A360 the one-stop Common Data Environment?

BIM is very much upon us, with most of our design teams creating models which need to be shared, coordinated and clashed.

After another round of Autodesk re-branding, we were keen to test whether A360 is the ‘new’ collaborative storage platform, for your next BIM Project.

PAS 1192-2 (which i’m sure you know cover to cover) describes the shared use of individually authored models in a Common Data Environment (CDE), being a single source of information for any given project, used to collect, manage and disseminate all relevant approved project documents for multi-disciplinary teams.

So how does that link into A360? Let’s focus on three factors based on the description above:

  • Ability to host all types of files
  • Single source of information for the project
  • Manage and share information

Hosting Projects

Section 1
Project Home page, links to data, users, calender and wiki on the left.

Creating a project for a specific job is simple.  It’s then a question of adding users and uploading data of almost any format – a total of 102 file formats are supported. Most of the common extensions are supported. For design data, 53 formats are available including Revit and Navisworks. There are 23 formats for media from AVI to MOV, PNG to MP4. Finally from an office file perspective, we have 26 formats from CSV, DOC, PDF, PPT and XLS, among others.

I expect other formats will be added soon.

Single source for information

Once we have uploaded all the project information files (BIM execution plan & contract documents etc), we can add important dates to the project-specific shared calender, update our project wiki page,  or visualise some of the design data we have uploaded to the project.

Section 2
Recent comments and activity on the left, interactive Revit model exploded and itemised on the right

One of the most impressive features of viewing the data through A360 is that you really can interact with it! Regardless of whether you have any Autodesk products installed, you are able to review, interact, rotate, select, query and even explode the data, directly in your web browser. It can be configured so comments from you or your design partners go to the right person instantly. The interaction with the model is also extended to a search facility to focus directly on a manufacturer or family type. You can hide and isolate selections making it the ideal platform to review a model. Looking specifically at CDE, A360 also offers the ability to not only have a single source for information but an interactive one at that.

Manage and Share information

A key part to a CDE is how users can access the single source of information.  There are typically two ways to access A360:

  • A360 App  This is the perfect mobile companion. I would recommend every Autodesk user have it installed on their mobile device. You never know when you might need to open a floorplan or 3D internal camera. It offers most of the functionality you would want, but is slightly limited based on the touchscreen element. I found the most useful features are the notification, mobile mark ups and offline file storage for those sites with no data connection.
  • Web browser  Personally, having used both methods for accessing A360 in recent weeks, the web browser offers everything, with no limits. It’s the easiest way to create projects, add users and interact with 3D data. Chrome and Firefox are recommended as Safari and Internet Explorer have some issues with the 3D files.
Screenshot from iPad app
Screenshot from iPad app

Any files uploaded within A360 can be shared via a public link. You can manage this with passwords and restricting the file so it cannot be downloaded. This is useful when you need to share a single file with a consultant. Alternately, you can add a user to the project as a contributor. They can then add and interact with all files that haven’t otherwise been locked. We will publish more news soon on A360 Team which will allow more control over user access such as Team Owner, Team Administrator and Team Members.

Overall

A solid Common Data Environment allowing users to upload and interact with all documents and data associated to a live BIM project. There is definitely scope to increase the feature list and file formats to ensure it can become a compliant CDE. It’s also worth looking at Autodesk Project Skyscraper, Autodesk Sundial and BIM360 Glue/Field to see in which direction Autodesk are moving. More details on these services will be posted to our blog on a weekly basis, so do check back on the blog or follow us on Twitter for updates.

You can access A360 at http://autodesk360.com/ where you can login with your Autodesk ID and begin uploading a project. Using A360 starts from FREE with A360 Team starting at $10/per month. No word yet on UK pricing but with its flawless interaction with other Autodesk products and ease of use, I would see it as a huge contender against its competitors.

Autodesk Pricing for A360
Autodesk Pricing for A360

Cadassist’s BIM consultants are on hand to help guide you in the right direction – a useful resource, particularly if you are tackling your first project. 

Please contact your account manager or sales@cadassist.co.uk  for this and other BIM services.

You can also follow Cadassist on FacebookTwitter, and check out our LinkedIn group and our YouTube channel for more tips, tricks, updates and best practices.

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