Development of interoperable data protocol for integrated bridge project delivery
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Representation and transfer of design intent, information and specifications traditionally heavily rely on paper-based engineering drawings and written documents. During the bridge project life cycle, paper-based data exchange, by nature, causes repeated manual data re-entry which is tedious, time-consuming, error-prone and costly. Electronic data exchange is a significant improvement to the current information-delivery process. With it, three fundamental objectives of the project delivery, i.e. higher quality, faster delivery and cost effectiveness would be expected. In recent years, the building industry increasingly tends to invent and utilize open, software-neutral and semantically rich data exchange models to store and transfer building information. Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), as an example of building oriented data model, has been supported by over 150 software applications worldwide. Bridge industry, however, lacks a mature data exchange model to fully carry out the interoperability of bridge information, although various efforts have been made. This research is motivated by the advantages of using data interoperability to streamline the bridge project delivery process and the fact that existing bridge-relevant data exchange models cannot fully support exchange of bridge data. This research develops, demonstrates and validates a robust and extensible data exchange protocol, called the Open Bridge Information Model (OpenBrIM) protocol, which could be used to automate the exchange of bridge information in design, detailing, fabrication, construction and the operations and maintenance. This protocol model would be in the public-domain and software-neutral, but is developed with the consideration of relevant software vendors in facilitating their development of conforming translators. In this research, over 40 existing data exchange models and standards were reviewed and evaluated. The pros and cons of the major models were identified. Information Delivery Manual (IDM), an integrated reference for process and information through bridge project life cycle, was developed. To convert it to a data model, a data modeling language was developed based on eXtensible Markup Language (XML), and was tested for its robustness. A bridge oriented data model was created in the form of Model View Definitions (MVD), which were defined in Unified Modeling Language (UML) and the data modeling language. The IDM was evaluated by domain experts in the bridge industry for completeness, correctness and consistency; the MVDs were validated in part by C# language implementations used to create 3D bridge components and connections with a commercial software application.