Bentley Shows Off Roads and Bridges

An annual highlight of top customers and projects at the Year in Infrastructure conference.

The Year in Infrastructure, or YII, is Bentley’s annual showcase of software technology and user projects. It has been held in London the last few years but is moving to Singapore for 2017. Users presented over 50 projects in 18 separate categories, with three projects per category, ranging from Innovation in Buildings to Innovations in Asset Performance. The top project, judged by a panel, received a “Be Inspired” award.

The Year in Infrastructure is not your normal user conference. Only select users—and members of the press—are invited.


Bentley’s Descartes CONNECT Edition helps extractexisting ground surfaces from both point clouds and reality meshes such as those that result from using drones.(Image courtesy of Bentley.)

Bentley’s Descartes CONNECT Edition helps extractexisting ground surfaces from both point clouds and reality meshes such as those that result from using drones.(Image courtesy of Bentley.)

The most talked about topic in 2016 in civil engineering and construction has been drones.

ContextCapture is software that creates 3D meshes from photographs and video. A drone can take a series of photos with a digital camera, and this application stitches them together. Bentley introduced it last year at this conference and continues to talk it up. The technology, along with the workflow to use it, may take a year or two to find itself into many government agencies, but it is getting better and more robust each year.


To take advantage of the data and information that Context Capture can generate, Bentley showcased its new preliminary engineering software ConceptStation. ConceptStation brings together separate data from many sources and allows a user to do a much more thorough job of preliminary planning than is currently done. Once the preliminary engineering is complete, the data can be passed to Bentley’s design products to finish the project. This transferring of data has always been the trouble spot in most workflows. Bentley’s Connect Edition suite seems to have solved it. The issues that remain are less about ConceptStation itself but how organizations, like a department of transportation, can change their workflows to use it.


Another big announcement was OpenRoads Designer Connect Edition. Bentley currently has three highway design packages: GEOPAK, InRoads and MX. Over the past several years, the company has been combining these products using what it calls “Open Roads Technology.” While all three products still exist (and will continue for some time), they all incorporate the same OpenRoads technology to handle 3D design and modeling. They also all still run under the SS2, SS3 and SS4 versions of MicroStation. OpenRoads Designer Connect Edition is the long-awaited single modern highway design package. Now, rather than supporting three separate and aging software packages, Bentley can finally focus on a single modern one. The importance of a single design package can’t be overstated. For Bentley, it means it can stop supporting and developing three design packages. It also means that it can finally move everyone to a single version of MicroStation. For customers, it means that everyone is on the same page—no more worrying about which version of MicroStation you are using. Training and support should be easier. A single product will not only save money, but also expand Bentley’s support and development of it.

Almost all the civil software shown at YII2016 will not be used in productions for a couple of years. My best guess based on the current status of OpenRoads Designer is that it will be released for general use later this summer. It will see limited use in 2018, most of which will be standards development and testing. Most organizations will be moving to the software for production in mid to late 2019.


While Bentley focuses on software and services, hardware companies exhibited as partners.

At YII2016, Microsoft was showing off HoloLens. While not fully ready for use at every firm, it is a very impressive product. It may look a bit bulky, but it is comfortable to wear. It works with prescription glasses and feels pretty natural. Unlike more expense virtual reality headsets, or even the stupid 3D glasses you get at the movies, I can imagine a version of HoloLens attached to hardhats around the world—with a bit more refinement (which will come with time).Now, if only we can get some third-party applications developed for it.

LEGO Bridge

Finally, another impressive bridge project was not at YII2016 but nearby. The “world’s longest LEGO bridge” is over 100 feet(31 meters) long, with a suspended central span of 54 feet (16 meters)and composed of over 200,000 LEGO bricks.

It is part of an exhibition at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London until April 2017. Its purpose is to showcase bridge engineering and get kids interested in it. If this can’t get kids interested in engineering, then nothing can.

The world’s longest LEGO bridge, on exhibit at ICE UK.

The world’s longest LEGO bridge, on exhibit at ICE UK.