The OpenUSD revolution: Is your firm ready?

OpenUSD solutions are set to revolutionise the construction industry. But is your organisation ready to embrace this technological leap? Rob Smith, CTO of Creative ITC, discusses the key considerations for business leaders considering adopting OpenUSD solutions.

Data interoperability and breaking down data silos are long-standing challenges in the construction sector. Part of an effort to unlock wider collaboration and innovation, USD (Universal Scene Description) has had a significant impact across several industries over the last few years, extending far beyond its original conception for 3D animation.

While OpenUSD has been around for some time, the relatively new Alliance for OpenUSD (AOUSD) brings together some of the biggest names in 3D visualisation - Pixar, Nvidia, Adobe, Autodesk and Apple - to promote the standardisation and interoperability of the whole 3D ecosystem.

With greater focus on accelerating innovation, new technologies have emerged designed to enable firms to harness the power of OpenUSD, opening up new opportunities for the construction industry and many others.

Driving change

Providing a common, accessible, scalable and collaborative framework for digital project management and execution, OpenUSD solutions streamline and enhance the creation, sharing and collaborative editing of 3D assets. They remove inconsistencies and compatibility issues that have often plagued 3D collaboration, smoothly integrating various design tools into a single, fluid workflow. In construction, this will drive wider adoption of OpenUSD’s powerful features and help standardise 3D modelling and data exchange practices.

Crucial for the construction industry’s evolving needs, new platforms for developing OpenUSD applications also allow developers to drive innovation, seamlessly integrating powerful AI functionalities to significantly enhance design and engineering processes. Tailored construction-specific features will also accelerate adoption through open community forums focused on BIM integration, simulation capabilities and large-scale project data handling. These developments could greatly help sustainable building design by allowing complex, real-world simulations.

In March 2024, AOUSD also announced the formation of a new working groups for Materials and Geometry. These will focus on standardisation of material definitions and specifications for describing surfaces, shapes and volumes in both virtual and physical worlds, which will be particularly welcome for the construction industry.

OpenUSD in action

Many architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) firms have already recognised the potential to enhance collaboration and boost operational efficiency, deploying OpenUSD solutions in various industry scenarios.

In architectural visualisation, they’re being used to create highly detailed and interactive 3D models for client presentations and design reviews. Engineering firms are conducting real-time simulations to test structural integrity and performance under different conditions. Digital twin capabilities are a standout feature, offering firms the ability to simulate and interact with their creations throughout the entire lifecycle of a building. Combined with incorporating AI functionalities that automate routine tasks and refine design processes, this is accelerating AEC firms’ pursuit of enhancing sustainability and operational efficiency in projects.

The potential benefits of adopting OpenUSD solutions are substantial and far-reaching. They include increased operational efficiency, improved collaboration across teams and stakeholders and enhanced sustainability through better resource management. The ability to conduct real-time simulations and predictive analyses leads to smarter, faster decision-making, saving time and reducing risk and costs.

Key considerations for successful adoption

Despite the promised advantages, the adoption of OpenUSD in the construction industry is still in its infancy. Many firms are hesitant due to the perceived complexity and costs associated with new technology integration into legacy systems. For those exploring the potential of OpenUSD solutions and assessing ROI, there are some essential considerations to establish if your organisation is truly ready.

Building a business case

Assessment of any new technology or innovation must be based on how the business will evolve and bring value to its stakeholders. Consideration of OpenUSD must start with understanding business priorities, existing IT systems and how it will innovate and leverage the right tools to gain market share. Flexible, scalable solutions combining global access to toolsets with the right performance are a complex mix that must be considered in tandem with wider business strategy.

IT foundations

A critical step in adopting OpenUSD solutions is assessing whether your IT infrastructure is up to the task. A common oversight for many firms is underestimating the hardware requirements, particularly GPUs on which these platforms rely heavily. This omission can lead to unexpected expense and project delays. Another often overlooked but equally critical element is assessing your network’s capability to manage the extensive data exchange required for real-time, global collaboration.

Assessing skills

Adopting OpenUSD solutions requires investment not only in technology, but also in skill development. Be honest about your in-house resources to both design and deploy an OpenUSD platform enterprise-wide, and also to manage it long-term, covering infrastructure, network, upgrades, licensing, application optimisation, training and support. Seek out a provider with a strong track record in your business sector who will guide you through the process and offer a managed solution to help you unlock the full ROI from your technology investment.

Championing innovation

Integrating any new technology is always a marathon, not a sprint, requiring focus and commitment to overcome the inevitable obstacles on the way. Success requires a dedicated champion within the organisation, an individual deeply versed in both the technical nuances and practical applications of the platform to streamline the adoption process. Their role is to foster a culture that embraces innovation, spearhead training, ease the firm through the initial learning phase, and clearly illustrate benefits for projects to help maintain momentum and address any resistance.

Transforming the industry

The potential of OpenUSD solutions to transform the construction industry is immense. Construction businesses are always looking for cost effective, high-performing solutions to deliver better value. Leading firms across many industry sectors are exploring their potential and pushing boundaries, accelerating innovation faster and further. But it’s not just household brands like Siemens, WPP, BMW and Mercedes-Benz that could benefit from these new technology solutions. The open framework model will standardise 3D workflows and integrate advanced AI and simulation capabilities, reducing reliance on proprietary software and lowering entry barriers, which could help smaller firms to leverage powerful tools to compete for projects.

OpenUSD promises technological advancements to empower the industry to tackle challenges with greater agility, efficiency and collaboration. But be sure to look carefully before you leap. Close partnership between IT and business leaders is essential to ensure your organisation has the right platforms in place at the right time to flex, scale and innovate in alignment with business needs.

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