Risks of the Cloud for a BIM Manager

 We’ve all heard the famous question, ‘What came first the chicken or the egg?’ For those of us in the BIM world, ‘What came first BIM or The Cloud?’ is equally as debated. With all of the interoperability today between the two, it can be difficult to remember. BIM, referring to a building model, was first mentioned in 1985 by Simon Ruffle whereas the cloud in its modern context was not mentioned until more than 20 years later in 2006 by Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Perhaps that is why there are so many concerns of cloud security for BIM managers. 

Several myths surround the security of the cloud. It’s lack of security being most prevalent, but other major ones surround compliance requirements and management. 

The first myth we’ll debunk is that the cloud is inherently insecure. The business model of public cloud providers is dependent on security. They have invested in the most up-to-date technologies, sophisticated operations, data centers and threat intelligence. Additionally, while the 2017 Cloud Security Report reports that a web app attack towers above all other types of malware attacks, equating to 75% of the security incidents observed, there were a small percentage of incidents in the dataset. It’s not that malware isn’t a problem but that the anti-malware protections being invested in are fighting against a heavy onslaught and once you take a look at the security incident count in the report, you’ll find that those most at risk are those with a Hybrid security system.

Cloud Risks
Figure 1: The data over the 18 months of the report indicates that hybrid networks experience, on average, over twice as many security incidents as public cloud installations.

Many  assume that the cloud makes compliance standards more difficult but in fact, the reverse is true. With cloud providers having complex tools in place, it’s actually easier to keep data in check. Another important thing to note is that business leaders who assume that their organization can’t use the cloud likely don’t realize that they are already deeply immersed in the cloud in many other aspects of their business.  For example, what platforms does your organization use for HR management? What about your Office 365 applications? The ultimate problem for many organizations is that they don’t understand the cloud’s shared-responsibility model.

Cloud Risks

Sean Duca, Vice President & Chief Security Officer for Asia Pacific at Palo Alto Networks said in an article for SecurityRoundTable.org that, “Business and security leaders are afraid of losing control.” He continued, “They can’t see it or touch it, so they think they don’t have control. If they don’t understand the shared-responsibility model, they don’t understand what type of security is available to them.”  

Management of cloud security actually makes it easier for your team to scale your server network as needed. Just as your organization would depend on the cloud for their security protocols and responsibilities, nearly all data breaches on the cloud are a result of breaches from the end user and not an external source. In other words, password protocols and hardware security need to be addressed throughout your organization, otherwise security issues could arise whether or not you’re utilizing the cloud.  

Cloud Risks

BIM Management comes with many hats and understanding The Cloud’s security, compliance and management protocols can be difficult to grasp for all stakeholders. With BIM becoming more complex than ever before and with it endless toolsets, a consensus on cloud collaboration is imperative to not only connect all design teams but to connect the office and the field as well. With full cloud collaboration and a connected team, higher quality projects and increased profit is at your fingertips. 

In conclusion, not only is the cloud a very secure option, there are many benefits as well covered in this post and this one pager. UNIFI Labs is proud to be a cloud based content/data management and project insight software. For a free demo, please contact us today. 

HOW TO START LEVERAGING THE REVIT API

Do you ever feel overwhelmed on getting started with something new? We’ve all been there… you start searching the web and find an overwhelming amount of information, some of which is solid and some of which isn’t relevant to what you’re looking for at all. This is exactly what I experienced when I  was looking to learn how to start using the Revit API. To keep you from going through the endless searching that I endured in my efforts to learn about the Revit API, this article will direct you with the best tools and places to find information to help you leverage the Revit API.

Revit API

Revit API Help Docs aside, the most valuable resources out there to leverage the REVIT API from Autodesk itself is The Revit Developer Center

Once there, take a look at the My First Revit Plug-in tutorial. This tutorial is built Revit APIfor those who know Revit but who are brand new to programming so it’s highly recommended. Following this tutorial, you can have your first functioning add-in built within an hour – again, this is assuming no programming experience so it is not bogging you down with the details right away. 

Autodesk Revit has a .NET API which means you can use any of the .NET compliant programming languages (C#, VB.NET, F#, etc.) to develop a plug-in. While each language has its own relative benefits, C# is my preferred language. It is easy-to-learn, easy-to-use and leverages the power of the underlying .NET Framework.

A few of the most common applications for the Revit API are bulk editing Revit data, batch printing or exporting of sheets and views, or creating a section box around a set of families for coordination purposes. While all these tasks can be done in Revit, working with the API can significantly improve the time needed to perform these tasks. Additionally, don’t feel you need to start from scratch with any of those common applications mentioned, you can quickly find free sources of this code on the internet. 

Revit API

Once you get your feet wet with the Revit API, you are more than prepared to get started with the UNIFI API offering. 

The UNIFI API is a REST API which stands for Representational State Transfer. The REST set of constraints which will make your APIs easier to use and also easier to discover, meaning a developer who just started  to use your APIs will have an easier time learning how to do so. 

The UNIFI API has two platforms; Content Management and Project Analytics. If you’re using UNIFI, you know that you are not able to modify, add or delete parameter values in bulk. This hurdle can be overcome by leveraging the Content Management API for customization.

 The Project Analytics API can also be customized to improve your BIM workflows. By utilizing this API, it is possible to take the data gathered from our Project Analytics platform and organize it a number of custom ways. 

Namely, if you want to see the model health scores of all your projects at a glance or check your Revit content within the project for certain parameter data, you can do that quickly with our Project Analytics API. 

Just like the Revit API, no coding experience is required to take advantage of the UNIFI API. Don’t take our word for it, check out the API sample created by UNIFI’s own BIM Manager here.

Revit API

For more advanced customizations, our partners at VIATechnik can help you leverage the UNIFI API for your unique needs.

In closing, APIs can certainly be overwhelming especially to those just getting started. By knowing where to start and just diving in, you can begin to understand the power of Revit API and the potential to save you from time consuming, manual tasks.

Interested in learning more about UNIFI’s APIs? Please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

2019: UNIFI’S Year In Review

The first few days of the new year always seem to invite reflection. 2019 was a year of intense focus for us, and we believe the whole UNIFI team would agree it was the most significant growth year in our company’s history.  

When we started our journey several years back as a small spinoff of our CEO’s former consulting engineering firm, early adopters of the powerful new software called Revit were just beginning to run into the content challenge inherent to BIM migration.  BIM presented a major paradigm shift with a new way of designing, virtual models of buildings and data integration at a level that was previously impossible.  As early adopters quickly learned, under the new paradigm BIM content and associated data were major hurdles for virtually every project.

UNIFI was created to help solve the real world issues those in the trenches of execution were wrestling with – content creation, organization of content and the ability to search and find what was needed across the company’s existing BIM content libraries to ensure time wasn’t wasted recreating something that already exists.  It was a problem we experienced and knew others would run into as well.  Sure enough, our early customers like Stantec, HDR and IA felt the pain, gave UNIFI a chance and have been invaluable contributors to our product roadmap ever since.

Times have certainly changed, and for us 2019 was a year where the vast majority of AEC firms we engaged recognized the opportunity to drive value from structuring their BIM content and data. Owners too are looking to realize more efficiency and intelligence from their BIM models. Rather than sticking projects in folders never to be opened again, they’re working to create standardization across their portfolios and leverage their BIM content and data as an asset.

Moreover, the era of “We’re not so sure about the security of the cloud” seems to be waning. Today the global design firms we speak to are mandating cloud-based software solutions, so that projects, files, content and data can be accessed by anyone from anywhere.

Thankfully quality content has become more prevalent and easier to find. Many firms have built out their own solid library of generic content to drive efficiency across their projects.  We have also seen a steady increase in desire for manufacturer-specific content and data, with thought leaders like bimstore and BIMsmith (full disclosure: both UNIFI partners!) working diligently to meet the need.  Their contextual understanding of AECO’s requirements and education of manufacturers on how to build content that is not just accurate from a data perspective, but also practically useful has created a path to value and adoption.

The growth in both availability of quality content and solid partners who provide it in the market paired with increased demand for our BIM and data management platform led us to make the decision to fully focus on advancing our industry-leading software solutions.  With this intentional focus on software, we’ve ceased offering content creation services in house and instead rely on our network of expert partners to meet customer content creation needs.  

One constant in the industry is the diversity of workflows and delivery processes which leads to unique supporting technology stacks from company to company.  Customization is often a necessity and we launched our Content Management and Project Analytics API packages to support it.  We were delighted to see how excited our customers were to leverage the APIs to connect their BIM data to their project ecosystems. Our partnership with VIATechnik ensures customers have an expert partner to work with on applying the APIs to their unique integration needs.

As we look back on 2019, gratitude is the first thing that comes to mind. Gratitude for new customers who chose our team and platform to journey with them towards structuring their BIM data. Gratitude for our existing customers who have trusted us enough to continue journeying with us.  We’re humbled by the vision and passion of the Design Technology teams we work with!  

So, what’s next? Our last release of 2019 added Shared Parameter Management to enable our customers to advance beyond BIM content to management of BIM standards and schemas through the UNIFI platform.  This laid the foundation for increased capabilities around data management and visualization in 2020. We’re intensely focused on increasing platform flexibility to support the infinite use cases and workflows across our customer base, whether that’s a need for unique permissions sets or API functionality. 

In addition, in 2020 we will start to address what we have dubbed the ‘technological generation gap’, as we see it as a huge liability for the industry.  With the migration to the technology-centric delivery paradigm of BIM, much of the design and engineering work being performed is defined by the technology platforms being used.  The complexity and learning overhead associated with those platforms has pushed many of the senior subject matter experts out of workflows.  We believe this is to the detriment of the industry on multiple fronts, and UNIFI wants to create a both/and approach via a bridge between the non-modeler/non-tech savvy industry expert and those working in the model.  In early 2020 we’ll be releasing a beta of UNIFI Connect to select customers, which will reengage those senior stakeholders and improve collaboration between non-Revit stakeholders and modelers….more to follow!

It’s been an incredible year, and everything we achieved this year is thanks to you, our customers, and to our amazing team who have made it all possible. At the end of the day a company is the PEOPLE who comprise it, and the success of our technology and our customers is truly a reflection of our team.

We hope you had a wonderful Christmas and best wishes for a happy New Year!  2020 here we come!!

-Dwayne & Virginia