From Prototyping to Design to Coordination to Fabrication and Construction, computing power is increasingly becoming the driver to share integrated data across all spectrums of the design cycle. It helps drive change in Architectural, Engineering and Construction business. In anticipation of all this, the next leap in computing power will be Quantum Computing and can assist in designing out urban spaces more efficiently with climatic data, traffic flows, zoning and retail/commercial services tracking to better layout our cities. The nascent of cloud based design automation will help us bring about highly efficient urban environments guided by humans (hopefully). So what is cloud based computing? Will intensive computing tasks that automation tools bring to users tie up our computers for hours on end with simulation and rendering tools? Can these tasks be offloaded to other machines and how will licensing be handled? Given costs to keep additional licenses and hardware, computing intensive tasks are better performed on services offered over the internet with cloud computing. It will rapidly perform the task much faster than desktop PCs. These services are called Software as a Service (SaaS) and keep ourselves busy on other tasks.
All these cloud computing resources require banks of servers on a server farm to run the processes. Demand for this will increase greatly as we transition from local computing to using cloud based solutions. All this requires significant computing power for as many users necessary to prototype, design, visualize, simulate, coordinate and fabricate our built environment.
Big changes in creating prototypes, coming up with design iterations, visualizing the designs, engineering the systems, providing coordination and performing fabrication tasks in real-time means proportional increases to computing power. This is being facilitated with changes in the architecture of the computers and the programming languages. Because today’s computing exists in one of two states; either a one or zero, it’s slow compared to the possibilities of quantum computing. Quantum Computing is the future of connected computing using quantum bits; otherwise known as “qubits”. Qubits are ones, zeros, everything in between and overlaid all at the same time. There is simply no basis of comparison of the power of my notebook which I write this blog on and the possibilities offered by quantum computing.
I’ll not go into this more, but to get a primer on quantum computing, check out this article How Stuff Works – Quantum Computing to get a little more in depth to this topic.
So what does this have to do Design, Architecture and Construction? Since we are moving to real time prototyping, design, engineering, coordination, fabrication and construction, the problem is all this power doesn’t come cheap and having all this power in the form of a desktop computer will unnecessarily consume too much resources in relation to the amount of idle time between executing tasks.
Don’t believe so? Look to this article What Your Computer Does While You Wait about how a computer processes tasks. In the article, work is measured in nanoseconds. Humans spend so much time generating a task then executes it so that the computer completes just in nanoseconds. So what does the computer do with all the rest of the time? It sits and unnecessarily consumes power and space on the desk. If you want to keep your computer busy when you are not using it, loan out some computing cycles with crowdsourcing from this link Crowdsourcing Computer Processing Power through PC Utilities that benefit worthy causes such as SETI@Home as an example, they are in need of spare and free CPU cycles.
Once we understand how cloud computing works, we better understand that the current form of computing will evolve to be a simple minimalist form and low power consuming terminal connected to a remote computing resource shared among many users. Cloud computing allows us to scale up computing cycles only as necessary to specific tasks or services as needed without needing additional hardware and software. Tasks or services requiring intensive computing power are typically prototyping with simulation, rendering design iterations, clash testing, computing building loads and collaborating in real-time with the design team or stakeholders. Work will get done rapidly compared to disparate disconnected computers on the desktop using email.
Change is rapidly underway. Case in point, Autodesk continues to expand cloud based computing and has taken great strides in bringing these computing resources to market. I am sure more than a few of us have noticed all the 360 cloud initiatives around Autodesk that are ongoing. What we are seeing is more work is being done on remote servers connecting two or more locations over the internet. From 123D prototyping, Recap 360, Infraworks 360, PLM 360, Energy Analysis for Revit, Green Building Studio, BIM 360 Field and Glue, Simulation 360, Fusion 360, Robot Structural Analysis Professional, BIM 360 Field and Glue (all Autodesk trademarks) and on and on it goes. Read about a comprehensive if not 100% complete chart as an outline of cloud offerings by Autodesk Cloud Services in addition to Autodesk 360 Collaboration for Revit formerly, Project Skyscraper . (note the Dynamo plug at the end) as a beta test preview from Autodesk Labs. The Autodesk Cloud Services chart is missing a few items but offers a good idea of what’s out there for us to use.
After prototyping, designing, engineering, visualization, coordination and fabrication are complete, construction will benefit with robotics to assemble building parts and systems in fabrication plants or on site with repetitive tasks. If anyone hasn’t seen the video of a group of quad copter drones assembling a tower yet, look here Video: Watch Flying Robots Build a 6-Meter Tower or SAM the Bricklaying Robot. Image fabrication and construction tasks all are done and coordinated via a single point on the cloud? Read more with 5 Robots Revolutionizing Architecture’s Future.
Hence, all this necessities computing power beyond that of the current form factor of a chunky desktop disconnected from the internet. Today’s server farm will evolve to be even higher in scale of efficiency. All this to better allocate resources and power to run these programs to bring about ways to optimize our built environment with Autodesk’s toolset that design, prototype, visualize, simulate, fabricate and construct in 3 dimension sustainable living environments. Big changes are coming.