The complete guide to the Common Visualisation Environment (CVE)

What is a CVE?

Described as ‘Google Earth on steroids’—a Common Visualisation Environment (CVE)® is an all-in-one platform that brings all construction data in the context of the real world. The evolution from the Common Data Environment (CDE), allows you to improve processes that result in project risks causing delays and costly alternatives.

As the old saying goes ‘a picture paints a thousand words’— and in a nutshell that is what a CVE is: a real-world digital replica enriched with all project data, available in a collaborative platform. Where today access to multiple project data sets is commonplace, bringing it into a digital twin environment is relatively new. Usage of a CVE brings many opportunities to improve processes of the asset lifecycle. This includes: access to up-to-date real-world site views, viewing design data layered onto site constraints and the capability to have meaningful conversations on specific site points

Making project data understandable & accessible

A Common Visualisation Platform puts usability at the forefront. It is a platform designed to be easily accessible and understandable for everyone involved in a project. It removes traditional hurdles of requiring technical skill to either access data sources or to put them into an understandable context. All that is needed is a computer with an internet connection.

Showing (design) data in site constraints

CVE platforms can integrate 2D and 3D site scans in combination with design data, documents, and other information sources. Layering this data into the context of the wider environment enables the detection of potential practical design clashes, earthworks plans and much more. These new insights enhance the quality of both meetings and decision making.

Removing team silos

Removing team silos by facilitating collaboration is a central focus of CVE platforms. The platform has various features like dropping markups, notes and comments on site specific locations. While any person can do this for themselves the possibility of tagging team members exists as well. Those team members will receive a notification so that the conversation can begin. With the platform being accessible for all team members, site or colleague visits can be dramatically reduced.

Sensat’s CVE Platform: Data sets including Real Estate design plans and underground utilities overlaid in situ of the real-world environment.

Sensat’s CVE Platform: Data sets including Real Estate design plans and underground utilities overlaid in situ of the real-world environment.

The evolution of data

Over the last decade, several players have emerged in the CDE space. Its use case has been clear: teams and projects need a ‘Single source of Truth’ for all project data. While this brought tremendous opportunity for the construction industry new challenges emerged because of it. For example: how do data sets interact with the real-world environment and how do plans align with what’s happening on-site?

The need for a better relationship between site data, design plans and the real world has prompted the need for a next iteration: the CVE. Why is this evolution happening now? While utilising aerial view data to understand site constraints is around for decades, only recently has technology unlocked the capability to do this on a large scale and with incredible detail.

Data explosion: how to make sense of it all?

With the explosion of data (and the tools to manage it), gaining clarity to make decisions with confidence can be difficult. Data is worth nothing if it just sits there, and housing it in different places and systems can lead to largely disjointed processes and practices. What causes these data silos?

Data silos: barriers to accessing data

Ask yourself, “have I experienced any of the following when trying to access data?”:

  • Require multiple barriers of licensing
  • Have don’t have the required technical software training
  • Need a specialist equipment or software
  • Can’t access proprietary file formats
  • Don’t have access to the data I need as not all team members use the software

If the answer is ‘yes’, there’s an opportunity to optimise your data usage and therefore your decision making.

Today the construction industry relies on several fundamental softwares to store and assess different data sets. Think: site telemetry and surveys, engineering and design files, to programme controls data. As a result, the communication of information is reliant on those who can access, read and relay it.

Offline communication: slow decision making

Large project scales of today make manually digitising a site and extracting key information a time costly process. Still today, blueprints, documents, and updates are documented on paper, manually transferred around or conveyed via phone calls.

On top of that, the following picture might sound familiar: some data streams are only accessible by information gatekeepers. They need to retrieve information from several repositories in order to further pass it on before insights can be derived from it (if the data is then still accurate).

It might not be obvious but a system like this is riddled with information silos. This leads to errors and rework later down the pipeline causing an increasingly smaller profit margin on a project. With high volumes of traditional form filling, paper worksheets and data stuck on hard drives, a more effective approach to updating and communicating site progress is needed

The solution: empowering teams & people

By now it’s clear that team and data silos cause barriers to identify project risk in time causing costly mistakes. Empowering teams, by implementing a healthy data culture is the solution. By that we mean: encouraging teams to put data into the hands of those who need it and use it in all their decision making. It starts by providing teams with a platform that is accessible to all, and puts data into an understandable context. With a CVE access is unlimited and for everyone. And by putting all (technical) data on real world backdrops it enhances data context for everyone to understand.

Secondly, to break down team silos all members should be enabled to communicate effectively about their site and work streams. This is a second focus for a CVE with tools such as, dropping comments on specific site locations, tagging people and adding other files will help you do that.

And the best part: there are no extra technical skills required to make use of a CVE.

Sensat’s platform integrating a highways plan for a new road layout, visualised amongst the real-world environment

What’s next with a CVE?

Having put all project information into the context of the site and have effective conversations in one platform, unlocks more benefits as well.

Get stakeholders on board with compelling visualisation

By navigating the digital representation of your project, you can surface the right information during stakeholder presentations. This makes it immediately understandable for the audience. How? Provide your audience with a 3D spatial sense by pivoting the screen every which way. You can visualise line of sight assessments or interaction of tree heights with your design plans.

“Whereas before, minor changes to the design could mean several weeks or months of backward and forward communications between architects, engineers and owners across several platforms, tools and systems, insights into the effects of changes can now be visible to all the necessary stakeholders almost instantaneously.”

—James Dean, Sensat Founder and CEO.

Improving site visit frequency & safety

With tools for analysis like volumetric measurements, distance and height metrics, we allow project contributors to make quicker design, earthwork and site decisions without needing to travel to site constantly. Moreover, you can improve site inductions by providing new site visitors with access to a 3D digital replica of the site enabling the visitor to get a feel for the site, its constraints and points of interest enhancing the safety measures of site inductions.

Monitor project progress over time

A CVE also contains a timeline functionality. Imagine scrolling back in time and visualising site changes and project progression on a month by month basis. Whilst the use cases of such a timeline are various, one worth mentioning is that of assurance: how is the project and its individual components progressing over time?

Ultimately, a CVE unlocks the true value of data by connecting individuals with the data needed to make informed decision and spot risks early.

How others are using a CVE

Further Reading

See Sensat in action

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Sensat application screenshot