How the Qlik-Powered Asset Management Tools to enable an Automated, Sustainable Future
When we first developed the idea for Central Asset Management System (CAMS) back in 2009, we were researchers trying to solve a problem. Infrastructure costs were high, yet there was no good way to predict the lifecycle degradation of these significant investments.
As civil engineering researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), we tried to solve this problem by developing CAMS, which delivered models for accurately predicting infrastructure degradation. But as we started to further develop CAMS for commercial applications, we started to run into issues in creating a platform that would meet client needs.
The City of Melbourne began using CAMS in 2014, and they became our guides in understanding the needs of the end user. There were three main issues. First, council members asked my team to develop an increasing number of algorithms for various scenarios, which was unsustainable in terms of developer time. I realized the solution was to create a mechanism that would translate our models into implementable actions. Second, our models ran into issues due to unclean data, which resulted from discrepancies in how city consultants performed inspections. We resolved this by creating a mobile app that would aid inspectors with an asset checklist, creating consistency across the board. Finally, we needed an analytics platform to generate reports. Creating a user interface from scratch and hard-coding reports for clients would require a huge effort, so we began looking for a business intelligence tool. We looked at two other platforms, but ultimately chose Qlik.
Qlik has had a big impact on CAMS since then, allowing us to focus on predictive modelling while allowing users to drill down and generate reports in the format they want. Putting CAMS in the hands of the user has saved us from having to manually generate these reports. Qlik also helped CAMS along our journey from research project to commercial entity reconfiguring us as an enterprise user, therefore making the solution more affordable as we used it with our clients. And as CAMS has expanded, Qlik has continued to be a big part of our solution.
Expanding into Sri Lanka
Since our initial story in 2019, we expanded to Sri Lanka after securing funding from the Asian Development Bank. The project was unfortunately delayed due to the pandemic, but in 2022 we finally completed the pilot project of implementing CAMS in seven local councils. It was quite the challenge, because we were completely changing the culture from a paper-based approach to one of digital record keeping. These councils didn’t have a digital inventory from which we could predict the future, so we had to come up with a lot of creative ways to capture their assets.
Now that we’ve delivered the system, CAMS is fully integrated into the day-to-day business of four of the seven councils, and for the other three, it’s a work in progress. When you make such a big cultural shift, it can be a real challenge to not fall back into the former way of doing things, and Sri Lanka has the added difficulty of its recent economic crisis. Despite these challenges, we have made real headway, and based on our success with this pilot, the Asian Development Bank has determined that our system works and should be expanded to all 341 local authorities in the country.
Expanding Our Reach, with Greater Security
During this expansion in Sri Lanka, we also developed CAMS version 2, which incorporates previously separate modules, such as those for bridges, drainage etc. in to a flexible platform and developed capability to cover new asset types such as street lights, road pavements, water supply etc. With our work with Sri Lankan councils, we saw that they wanted predictive analytics for assets we hadn’t considered before, including vehicle assets. This encouraged us to widen our scope. Through the use of sensors to gather more data, CAMS 2 will offer not only more detailed analysis in terms of projected deterioration, but also other aspects to be considered, such as emissions.
There are other additions. Where previously our mobile app was available for iOS only, CAMS 2 will have a fully integrated mobile app for both iOS and Android. This will open up more opportunities. CAMS is now used in over 4000 facilities covering 5 million square meters of floor space, including 12+ hospitals, prisons and correction centers that require greater security. We are therefore building more security features into CAMS 2, such as single sign-on and multifactor authentication. This new version will be fully secure and more powerful than ever before.
Understanding Assets Allows Us to Make Sustainable Decisions
CAMS continues to evolve. Later this year, we will be converting all our existing CAMS users in Australia to CAMS 2, and then we have two new projects on the go. One is to create digital twins of reinforced concrete bridges in Australia to integrating asset management capability in CAMS with live monitoring and visualization. That is part of a pilot project for SmartCrete CRC.
The second project funded by the ARC TREMS hub in partnership with McDonald Lucas Pty Ltd. is developing predictive modelling of emissions over a building’s lifecycle. This will take into consideration all the energy that goes into developing the building materials, how these contribute to operating energy, and the recycling potential at the end of life.
If you are a property portfolio manager, understanding which elements of your buildings contribute most of your carbon emissions will help with procurement as well as decisions for clean end of life. On a related note, we are also starting another short-term project for the Australian concrete industry to calculate the carbon dioxide absorbed by all the concrete structures in Australia. We can do this as CAMS captures infrastructure systems in such granular detail.
It’s Through Qlik and Our Trusted Partner That We Achieve Our Vision
Qlik continues to be a vital part of these plans for CAMS because it powers our end-user interface which is our unique selling point. Clients love the ease of use and the ability to drill down, filter and group data, and create reports with the information they want.
While there are some people who don’t mind performing queries and extracting data, that isn’t true of the broad community of our clientele: They want information quickly and easily. And the beauty of having Qlik integrated with CAMS is we pre-configure the BI tool for what the individual client wants. Qlik is also incredibly powerful. All the changes incorporated in CAMS 2 equate to more data, and more data requires more capacity. Qlik helps us to expand our capacity to 300,000 data points—double what it was before.
Qlik first came to our attention through our Australia-based partner, Cast Solutions. Just like Qlik is still with us on this journey, so is Cast. They are our first port of call whenever we need to access support. They have been responsible in their care, as they understand our business, what we do and what we don’t do. It means they can come up with solutions without taking up a lot of our time, and that helps us help our clients.
Complete automation and incorporation of sustainability are the two elements required in an asset management system going forward, and that is my vision for the future of CAMS. In the next five to 10 years, we will see building information models converted into operational asset management databases for lifecycle monitoring, and automated inspections will have predictive capacity built in. A new project funded by the CSIRO Next Generation Graduates Program in collaboration with McDonald Lucas Pty ltd. will deliver automated inspections of infrastructure assets incorporating BIM data.
In addition to predicting the lifecycle cost, we will also predict lifecycle emissions for all facilities. Decisions will be made not just to minimize the cost of management, but also to minimize the environmental impact of infrastructure assets. We have completed research with funding from the Horizon 2020 program in Europe into disaster resiliency for Metro de Madrid, Ankara Rail, and Milan Rail. We are continuing research for an energy module in CAMS. All the pieces for our future vision are coming together, and Qlik is how we will present that vision to our users.