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Charting AEC’s Future: Insights from Kaushik Chakraborty at Bentley Systems’#YII23

In a candid and insightful interview during Bentley Systems’s Year in Infrastructure 2023 held in Singapore, we had the opportunity to discuss Bentley System’s role in shaping the geospatial and engineering solutions sector in the Asia-Pacific Sector, with Kaushik Chakraborty, the Senior VP, Regional Executive, APAC of the Bentley Systems.

Bentley's Mission taken at Bentley Systems' Year in Infrastructure '23
Bentley's Mission taken at Bentley Systems' Year in Infrastructure '23

With a focus on sustainability, innovative AI integration, and the ever-evolving landscape of the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, Kaushik sheds light on Bentley's journey and achievements. Discover how the intersection of technology, data, and forward-thinking partnerships is paving the way for a brighter, more efficient future in AEC.


Join us as we delve into the mind of a great software development company dedicated to making a positive impact in the world.


D+C: Can you tell us more about your role at Bentley and how you've focused on growing the company's geospatial and engineering solutions? Can you share some key achievements in the area?


KC: Nice question. Three questions in one.


D+C: Yes, you want to break it down and take it one by one.


KC: So first of all, thank you so much for coming to our event and taking the time, not just to meet with us, but to meet some of our users and I hope it's given you perspective on what Bentley does, what our users do and hopefully you can take this message of what our users are doing back to your readers and the community of your users in the magazine.


So, you know the perspective, what my role at Bentley Systems, that was the first question. So I'm responsible for the Bentley business in the Asian Pacific region based in Singapore and I've been here a very long time with Bentley, and one of the real fun things about being at Bentley is I think we have a very strong connection to what real values we derive, our work does for the world.


Because what we do is, we help our users build and maintain the most basic infrastructure in the world and I think it's very nice when it works well, we all feel very happy and we appreciate it.


So that's what we do and we have an extremely enriching and rewarding userbase across the ASEAN region. Usage of our solutions and applications is increasing. It's evolving into more digital workflows and every part of this region is, actually, we are seeing very positive trends towards using more digital solutions for their work.


D+C: Can you share some key achievements in that area?


KC: Our achievements— the achievements of our customers, our users, and their customers. So I wouldn't call it our achievements, I would call it some of the successful projects our users have helped deliver.


So starting from you know you've heard a lot about the projects in Singapore and the agencies in Singapore, so our users are involved in all, in most of the train projects in Singapore, in the airport projects, in the water projects, in the land management projects, in the Philippines right.


In the Philippines we are very actively involved with projects with DPWH, Department of Public Works and Highways, then with the Department of Transportation, and specifically the Manila Metro project. So that was a finalist last year at the Year of Infrastructure.


So oriental consultants represented together with the Department of Transportation were there, they were a finalist in the Rail Category last year. So and then going to of course Indonesia and Malaysia, we've had so many successful projects being done by our users using Bentley applications.


So I think our users have tremendous achievements and we share in their success.


D+C: You mentioned government DPWH. How about private owners, private entities?


KC: So I think in terms of private entities, so the EEI Corporation, MDC, they are all users of Bentley software. So it's an emerging region for us and we see a lot of positive development in the future.


D+C: Is there any system or product of Bentley, that is in the design phase, that architects can use?


KC: So a lot of architecture firms would do pure design.


Yes, Microstation is a 2D/3D CAD platform that architects can, and some still do use Microstation for some complex designs. Then for, I don't know how many architect firms in the Philippines do structural analysis and structural design or do they outsource that work?


D+C: Actually in the Philippines when you hire the architect, they have this team, structural engineers, mechanical engineers, they have this team all ready.


KC: So the structural engineers will most likely be using a Bentley application.


Where your pure architect for building design may be using a competitive product. So that's the nice thing about the AC industry. No one company dominates.


So you know there's many different companies each have their own strength and that's also the beauty about it. So there's enough healthy competition that drives more innovation and at the end of the day if we don't innovate, make applications simpler, customers will find another alternative.


D+C: Is it harder to convince the owner or the engineers, architects, designers, contractors?


KC: It's a very, very intriguing question. Which one is more difficult? I think it would depend on the scenario. Some owners are very progressive or many times if it's a company, we see individuals who are very progressive.


Some private organizations are progressive, some are not. So I think it's very difficult to say which ones. By at large, people think that perceptions by private agencies are easier to change than government agencies. I think in Singapore it's the other way around.


And then it also depends on project to project. We actually, in ASEAN we've had more success with progressive forward-thinking projects where the owners have been more progressive. We've seen a lot of very progressive. DOTR is a very progressive agency in the Philippines. Manila Water has been one of the leading water agencies in the world.


Both Manila Water and Manila are very progressive. So again, it depends.


D+C: So what role do you see emerging technologies like AI playing in the future of geospatial and engineering and how is Bentley positioning itself to leverage those technologies?


KC: Our Chief Technology Officer today, in the morning, in the product keynote talked about the role we are envisioning for generative AI, in our products and applications, you know.


The question of course is how can generative AI support our users better, by using, doing better design, and helping us derive more intelligence from the information they have about their projects so that they can better maintain the assets which are being built or which are already built.


So, we do have a vision for how generative AI can support different parts of our business, different products. We have a lot of AI and already working with some specific product lines which are looking at, such, rail maintenance.


So our AI aspects today, our AI implementations have been more in the asset operation side rather than in the design and construction phase. What we are working on today is more generative AI for design and other applications.


But I want to reiterate, right, when we say AI, we want to be very clear that AI will help and augment the work of our users.


When you design and build infrastructure, you want to make sure that it is, that you are 100% safe. And so, like so many technologies, it is a great thing to have. We must do it, but it is a process and it is a journey. It is not like suddenly tomorrow everything will be automated.


D+C: Thank you for clarifying that. The benefits of using AI in the AEC industry are appealing, so what are the challenges that you have encountered implementing this system, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, and how were you able to overcome them?


KC: So I think when it comes to generative AI for design, that is something very new. We haven't really mainstreamed that technology yet, that’s still underdevelopment.


Where we have had successes with the AI-based applications, as I said, is on the rail maintenance. There are customized applications for some of the rail agencies in the ASEAN region, where they are using it for track maintenance. It helps detect where failures may happen, but again, to train any information, you need a lot of data.


So where AI fails is when you don't have enough data to train it. In any machine learning algorithm, the training is the more important part. So agencies who have been running rail systems for ten plus years, they have data and we are able to train the algorithms. And so we have some rail agencies who have seen decent success in predictive track maintenance based on some of the ACID operations software we have.


D+C: So we know that Bentley is an advocate of sustainability. As we all know, the AEC industry contributes to almost 50% of climate change and how is your footprint compared to other companies or competitors?


KC: So, you know, as Bentley Systems, our carbon footprint comes from mostly three aspects. Colleagues in offices, travel, and cloud computing and the carbon that it creates.


Let's start with colleagues.


So even pre-pandemic, Bentley had a lot of colleagues who could work from home and when colleagues are allowed to work from home, that reduces their need to travel, that reduces carbon footprint.


Even today, we are very controlled by how much we travel and how much carbon we burn or how much carbon footprint we create with our travel. So that's something which we look at very closely.


And then the third aspect is on our applications in the cloud. We are hosted on Microsoft Azure and Microsoft is doing a lot to reduce their carbon footprint in the cloud infrastructure.


So I think overall, Bentley is very focused on sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint. I don't really want to comment on how we do compared to others. But at the end of the day, our goal is to be the best we can and not compare ourselves to others.


D+C: So Kaushik, as someone with certificates in management and leadership, what advice do you have for aspiring leaders looking to make a positive impact in their respective industries?


KC: Great question. What I would encourage everybody to think of is, think of the impact we can make on the world and think about how we can inspire the younger generation to have a better impact on what they do. So everything we do, we should think about the impact it has on the world in whatever way.


And be very honest. Be honest and have high integrity. I think that's the only thing I would say. Everybody has to choose their own path in life, but you can never go wrong by being true to yourself and trying to have a positive impact.


D+C: Thank you. Anything else you would like to share?


KC: No, good for my sake. Again, once again, thank you so much for coming. Thank you for sharing the magazine. It's very interesting.


D+C: Thank you.


This interview with Kaushik Chakraborty offers a unique glimpse into the dynamic world of geospatial, architecture, and engineering solutions, revealing an industry that is deeply committed to innovation and sustainability.


Moreover, Bentley’s insights underscore the significance of staying true to one's values and fostering a positive impact, both in business and in life. The challenges and triumphs discussed throughout the conversation demonstrate Bentley Systems' unwavering dedication to providing cutting-edge solutions that empower users across the ASEAN region.


As the AEC industry continues to evolve and embrace emerging technologies, the future holds exciting promise and an advanced vision for the role of generative AI in design exemplifies Bentley's commitment to progress.


With its mission of simplifying complex processes and fostering sustainability, Bentley Systems remains at the forefront of positive change in the geospatial and engineering sector, driven by a passion for making the world a better place.


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