Collaboration in AEC Design : Web-enabling Applications using Peer-to-Peer Office Communicator
A market analysis conducted by Gartner Dataquest in August 2001 has shown the typical characteristics of the AEC design process. High volatility in membership of AEC design groups and members dispersed over several external offices is the common collaboration scenario. Membership is most times short lived, compared to the overall duration of the process. A technical solution has to take that into account by making joining and leaving a collaborative work group very easy. The modelling of roles of collaboration between group members must be based on a commonly understood principle like the publisher / subscriber model, where the individual that is responsible for the distribution of vital information is clear. Security issues and trust in the confidentiality of the system is a central concern for the acceptance of the system. Therefore, keeping the subset of data that will be published under the absolute control of the publisher is a must. This is not the case with server-based scenarios, sometimes even due to psychological reasons. A loosely bound Peer-to-Peer network offers advantages over a server-based solution, because of less administrative overhead and simple installation procedures. In a peer-to-peer environment, a publish/subscribe role model can be more easily implemented. The publish/subscribe model matches the way AEC processes are modelled in real world scenarios today, where legal proof of information exchange between external offices is of high importance. Workflow management systems for small to midsize companies of the AEC industry may adopt the peer-to-peer approach to collaboration in the future. Further investigations are being made on the research level (WINDS) by integrating the viewer and redlining application Collaborate! into a collaborative environment.