Users Report / Vol.135
Planning Division, Planning and Research Administration Department, National Institute for Land and Infrastructure Management (NILIM)
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT)

NILIM Takes Responsibility of Developing Related Technologies for Infrastructure DX Promoted by MLIT
Part of Utilization of BIM, CIM, and VR, Introduced “Large-scale 4KVR Stereoscopic Driving Simulator” and “VR NILIM” Taking Opportunity of Coronavirus Crisis

“There was a plan to promote Infrastructure DX (digital transformation) by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) as a whole. National Institute for Land and Infrastructure Management (NILIM) is taking responsibility of its technical development.”

Since 2016, MLIT has been promoting “i-Construction” that aims to improve productivity of the whole construction-production system by utilization of ICT (information communication technology) in construction sites and so on. Behind this is the increase in necessity for measures against disasters and aging in the field of infrastructure while serious labor shortage has been feared for. In addition, after the worldwide widespread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) including Japan starting from the beginning of 2020, it has been required also in the sites of public works to change the work style into noncontact and remote-type work in order to contribute to Building National Resilience as well as economic development while mitigating the risk of infection. As such, cross-ministry DX in the field of infrastructure has been worked on by utilizing kinds of data and digital technologies related to infrastructure development gained through various measures. It aims to promote understanding of the general public about the infrastructure as well as to realize safe, secure, and rich life through innovation of social infrastructure and public services, the tasks themselves, organization, and processes related to infrastructure development, and culture, climate, and work style of the construction industry and MLIT by dealing with changes in the environments around social economics and needs. Then NILIM has been committed to promotion of environmental development for Infrastructure DX, including the following items, according to Mr. Yuta Ozaki, Director of Planning Division, Planning and Research Administration Department, NILIM: 1) Setting up “DX data center” for putting all the 3D data such as BIM/CIM models together and utilizing them, 2) Provision of “Construction DX experiment field” designed for promotion of technological development by industry, government, and academia about unmanned construction or automatic execution and so on.

Our user to introduce in this issue is “Planning Division, Planning and Research Administration Department” in charge of coordinating plans and preparing research environment of individual research departments in NILIM. Through their efforts they have long been making on i-Construction, the members of Division pay attention to utilization of BIM/CIM and VR technologies. They adopted “Large-scale 4KVR Stereoscopic Drive Simulator” based on 3D real-time VR software of FORUM8 “UC-win/Road” at the beginning of fiscal 2020, and “VR Kokusoken (NILIM)” that applied the virtual platform system “F8VPS” at the end of 2020. Each of them is considered to be developed also to collaborate with the above-mentioned DX data center and as a publicity tool.

"VR NILIM (Kokusoken)" that represents Asahi Office of NILIM using FORUM8 Virtual Platform System (F8VPS)
It allows not only a virtual tour within the premises but also replay of introduction movies of experimental facilities.

 Having Reached 20th Anniversary, Activities of NILIM and Efforts of Planning and Research Administration Department

NILIM is the only national research institute that takes charge of the fields of housing and social capital inside MLIT. Placing technology as the mainspring of NILIM itself, it adopts a mission of “aiming to realize national land and society that are safe, secure, vigorous, and attractive for present and future”. In realizing this, it draws approaching plans as follows: 1) Participating in policy development of MLIT as the technical expert and with an administrative point of view, 2) Returning the advanced and integrated technological capability fostered through research activities to the practical workplace, and 3) Leading to creation of new policies by using insight into the future vision of national land and society and promoting technological development.

In 2001, Public Works Research Institute (PWRI), Building Research Institute (BRI), and Port and Harbor Research Institute of MLIT were integrated together. They were so organized that roles be divided among respective institutes, each of which was an independent administrative agency (later National research and development agency) including NILIM in charge of civil engineering, architecture, or harbor and airport technologies. Since then, NILIM has been teaming up with MLIT to deal with a large number of research and development matters for such technologies that can be led to projects under the control of MLIT, according to Mr. Ozaki, Director.

At present, NILIM consists of 3 administrative Departments (General Affairs, Planning and Research Administration, and Administrative Coordination); 11 research-related Departments (Water Quality Control, River, Sabo, Road Traffic, Road Structures, Building, Housing, Urban Planning, Coastal, Marine, and Disaster Prevention, and Port and Harbor, and Airport); and 1 Center (Research Center for Infrastructure Management). These Departments and Center put their main offices in Tsukuba-shi in Ibaraki, Yokosuka-shi in Kanagawa, and Minamiaso-mura-in Kumamoto. Their activities are performed based on the following items: 1) Research and development that support planning and dissemination of national transportation policies, 2) advanced technical support for response to disasters and accidents as well as advancement of countermeasure technologies, 3) supporting improvement in technological capacity at the work sites of Regional Development Bureaus etc., and 4) collection/analysis/management of data that become technological foundation for formulating policies, and returning to society.

Having Reached the 20th anniversary, NILIM is working on research with diverse themes depending on specialties in the respective fields in this fiscal year such as: 1) Research for protecting lives and living of citizens by building national resilience, including disaster prevention and disaster mitigation 2) Research for improving the productivity and possibilities of growth of society, including promotion of Infrastructure DX and i-Construction, 3) Research for supporting comfortable and safe life, including promotion of Smart City and encouraging utilization of 3D urban models.

Being in such NILIM, Planning and Research Administration Department consists of Planning Division, Research Administration and Evaluation Division, Research Facilities Division, and International Research Division. Among them, Planning Division takes charge of coordination of plans and preparation of research environment in order to promote research work smoothly in every research department of NILIM. In recent years, as part of this, since it has been required to promote Infrastructure DX in addition to its former tasks with i-Construction or BIM/CIM, the Division has been proceeding setup of DX Data Center, which is to be main part for using 3D digital data, as well as preparation for the construction-DX-experiment field, which is to be the basis for related technological development.

Planning Division, Planning and Research Administration Department, National Institute for Land and Infrastructure Management (NILIM), MLIT
Location: Tsukuba-shi, Ibaraki
coordinating plans of research affairs and preparing the ground for research environment in NILIM
Mr. Yuta Ozaki, Director, Planning Division, Planning and Research Administration Department, NILIM
Mr. Ryo Yuasa, Construction Officer of Planning Division, Planning and Research Administration Department, NILIM

Research institute to create “the Future” of society
NILIM has reached the 20th anniversary this year. Taking this opportunity, “20 Years’ Experience: National Institute for Land and Infrastructure Management” has been published, which summarizes its activities for 20 years.

Download the publication here

 Large-scale 4KVR Stereoscopic DS Introduced as Research Platform, With Its Connection with DX Data Center in Mind

One of the things that MLIT has been wishing to realize through Infrastructure DX is “improvement in productivity”, which MLIT has been working on since long before as i-Construction. Besides this, it was also aimed at realizing “work-style reform” to change the civil engineering industry that used to be called “3K (3D: Dirty, Dangerous and Demeaning)” into better job environment for all the people working in the industry including the work site. From such a point of view, Mr. Ryo Yuasa, Construction Officer of Planning Division, Planning and Research Administration Department, NILIM says, “BIM/CIM and VR technologies had attracted attention because they are expected to become good weapons.”

In other words, it was conceived that compared with conducting experiments and such at the work site, utilization of these technologies should allow them to lead to the largest outcome while removing risk and waste in the cost. Additionally, an advantage was also conceived that even in a case that a researcher may feel awkward about massive experimentation, he or she can make it without hesitation by using a simulator.

Moreover, coronavirus pandemic that rapidly became widespread from the beginning of 2020 also lead to the tendency in the civil engineering industry, where contact-type jobs occupy large share, to urge work-style reform. Therefore, people started to work without contacting other people as much as possible, or from remote places, including in experiments. As a result, it has also become an opportunity to start a big change that also contributes to improvement in productivity.

Originally, among the research departments, some were utilizing VR technologies or DS individually. Director Ozaki explains, “Based on the fact that we should change work style in this period of time, we thought we would set up what could be used with ease throughout NILIM.”

What’s more, as DS can visualize various things three-dimensionally, it is capable of representing inspection technology for infrastructure or river flood etc. Thus, it was required to introduce a simulator effectively applicable across the different fields as a platform in the plural departments with different specialties.

In the fall of 2020, Mr. Ozaki, Director, who has an experience of using a similar DS in doing research into road transportation, set necessary specifications for DS before examination as follows: 1) Capable of gaining feeling of immersion by visually covering the human feet area, taking account of simulation of not only automobiles but also bicycles and pedestrians, 2) Realistic driving environment, 3) Assuming inspection of a structure, realizing the ambience that reflects the point of view of the inspector walking around in real time, 4) Assuming diagnosis training of structures, multiple engineers can share the same situation at the same time for one structure, and 5) High resolution in consideration of a possibility of future development.
They widely invited systems to meet these specifications. They decided to adopt UC-win/Road DS at the end of the year. Later, by the end of the fiscal year, they built up a basic system of the “large-scale 4KVR stereoscopic DS”. The system had an immersion-type stereoscopic display system with large-scale 4-face screen, realizing a wide viewing angle and highly immersive feeling, and representing realistic driving environment using actual parts of automobiles.

“We have just created a platform equipped with minimum necessary specifications. We hope each research department will apply it properly. We are also considering the ways it can be used by the people outside NILIM.”

From such a point of view, Mr. Yuasa, Construction Officer mentions “DX data center” that NILIM is dealing with eagerly. This is designed for centralized control of 3D data such as BIM/CIM of the projects under the direct control of MLIT in the mass storage server of NILIM connected through ultra-high speed-communication-infrastructure, mounting the minimum CIM software, and promoting utilization of them in VR, AR, or autonomous execution by construction machinery. Along with “Construction DX Experiment Field” under development in parallel, he expects possibilities increased by collaboration with the large-scale 4KVR stereoscopic DS.

Exhibit a model created by outputting the data of “VR NILIM” with a 3D printer as a model case of using BIM/CIM data Driving simulation accompanied by a wide viewing angle and high feeling of immersion using the immersion-type stereoscopic display system with large-scale 4-face screen

 New Publicity Tool “VR NILIM (Kokusoken)”, Expected for Advanced Application

“We have been performing events for showing experimental facilities to children several times a year to commit ourselves to public relations, too.”

However, since its opening to the public became limited due to the recent prevalence of the novel coronavirus, a new approach to letting the facilities of NILIM known to people ranging from children to grown-ups including those living faraway was searched for. Just as with the 4KVR stereoscopic DS mentioned before, they started examination in the spring of 2020. It was at the end of the year that they decided to adopt “F8VPS”. In the spring of 2021, they created “VR NILIM (Kokusoken)”, reproducing inside of the premises of Asahi Office of NILIM in 3DVR. Then, making minor revisions over and over again, they started to open it on the Website of NILIM in the last June. Having network environment, viewers can stroll through NILIM in VR, feel a large number of experimental facilities of NILIM close at hand, and understand the scale to some extent, according to Mr. Yuasa, Construction Officer.

“As a planning division, we hope “VR NILIM” will become a platform for the publicity of the whole NILIM.” Since each research department of NILIM is always dealing with various experiments and technological development, he also mentions the idea of developing VR NILIM into a mechanism that animations and information about those specific experiments and results are placed on VR NILIM so that the viewers can access them.

F8VPS Virtual Platform System
Reproducing the showroom of Tokyo Headquarter of FORUM8 in 3DVR.
Example of Virtual Campus
(Tokyo Tech ANNEX, Tokyo Institute of Technology)

 Wide Flexibility and Huge Possibilities of Future Growth of ICT

This time, Mr. Ozaki, Director introduced “Large-scale 4KVR Stereoscopic DS” and “VR NILIM (Kokusoken)” that use advanced ICT freely including VR, not only because of relationship to the policies that MLIT is committed to such as i-Construction and Infrastructure DX, but also from expectation towards the effects on measures against the novel coronavirus. For example, by using VR NILIM and such once, he was actually impressed by their reproductivity and possibilities of further growth.

“ICT is very flexible with high degrees of freedom, having high possibilities of future growth. It is a good idea to introduce ICT as much as possible by seizing a good opportunity,” says Mr. Ozaki.

Written by Takashi Ikeno
(Up&Coming '21 Fall issue)