Oversite: Getting in Touch with What’s Next
Journalists often are criticized for going after the sensational story. We report on the man that bites the dog, but the converse is too common to get any coverage. When it comes to technology reporting, for example, reporters fawn over Apple’s latest gizmo, but stay away from the workhorse PC computers. With this publication, we don’t chase the sensational or the “shiny object.”
With our focus on the relatively conservative fields of civil and structural engineering, we need to temper our take on technology to what’s practical and what’s used in everyday practice. Certainly, you look to us for details on the latest products, but you don’t want or expect us to be too far out in front of technology advancement.
In this issue, we have an in-depth mobile LiDAR overview as well as a guide of available technology. The focus is on how this tool is being used, particularly in transportation, and how it beats traditional approaches for accuracy, speed and cost. That’s the type of technology reporting you can expect from us: practical and tested examples of innovation that impact your bottom line.
We don’t shy away from reporting on trends altogether. Readers can see “what’s coming” in our Change Leader and Future Forward profiles at the back of this magazine.
These profiles provide insight into the work of your peers. Change Leader features an engineer or AEC professional who adopted new technology and/or approaches. This is about making a difference as well as making money, and pushing what’s possible so others may follow.
Future Forward profiles single out practitioners and researchers who are pushing engineering practice forward through innovative applied research. These may be advancements in material science, new structural approaches, engineering advancements, autonomous helpers, or sensor and system combinations, among other topics. These often are government-funded research grants betting that these next-generation solutions will help fuel our economy.
These future-focused profiles are admittedly a bit of hero worship. We believe strongly in the ability of individuals to innovate and improve practice, and we want to spotlight those who stick their necks out and show the way. We hope you agree with the need for such advocacy, and we welcome recommendations for future profiles.
In late February 2015, we attended Autodesk’s REAL 2015 conference in San Francisco. The event focused on 3-D data capture, cloud computing and modeling as well as creation with computer-driven manufacturing machines. Autodesk established this new event because it sees so much activity in these converging areas of 3-D innovation.
Presenters included a wide variety of artists, academics and entertainment people as well as engineering firms. The broad mix and diverse subjects were admittedly difficult to follow in the printed program, but confusion about the relevance of diverse topics disappeared when the presentations started. The common denominator of the artists and engineers was about taking a leap forward, trying things out and testing what could work in capturing and documenting our world in 3-D as well as automating manufacturing through 3-D printers and milling machines.
During the event, it became clear that the pace of innovation is accelerating. What’s possible with some of these new tools and approaches is making inroads into practice. Our readers can expect continuing coverage in these areas as reality-capture, modeling and printing tools continue to advance into real work.
We also recently attended the International Erosion Control Association’s Environmental Connection conference, which focused on practical products and approaches to erosion control. The tradeshow floor was full of geosynthetic fabrics, geomembranes, geogrids, hydroseeders, ground-stabilization tools, drainage and filtering products, and so much more.
This product show was in stark contrast to the modeling and software showcase at REAL 2015. This was a hands-on event with tools and materials that solve soil and water issues. The presentations were from people who have applied these products and approaches to their work, and have documented improvements they can pass along.
Practitioners filter what they see through their project-based practice, knowing the issues they have or will face. They then decide where new products and approaches will meet their engineering needs as well as those of their clients.
We hope you’ve been enjoying the interdisciplinary nature of our coverage as well as the mix between products and software. We’re new, and we’re about what’s new, but we’re mainly about what works.