sense to share.' "

Some Trimble customers see the new solutions announced at Dimensions as just the beginning. "It's not all going to be integrated overnight. This is all going to evolve," says Doug Rowe, senior vice president at Lend Lease and a speaker at the conference. "In the next 10, 15, 20 years it's going to evolve. Trimble made sense to us—it organized the chaos. It's not everything right now, but it's about 80% of what a project needs."

As acquisitions have consolidated the available offerings for design and construction software, Rowe sees a benefit to the one-stop-shop approach of companies like Trimble. "Prolog was a key part of our business already, and we like what [Trimble] is doing with Vico, particularly the 5D capabilities. The fact that they are merging the two in coming years makes sense," he told ENR. "We're in the process of switching our estimating platform to WinEst. We do a lot of work in Modelogix. The fact that it all connects Modelogix to WinEst to Prolog and back—that closed loop is very important to us."