Bentley adds to its digital cities offering with INRO deal

Apr 14, 2021 | Hot Topics

Bentley Systems just announced that it has acquired INRO Software, a maker of transportation planning, traffic simulation, and mobility visualization solutions. You may recall that Bentley has already acquired and built a few pedestrian and traffic modeling solutions — this extends the reach of those acquisitions into building a comprehensive system-level model.

IINRO’s Emme planning system supports urban, regional, and national transportation engineers in forecasting demand. Dynameq is a vehicle-based traffic simulation platform that’s used in urban traffic planning. Last, CityPhi, provides data visualization and analytics for large mobility and geospatial datasets.

A long time ago, when I was at MIT, one of my dorm mates was a civil engineer-to-be, specializing in traffic planning. She went on to work for the New York City’s subway system. She spent hours, taking notes on the bus system, routes, passenger numbers, density on specific bus routes at specific times – software like INRO’s makes this more high tech, sure, but also leads to significant insights that can help tune the transportation system overall. A’s work would have been much more valuable if we had had a way of predicting commuter traffic, for example, and tied that into how long a particular bus route would take. Then tie that into how long a connecting bus should wait, and so on. Bentley plans to add just these capabilities for urban planning.

 Bentley plans to combine INRO’s traffic simulations with current assets such as CUBE (which models how demand is spread across a transportation system), Streetlytics (analytics on observed trips), LEGION (pedestrian modeling), and OpenRoads (civil engineering solutions).

Bentley says this combined solution can be used to create what it calls “mobility digital twins” — and it does, even if we think of it more simply as a model of the transportation infrastructure of a place. Not just trains, but trains+buses+private cars+Uber+pedestrians+cyclists+whatever comes next. The timing is perfect; as we’re all figuring out how to come back to city centers, planning the transportation options requires flexibility, access to current data, and the ability to make reasoned trade-offs. Too, even without a pandemic, how citizens navigate a city is increasingly part of the urban planning function; one Scandinavian city has a goal of making it possible to get from anywhere to anywhere within the city in 20 minutes or less. I live outside Boston — that’s a stretch goal for sure around here. But it is a consideration for people who could essentially live anywhere and work remotely.

Bentley SVP, digital cities, Bob Mankowski says that the INRO team “led the research of advanced multimodal network modeling methods which helped establish state-of-the-art mobility simulation and … is leading its software future in our mobility digital twin advancement. With the addition of INRO and its world-class team, Bentley Systems can even better accelerate cities and regions in going digital to ‘build back better’!” [Build Back Better is the US slogan for much of what’s being debated in our legislature, including the infrastructure bill.]

Financial details were not released, but we may learn more when Bentley announces Q1 earnings sometime soon.