BIM+CAFM+AR = The future starts now!


This week I received a message from Microsoft that the HoloLens is available for everyone free in the Microsoft shop. Until now, the purchase was reserved exclusively to developers. But what does this have to do with the topics BIM, CAFM and AR?

At first sight very little. The majority of you will say, there is now a new data gadget – and so on! Do we already know! In this article, I would like to show you why this is an interesting event for digitalization in the construction industry. Before I explain, however, the terms and important details, because not every one of my readers is firm in all worlds.

BIM – Building Information Modeling

BIM describes the life cycle of a building, a structure or an infrastructure from idea to demolition (-> My contribution: The 5 BIM phases). As part of the process, a three-dimensional model is created and information about the individual components is gradually added over the lifetime. Important in context BIM-CAFM-AR is the word „three-dimensional“. We are in the process of introducing the BIM process. It is a necessary step if we are serious about digitization.

CAFM – Computer Aided Facility Management

Facility management, on the other hand, considers the sum of buildings, structures and infrastructures of a company or a municipality. When we look at the entire process of BIM, the usage and maintanance phase is by far the longest phase in the life cycle. As a result of the first BIM phases, a three-dimensional model, including the individual component information, is handed over to Facility Management. Important in the BIM-CAFM-AR context is that the three-dimensional model, its components and information are used in facility management.

The use of facility management software has already become normality in most companies. But the most important graphic data is two-dimensional. Finally, only what was created and passed in the other phases can be used. Whether the graphics are two-dimensional or three-dimensional, the technical facilities of a building, a building or an infrastructure must be regularly maintained. However, the BIM process now provides three-dimensional data with better component information. The manufacturers of software are now required to make these data available to their customers as part of the ongoing digitalisation process. Do not whine, but make. The requirements of the customers will come.

AR – Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality mixes the real visible environment with the virtual models in real time. Everything you see in the VR Virtual Reality is prefabricated beforehand on the computer. (This is the abridged version, which I wrote last year as the author of study books for adult education.)

But if we want to operate Augmented Reality now, we need fixpoints in reality to position the virtual models to create the impression that the model is exactly there in reality. Currently, there are four methods for realizing this.


Everything began with the markers at the beginning of the nineties. The positioning takes place, for example, via a printed QRCODE or a picture. The 3D objects (virtual 3D objects created with the computer) are displayed where the marker is real in the room. Today we use to view our smartphone or tablet. When I developed AR software with my employees in 2008, it was a little more complicated with the hardware. The AR software only knows the marker in reality, but not the reality itself.

GPS coordinates

The majority of Augmented Reality applications for smartphones, tablets and data gadgets are now using GPS coordinates. The GPS coordinates are available at least at any time outside of buildings. The AR software knows only the GPS coordinates in reality, but not the reality itself. If the application presents exclusively alphanumeric information above the reality, it does not matter. These applications are fine. But as soon as I visualize 3D objects using the GPS coordinates in reality, we realize that the 3D objects always cover the reality. The 3D house should be behind the real tree. But do not do it.

Real objects

There are also isolated applications that recognize real objects and then display the information on the objects when they are detected. These Augmented Reality applications have their limits.

Surface detection

What is changing now with the Microsoft HoloLens. The technology detects the surface of the real environment and places the virtual three-dimensional objects in the real environment, taking into account the previously recognized real surfaces. The 3D house then appears behind the tree. It’s not that easy. Our software manufacturers have to put in a little development work to make the solutions market ready. But since Microsoft is now offering the HoloLens publicly, it can begin.


You know that there is a technical object behind the wall panel in a room that is defective. You must now remove the wall panel at a specific location. Your goal is to destroy as little as possible, so that the office can be reused as quickly as possible.

They put the HoloLens on and scan the wall, parts of the adjacent walls, the ceiling and the floor. In the second step you position the surface in the three-dimensional building model which you have received via the BIM process and is now available in your CAFM database. The individual steps in the software are controlled by means of virtual controls using the HoloLens and your hands. They do not want to represent everything possible, but now choose the building technology via the menu. Now you will be shown all objects that are behind the wall panel – in a perspective correct way! You are not sure which component it is. Either select the component in the model or the intelligent building technology automatically marks the defective component. Then you get detailed information. Also, for example, which tool you need to exchange. Then you can mark exactly on the wall the size of the opening, which must then open the installer.

This is only a small possible scenario for a technical application in the combination of BIM-CAFM-AR. The race for the most intelligent and practical solutions can begin. If you are a software developer and need help with the strategic implementation, you are welcome to contact me.

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