u p F r o n t . e Z i n e

celebrating our 700th issue!


Issue #700 |  July 19, 2011 

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In This Issue

1. Arup MassMotion
      - Running MassMotion
      - Practical Uses
      - Q&A


2. Updating Civil B

    Part 2: Autodesk Responds
    (Next week, CivilB replies, in part 3)

3. Out of the Inbox and our other regular columns


Arup MassMotion

One of my great frustrations in my former life as a transportation engineer was the difficulty in predicting the increase in movement of vehicles, whether due to a proposed local shopping mall or an entire city 25 years in the future. Eventually, I decided the problem was unsolvable with the technology available in the 1980s, because human behavior is far too unpredictable. And then I left the industry for the certainty of CAD software.


Now comes along Arup's Oasys division and their MassMotion software that aims to predict pedestrian flows within buildings. (Oasys is the software arm of the London-based Arup architectural and engineering firm; the MassMotion development team happens to be located in Toronto, Canada.) Needless to say, I found the claim fascinating.


Product director Erin Morrow spent an hour last week with upFront.eZine describing what he calls "the most advanced pedestrian simulation and crowd analysis software. It is fast, runs agents faster than any other software. Other pedestrian software is meant for fire and egress, which does not simulate normal pedestrian behavior."


Technically, MassMotion is an autonomous agent system that predicts how people interact with the environment and each other. "You can fill those environments with a lot of people, something that cannot be done with other tools." In practice, the software has handled up to 350,000 simultaneous agents -- and he thinks the number could be quite a bit higher. "This capability allow us to look at a different class of problems, such as a large train station and neighbourhood or an entire CBD [central business district]."


The reason for the software is to create better designs. "Arup found that other software could not handle the scales of project the international firm works on, and so built its own. MassMotion has been used internally for the last three years, and is now available commercially. It is used to look at different design layouts, and then seeing what the outcome is.


After some CAD vendors claimed that their simulation software could be used by "anyone," I was glad to hear Mr Morrow declare that "There is a tendency to think of simulation tools as the answer, but this is not the case. There is still a huge amount of work involved in gathering data, simulating data, and dealing with future years scenarios."


Although this program runs the simulation quickly and generates reams of useful data, there is still the matter of setup. For instance, cultures have differing norms when it comes to pedestrians interacting with each other and their surroundings. For instance, the Japanese will tolerate a closer spacing than do North Americans. Vancouverites don't jaywalk; New Yorkers make it their way of life. In North America, pedestrians have the right-of-way over vehicles; in other parts of the world, pedestrians don't, and so have to wait longer to cross roads. In countries that drive on the left side of the road, elevators run the other way, and pedestrians on sidewalks walk on their left side. Even the walking pace differs among cultures.


Running MassMotion
With this prolog in place, Mr Morrow quickly walked me through using the MassMotion software.

  1. MassMotion requires 3D models; it does not work with 2D drawings. The 3D models can be made from scratch within the program, but is more likely to be imported from AutoCAD, MicroStation, Revit, and Rhino.

  2. First step is to classify objects as floors, links (stairs, escalators doors, openings), portals (entry and exit points), and barriers (walls, columns).

  3. Next step is to identify agent scheduling: the time that people start walking, their destinations, and the end time. For example, a fire alarm might be the start time, with the destination the exit doors. MassMotion automatically determines the network of pedestrian routes from the 3D geometry. When there are changes to the design, then the motion model updates the network (and agent reactions) automatically.

  4. After the simulation is run, MassMotion outputs lots of data, like journey times, business of floors, levels of service, and queueing times. It generates density plots and graphs, which can be compared with other designs or operational contexts.

  5. Then there is the all-important steps of calibrating and validating. The MassMotion folks did a lot of research into real-life scenarios, which are then compared with results generated by the software. For instance, there are upper limits to the density people on stairs, route choice patterns (short and dingy, or longer and nicer), speeds of populations, and so on.

Practical Uses
MassMotion is used mostly for airports and train stations, but also for venue planning and smoke and fire analysis. Another use is eyeball space on walls, which can be used to located billboards and signage. It can be used to judge the impact on retail space, such as placement of corridors.



Union Train Station in Toronto handles twice as many people as the city's international airport. The city is planning towards handling 35,000 people in the peak 15 morning minutes by 2021. The station is complex, for there are many routes that passengers can take use -- a lot of interconnectedness. The station has to continue working while it is being renovated; MassMotion showed it was manageable.


upFront.eZine: Is there plan to extend this technology to vehicles?
Mr Morrow:
There already are good traffic simulators out there, but we plan to integrate vehicles with pedestrians. A future release will add interactions with bicycles.


upFront.eZine: What other features do you plan for future releases?
Mr Morrow:
We are experimenting with cone of vision analyses, integrating smoke and fire [CFD) data, and making it compatible with Arup Real-time.


upFront.eZine: Would your software have helped prevent last year's Love Parade disaster? [Twenty-one people died in Duisburg, Germany when one the site's access points, a 240m-long tunnel, became overcrowded.]

Mr Morrow: I get asked about it a lot. While our software would have been useful in analyzing pedestrian flows, I would not want to guarantee safety. We work with levels of service, and even level of service F [pedestrians are stalled] cannot predict deaths from overcrowding and crushing.


upFront.eZine: Why is your software faster?
Mr Morrow:
It is multithreaded, and scales with CPU cores. Most other software is 32-bit and single-core, and so not optimized for large populations. [He switched to Task Manager to show me that all four cores were running at 90% as MassMotion did its simulation.]


upFront.eZine: How do you know your results are accurate?
Mr Morrow:
We compare them with real world scenarios, such as evacuations, commuter behavior, route choice patterns, and other simulation tools.


upFront.eZine: On which operating systems does it run?
Mr Morrow
: We support Windows XP through 7, both 32- and 64-bit. It requires that Autodesk Softimage be installed.


upFront.eZine: How much does it cost?
Mr Morrow:
The outright purchase price is 20,000 British pounds [about $32,000] or it can be rented. This is a normal price for this kind of tool. Annual maintenance is 20%. Until the end of August, there is a 40% early adopter discount on the purchase price. A time-limited demo version can be downloaded from http://www.oasys-software.com


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Updating CivilB

Part 2: Autodesk Responds


[Last week, I reported on Bo Gao's update of CivilB. This week, we read a response from Autodesk's Adam Strafaci to some of Mr Gao's claims. Next week, in part 3, Mr Gao replies to Autodesk. Through this series of exchanges, we trust that our readers better understand the issues first raised by Mr Gao..]


I thought it was important in this instance to clarify some inaccuracies and misperceptions attributed to Mr. Gao in the upFront.eZine issue #699 article entitled "Updating CivilB."

The claim was made that AutoCAD Civil 3D tends not to deal well with irregularly shaped corridors, such as roads and railroads, that don't have parallel sidewalks, bus lanes, ditches, guard rails, and so on. Civil 3D actually has robust capabilities in this area. This includes dynamic modeling of geometric elements and corridor modeling that includes perpendicular projections at non-parallel design elements, such as road widening and curb returns. Civil 3D also includes the ability to view and draft sections across multiple baselines, that are skewed, or that slice across areas such as intersections or interchanges.

Other comments about the capabilities of Navisworks are also misleading and not accurate. Navisworks supports both hard and soft clashes. "Hard" clashes being the ability to identify the intersection between clashing objects, and "soft" clashes being the ability to identify minimum clearances between objects. Navisworks also offers the ability to identify the proximity of selected items in the x,y,z dimensions. With these capabilities, a civil engineer should be able to check for clearances in the four scenarios that were mentioned in the article.

[Adam Strafaci is senior industry marketing manager of infrastructure at Autodesk.]



DraftSight is a no-cost*, easy-to-use 2D CAD product that generally takes a few minutes to download and runs on multiple operating systems, including Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, the Mac, and Linux.

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Out of the Inbox

During August two big computer exhibitions take place in Vancouver, Canada and I'll be attending both of them:

     1. Wednesday, August 10: Siggraph

     2. Thursday, August 18: LinuxCon


Josh Jeffrey writes to say that his dad, Dennis L. Jeffrey, passed away on the evening July 3 at age 64.


AutoCAD for Mac is an interesting marketing problem for Autodesk. On the one hand, the world's largest design software company needs an AutoCAD presence in the OS X market; on the other hand, Acad/Mac isn't selling well, judging from a variety of independent sources. Autodesk decided to give it the pure Mac interface, which means it doesn't have the ribbon -- a UI element of which Autodesk had previously boasted gave AutoCAD [for Windows] users a 40% boost in productivity. A couple weeks ago, an Autodesk press release stated that "Autodesk Vault Works with Microsoft SharePoint 2010 to Provide Access to Design Information Across the Enterprise." But it does not work with AutoCAD for Mac, so not quite "across the enterprise."


StreetMapper is a truck-mounted laser and mapping system that automatic calculates bridge heights road restrictions. http://www.3dlasermapping.com


Celeritive Technologies releases VoluMill v4.0, which adds an Active Chip Thickness Control interface to reduce the rough milling cycle time. Also new is the Non-Concentric Milling technology for reducing tool loads and improve chip clearance. http://www.volumill.com


OrthoGraph 3.0 for on-site surveying using handheld measuring devices -- such as a Bluetooth PDA and a Leica distance meter -- works with ArchiCAD to record intelligent walls with thickness on-site. Also works with AutoCAD and SketchUp. http://www.orthograph.net


SolidACE's structural steel design software for SolidWorks is now up to version 1.4. BuiltWorks 2010 was massively rewritten inside so that structural members are now placed with a single parametric command. There is also a new library of connections. http://www.solidace.com


IMSI/Design bundles $450 worth of software -- pdf2CAD (convert PDF to CAD formats), Hatch Pattern Creator, and Drawing Compare -- for $199. http://www.turbocad.com


ModuleWorks appoints Jens Beissel as marketing manager. Mr Beissel was with GEVA Business Solutions, which specialized in software for payment transactions.

And in the soap opera that is think3, Versata regains control of the Think3.com domain name -- a point made pointedly by printing the announcement in Italian. Meanwhile, both "owners" of think3 have separately announced updates to the thinkdesign software: the American and Italian bankruptcy administrators say that updates will happen this summer (I think).


- - -


These were the news items that was posted during the last week at our WorldCAD Access blog <worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:

- "The Poles like us!" Chinese CAD vendor addresses critics
- Weekend on Galiano Island
- Tailor Made Software really updates its CadViewer software
- Bluebeam patents drawing compare

Letters to the Editor

Re: Updating CivilB

"I had a good laugh over the utility stuff. Personal experience tells me that until they fully automate the digging, connecting, and covering process, it's a fluffy dream. You should see the crews hired by utility companies these days."

     - David Stein



Notable Quotable

"We've gone from very small to very small..."
      - Steve Ballmer, ceo Microsoft, on the transition from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone 7.

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upFront.eZine is published every Tuesday, except during summer and Christmas vacation. Editor: Ralph Grabowski. This newsletter is read by 12,000 subscribers in 70 countries. Your comments are welcome at editor@upfrontezine.com! Deadline for submissions is every Monday noon.


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Entire contents copyright 2011 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $250 and up. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "WorldCAD Access" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.

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