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Civil-Comp Proceedings
ISSN 1759-3433
CCP: 73
Edited by: B.H.V. Topping
Paper 6

A Platform for the Integration of Civil Engineering Services and Tools

Z. Turk+ and R.J. Scherer*

+Faculty of Civil and Geodetic Engineeing, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
*Faculty of Civil Engineering, Dresden Technical University, Germany

Full Bibliographic Reference for this paper
Z. Turk, R.J. Scherer, "A Platform for the Integration of Civil Engineering Services and Tools", in B.H.V. Topping, (Editor), "Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Civil and Structural Engineering Computing", Civil-Comp Press, Stirlingshire, UK, Paper 6, 2001. doi:10.4203/ccp.73.6
Keywords: collaboration, concurrent engineering, distance working, computer integrated construction, structural engineering, civil engineering.

Today, technology is providing the media for accessing information, software, services and also people. In the paper we present efforts of the ISTforCE project to define a framework of this media. ISTforCE is a European 5th Framework Information Society project. It is developing and demonstrating technologies which will enable any computer based engineering tool to be available through the Internet and easily integrated with other tools. The novel approaches in ISTforCE are (1) that one should not provide project centred environments, but that these should be focused on a human, (2) that collaboration environments should be open so that they provide a platform where users and providers of engineering information, services and tools meet - clients of such environments are therefore both engineers as well as providers of services, (3) that object level data exchange is possible and (4) that infrastructure for on-line business is provided (legal and financial transactions). In the paper we present the framework and the architecture of the platform. A key element is a service and a machine-readable description of the service's functionality that simplifies its integration into the platform.

Who are users of ISTforCE: ISTforCE is a place where four main groups of people meet: (1) Engineers and architects who design and plan, (2) managers who manage the design and planning process, (3) chief information/internet officers who provide information technology support for the projects and (4) the providers of knowledge, information and software. ISTforCE is not just for architects and engineers, it is also providing the infrastructure for the old economy companies to become active in the new economy.

What are the "parts" of ISTforCE (see Figure 6.1)

  • Shells. These components include a Web portal that allows access to ISTforCE through a Web browser, a dedicated launcher application, a personal planning service client or any other Web based or Workstation based application that allows access to ISTforCE.
  • Engineering services. These are the services through which design or planning information is synthesised or analysed, for example a finite elements analysis software, excavation planning, soil mechanics, 3d modelling and code checking as provided by some ISTforCE project partner companies.
  • Engineering infrastructure (kernel) services. These are the services that support the services just listed, by providing for example object or document storage for product data, workflow management, process modelling etc. They are specialised for engineering.
  • Generic infrastructure services. They support other services by providing them with commerce functionality, helpdesks, FAQs, knowledge bases, databases, simple application templates etc.
  • Core services. While all of the above are freely exchangeable, these core services are the only central element in ISTforCE; they manage the minimal set of information about the people, the projects they work on and services they use while working on the projects.
  • Agreements and protocols. These are not tangible software but documents that define how the services fit together.

Figure 6.1: ISTforCE services

What is the key architectural component in ISTforCE? In ISTforCE everything is viewed as a service. Each service has three types of interfaces (1) The (graphical) user interface (e.g. in HTML). This one is used by the humans when using the service. (2) The application interface. This interface is used by other services to access service's functions. Services communicate using EXPRESS physical files, remote procedure calls or XML documents. (3) The machine readable API specification is an interface by which a service describes itself. Currently this interface is used by programmers and system integrators so that they can learn what a service does and how to integrate it with the other services.

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