To the Point: Why Bentley Acquired Pointools and What Users can Expect Next

For many LiDAR veterans, the biggest news this week arrived when Bentley Systems, Inc. the leading company dedicated to providing comprehensive software solutions for sustaining infrastructure announced its acquisition of Pointools Ltd the leading hardware-neutral provider of point cloud software technology.

This acquisition followed hot on the heels of AVEVAs much publicised acquisition of Z+F UK, and Autodesks rather hushed acquisition of AliceLabs. As a result some folks were quick to ask me is this a me too catch-up for Bentley? which of course it wasnt. Anyone who has ever been involved with mergers and acquisitions knows whats involved and for those that dont I can confirm that they dont just happen overnight.

So can we discern anything from the timing of the three acquisitions?

Firstly, the fact that three acquisitions happened within a short 5-6 week period confirms that the LiDAR market is on fire and consolidation is well underway. Secondly, I suspect that the AVEVA acquisition was timed to coincide with Intergeo but for one reason or another slipped a little such that it was announced just after the show closed. Autodesk didnt formally announce its AliceLabs acquisition, so I think we can reasonably assume its splash will come further down the road in the form of new products. And as for the Bentley acquisition announcement, well it was timed to align with two key events on its own calendar, namely Be Inspired Bentleys annual user awards symposium and SPAR Europe one of the years premier LiDAR conferences.

And so it seems that three in 6-weeks was little more than coincidence.

I flew to Amsterdam to join the media briefing on Monday and was thrilled to see around 70 members of the worlds industry press crammed into a room to hear Bentleys top execs explain why they bought the Pointools business. In a nutshell, its to go the last mile for its loyal and innovative user base. The press release stated that the Bentley strategy is to go beyond embedding the powerful Vortex engine in MicroStation to enable them to extending point cloud value through all Bentley solutions, applications, and workflows. One press person I follow on twitter commented on the acquisition asking Is this Bentleys most significant acquisition for 10 years? time will of course tell but there is no doubt in my mind that Bentley has bought a winner.

Back in May, at Bentleys annual user conference, Bentley unveiled an early proof of concept which showed ProjectWise (Bentleys project team collaboration system) streaming point clouds in real time across the internet. Thus eliminating the usual bottlenecks associated with moving massive files across limited bandwidth so that distributed teams can share work without paying the normal download tax. At the media briefing this past week, Greg Bentley, CEO of Bentley Systems, cited this capability (developed by Pointools specifically for Bentley) as a turning point in their relationship. To a crowded room Greg explained that the Pointools SDK enabled Bentley to make a quantum leap forwards, while at the same time making clear that to go the last mile and deliver game-changing solutions for its users Bentley really needed to get its hands on the source code.

Bhupinder Singh, senior vice president, Bentley Software, went further, With Pointools, we have developed a breakthrough capability unlocking the value of the gigabytes or even terabytes of point cloud data to surmount the big data problem of point cloud users. A unique new ProjectWise capability will stream on-demand to Bentley applications only the subset of point cloud data being viewed or queried. This functionality is what has been needed to allow point clouds to fulfill their potential as an intrinsic, fundamental data type in information modeling workflows.

So that explains the story around timing and the reasoning for wanting the technology, but what of the human angle? Innovative technology isnt created by magic, although speaking as a non-programmer it might as well be magic, great technology is created by very smart people who work incredibly hard to deliver solutions that no one thought were possible. Again Greg Bentley was very quick to welcome all Pointools staff to Bentley, On behalf of my colleagues at Bentley, I welcome our new team members from Pointools.

I know from prior experience, when on the acquiring side of the fence, that users and business partners alike want reassurance that the future will continue to be as rosy as the past. There again Bentley was quick to steady the ship telling the press that its business as usual for the Pointools team. And I can confirm that the same Pointools team who for some time now have delivered technical and sales support to their respective users will continue. And the same guys who have worked their own magic to deliver market leading software are still working as hard as ever to complete the new versions of software due imminently.

So what next? Well I guess Ill have to report back after Ive had chance to swap notes with my new colleagues at Bentley who I have no doubt are already sketching out some impressive new offerings for infrastructure professionals who are hungry for more and better point cloud software solutions.