A Grid-Based Platform for the Virtual Organisation in Construction

Die hybride BauVOGrid-Systemarchitektur mit den Schlüsselanwendungen Mängel-, Medien- und Prozessmanagement

BauVOGrid is developing a platform that: (1) demonstrates the benefits of Grid technology in selected key applications, thereby giving Grid usage its breakthrough in the real industrial environment, (2) enables the flexible use of the developed construction-specific service infrastructure in future project-based virtual organisations, and (3) provides a generalised framework extending the business perspective of construction portals for the benefit of the community as a whole.

A major prerequisite for the success of any Virtual Organisation (VO) is the efficient IT integration of the involved compa-nies. This is particularly relevant in the construction industry, distinguished by its one-off projects and one-off products – buildings and other constructed facilities. Project VOs in the construction domain are comprised of multiple companies, many of which SMEs. They join efforts for a limited amount of time (typically a few months) to be able to tackle the re-quired complex project tasks. Such temporary VOs are dissolved at the end of the project work. Their composition is usu-ally entirely different in subsequent projects. This generates infrastructures that are characterised by complex contractual relationships and frequently changing tasks and responsibilities, in addition to high levels of dependency on external factors (weather, transport, social-political aspects). The developed BauVOGrid solution is specifically designed to cope with such industry requirements. This distinguishes it from most academic, more theme-oriented Grid Communities.

BauVOGrid has developed a specific hybrid Grid/Web-Service Architecture that provides a basis for next generation VO services and construction portal solutions. The aim is to improve in sustainable manner the structure, functioning and operability of a broad spectrum of different types of VOs (project consortia, joint ventures, BOT, PPP etc.) via a distributed IT system based on Semantic Web and Grid technologies. This should enable:

  • Controlled role-based responsibility and authorisation structures

  • Fast, flexible and reliable provision of information from various sources and of various types (documents, drawings, photos, videos) both in the office and mobile, at the site

  • - Improved support of the information exchange between project servers and project partners as well as fast mobile capturing of process and product status information to provide for more efficient decision making

Grid technology enables establishing project-wide, secure, cross-enterprise sub-networks on the Internet, which is cur-rently only done on intra-company level. However, before this can be achieved it is necessary to solve various technical and business problems. Accordingly, the development of the BauVOGrid platform pursues a special strategy that will allow to gradually establish the Grid concepts in practice, to raise the trust in the new technology and to realise a smooth transition from current predominant client-server solutions to true distributed systems with much greater capacities.

The hybrid BauVOGrid system architecture with the key applications for Defect, Media and Process Management

This strategy is based on the following three pillars:

  • Integration of Grid and Engineering Semantics through a semantic Application Service Layer that is positioned above the Grid Middleware and enables the important separation of Grid-based authentication and project-based authorisation, and hence the technically adequate representation of user roles in the hierarchy company–project–person;

  • Smooth Migration to a Grid infrastructure that is acceptable for the construction industry by using a hybrid mixture of existing MS Windows Applications, Web Services and portal-based Grid Services with integrated support of role-based access control on the basis of VOMS, VOMRS and the developed BauVOGrid Ontology;

  • Virtualisation of the used resources and services used so that project portals can access a large pool of resources while confidential company data remains protected and can be only used under rigorous security conditions.

The developed Key Applications were selected to allow immediate use by the Consortium partners, but more importantly, to pave the way for Grid technology for the construction industry by providing best practice examples. These Key Applications are:

  • Mobile Defect Management

  • Media Data Management

  • Dynamic Process Management

Defect Management plays the central, integrating role here. It represents also the tangible business concept that is ex-ploitable in the short-term.

The development focus lies on the Grid-based virtualisation of resources and the ontology-based process and information management, utilising the ARIS methodology for Business Engineering.

The results achieved thus far include:

  • The specification of a harmonised, generic defect management process model that establishes the basis for ad hoc definition of actual processes at the construction site on the basis of 20 predefined parametric process modules (business process object patterns). An ontology framework comprised of four Core ontologies (Process, Role/Organisation, Resources and Services) which represent in formal logic all components of the BauVOGrid platform thereby serving as basis for the services’ develop-ment and integration. This framework is enhanced by domain-specific extensions for defect and media management.

  • Mobile Services for local positioning, RFID-based defect identification, barcode generation and automatic barcode recognition in ePhotos for the allocation of media data to defects by means of Grid-based image analyses.

  • Central defect and media data management services enabling – via a range of query, search and filter functions – the integration of existing proprietary defect management systems, and hence the IT-based cooperation between the Owner, the General Contractor and all Subcontractors in a project.

  •  A Method Toolbox for the flexible, dynamic assembly of complex process chains on the basis of the ARIS methodology and the developed Business Process Objects Ontology.

  • Further development of the Grid Workflow Execution Service (GWES) for transformation of business processes to executable Grid-Workflows by means of a novel Transformer Service APML » EPML » GWorkflowDL.

In a practice-relevant pilot project, BauVOGrid will demonstrate how three separate proprietary Defect Management Systems can be efficiently integrated in a secure VO Network with the help of the developed dedicated Grid/Web-Services. It will also demonstrate how their features can be best coordinated in process-centred manner, and extended by further simulation and presentation facilities. This will highlight persuasive, new business perspectives to software providers and construction practitioners.