AGS Data Conference 2017 Review

It has been 25 years since the launch of the AGS Data Format, a standard format for the transfer of geotechnical data across the industry, and to celebrate this milestone, the AGS organised a conference to celebrate the past success of the format and to encourage change and improvement going forward.

Keynetix played a major part at the conference with Roger Chandler giving the Keynote lecture, Gary Morin presenting on the BIM 4 the Subsurface project and several of our staff manning our stand in the exhibition area.

It was fantastic to see such a large crowd there, and at times, it felt like there was standing room only.  It was also great to see so many of our customers at the event but for those who were unable to attend we have included our highlights below.

Roger Chandler, Managing Director of Keynetix, introduced the conference and covered the difference between being a Disrupter or the one being Disrupted.  The focus was on how the gap in adoption of new technology between the geotechnics and IT industries provide lots of opportunity to improve our industry using existing technology.

Whilst automation appears to scare most people, we are now living in an age where computers are designing and printing bridges and cars are being driven around without a driver, but yet the AGS Data Format has stayed the same.  With IT changing so much over the last few years is it time that the AGS data Format catches up?

The rest of the conference was split into four sessions:

  1. Client View
  2. International
  3. Case Studies
  4. BIM

Client View

Tony Daly gave an excellent summary of research work conducted by Highways England and what the Agency was doing with the data once they had it stored in HAGDMS.  The inclusion rate has increased since the last AGS conference but was still at only 38% of Geotechnical information they hold is in AGS format and it was felt if the HE had an online viewer to see the data then a greater emphasis would be given to ensuring collection of the data with the report.

Roselyn Carol of NGI talked about the challenges they had had with different departments not adopting AGS together which had made it difficult to transfer data from one to another.  Although they had experienced challenges, they have really leapt forward now with standardising their data format with the managing of 60 years of archived data.

The session was wrapped up by Shawn Sismondi of Tideway Central who promoted the benefits of sharing data between organisations on the tunnelling work that is about to start on Thames Tideway.


Rodney Hutchinson of KGA New Zealand kicked off the International section talking about “How out of adversity, good things can happen?” following the massive earthquakes over in New Zealand’s capital Christchurch.  This was a game changer for the local industry and a decision was made to unify the data from all of the ground investigation data and upload it to a national database.  This allowed AGS data to be adopted completely and it’s great to see that this initiative has been a massive success.

Rory McCully of ARUP Netherlands continued in this vein. They had experienced a similar series of earthquakes back in the 1980’s and 1990’s and had no ground investigation records which led them to discover work had been duplicated.  The Netherlands now have a national database which can be accessed universally.  They have also taken this one step further and have created an AI algorithm to process CPT data.

Case Studies

Callum Irving of TSP Projects, Paul Chaplin of Central Alliance, Russell Jordan of RPS and Paul McMann of Fugro, Ian Joyce of Bentley and Rae Watney of WSP then headed up the Case Study sections.  They covered a range of real life examples of the cycle of AGS data being delivered ‘together’, the importance of communication between supplier and receiver, BIM being a ‘process’ not a ‘product’, automation, and how to stop engineers becoming robots.


Next up was the BIM section, which was kicked off by Gary Morin of Keynetix.  He talked about the features that will be launched soon as a result of the BIM for Subsurface project:  BGS Connect – via HoleBASE SI which will give access to new mapping layers from the BGS, which is set to become a powerful tool when doing a desk study as you can currently only access PDF logs.  You’ll also be able to download AGS Data directly from the map by highlighting the area of interest, something to look out for going forward.


Gary Baker of National Geoscience Data Centre continued the BIM section with how they are developing a private store of data and was asking companies to donate their data to enable them to do this.  This created one of the biggest discussions of the day over “Who will own the data?” and “How do we get clients to agree to sharing this data with the BGS?”.  Watch this space for further developments.