Jun 22 2017

Some Asite updates

Asite logo 2012London, UK-based SaaS construction collaboration vendor Asite has been pumping out a few announcements recently.

G-Cloud

Asite last week announced its involvement in the UK’s Crown Commercial Service’s G-Cloud 9 programme. This cross-government initiative was launched in May of 2017 as a means of enabling public sector bodies to buy cloud-based digital services directly off the shelf. The open framework is refreshed every 3 to 12 months, consistently bringing on new suppliers and services, and there are around 20,000 services on the framework.

Tony Ryan, CEO of Asite, said:

“Our appointment to the G-Cloud framework builds on our long-standing relationships, which provide project collaboration services in the cloud to the UK government.  Together with our longstanding commitment to supporting the government’s Construction Strategy and in particular to the achievement of Level 2 BIM with our cBIM service, we are fully committed to the improvement of procurement in UK construction.”

A quick browse of the listing shows several other construction collaboration SaaS vendors on the G-Cloud framework including Aconex, AQL (hosting provider to eviFile – post), Bentley Systems, Business Collaborator, NEC3 contract specialist CEMAR, Idox (parent of McLaren Software), Trimble UK, and Viewpoint.

Redrow

This week, Asite has announced that listed UK housebuilder and contractor Redrow Homes has selected Asite’s SaaS platform Adoddle as its enterprise wide CDE (common data environment) solution in the UK. Redrow first adopted Adoddle’s platform in 2014 in south east England, and has now signed an enterprise agreement with Asite.

Clash detection

And, according to a Tweet today, the company is preparing for a July 2017 launch of clash detection in its CDE:

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/06/some-asite-updates/

Jun 22 2017

NBS launches BIM viewer

At this week’s Autodesk University in London, NBS – Newcastle, UK-based developer of the free BIM digital Toolkit (post) – has launched the public Beta version of the NBS Online Viewer (powered by Autodesk Forge, a WebGL-based viewer). According to BIMplus, the NBS Online Viewer makes it quick and easy for everyone working on a project to view a 3D model and associated specification through a web browser without the need for additional software (so long as you have a WebGL canvas-compatible web browser and a free NBS ID).

NBS chief executive Richard Waterhouse said:

“As part of our existing suite of integrated solutions, the NBS Online Viewer provides huge efficiency gains for designers, manufacturers, contractors and building owners/operators alike, by allowing everyone to be informed on a project regardless of technology barriers. By integrating the model and specification in the cloud, we will be providing a solution which provides and maintains critical data within the construction workflow and allows our customers to provide more value to their clients.”

NBS has been developed plug-ins for BIM design software for some years, allowing its customers to better coordinate their models and specifications. NBS director of research and innovation Stephen Hamil, said:

“Being able to view and interrogate this information from the context of a 3D model will allow for better, earlier informed decision making on projects, whilst providing the right content and information to the right people at the right time. We encourage all those working on BIM projects to test drive the NBS Online Viewer. The public beta phase will be open for the next few months and from there we will determine how best to build the first release to market with the help of our customers.”

The tool works by combining an Autodesk Revit or IFC model and NBS Create specification in the cloud without the need for the user to licence or install any software. To access and give feedback on the viewer visit www.theNBS.com/viewer

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/06/nbs-launches-bim-viewer/

Jun 16 2017

Construct.pm pushing compliance and reporting

Construct.pm is finding customers valuing it for compliance management and for accelerating project management reporting processes.

By coincidence, the day after WeWork acquired FieldLens, I visited a WeWork location in London’s Devonshire Square to talk to a tenant, Construct.pm (which also competes in the UK equivalent of FieldLens’s mainly north American target market).

Construct.pm logoI first talked to this mobile-first business in December 2015, learning how the Construct.pm form-builder and workflow platform could expedite the creation of processes and then allow users to track their progress. It was then also working with SaaS collaboration vendor Conject (now part of Aconex) to integrate simple sharing of drawings from Conject to users of the Construct.pm platform (see also October 2016 ISG case study).

CEO Ant Erwin and head of sales Mark Coates updated me on Construct.pm’s core strengths, which they saw as mobile data capture and reporting.

Compliance

The site-to-office mobile platform (currently iOS only, but the business is working on an Android version) is being developed to help project manager users accurately capture data while out on-site (“avoiding rubbish in, rubbish out”) and then re-use that data to manage workflows and to provide reports. One area they have particularly focused on is ensuring that any data collected is of high quality – for example, data is checked for completeness, and conditional fields and approval processes help ensure information is accurately captured in the right fields and formats.

Construct.pm in useConventional capture of field data using paper-based systems and/or manual entry into Excel spreadsheets is still commonplace across many construction sites, but increased digitisation, including the adoption of BIM, is making professionals more conscious about the need to capture, record and reuse data consistently, both within projects and across a businesses’ projects.

Construct.pm is finding its platform used increasingly for various previously paper-dominated process including permit-to-work workflows (for example, for ‘hot works’ such as welding or brazing) or for delivery tickets – speeding up the automated flow of information from site to head office so that project valuations can be updated in minutes and payments expedited.

Compliance is an increasingly strong point for us,” said Erwin. “Health and safety, environmental and quality issues have not always been dealt with properly by other apps out on the market, and we forget that some businesses are still getting their heads around Excel in the cloud.” (Other businesses in this sector that I have looked at in the past include HandS HQ and DarleyPCM).

“Many of our clients understand it’s not just about the forms,” Erwin continued. “Their efficiencies come from being able to manage the resulting workflows, being accountable, and avoiding hold-ups.” Construction and design programme improvements, avoidance of mistakes, higher individual productivity, faster approvals, and reduced admin costs are among the benefits reported by customers. Mark Coates also talked of one project which had been won because the contractor had demonstrated use of Construct.pm to the client, showing a commitment to visibility and to adoption of innovative technology that the client had been keen to see: “It’s good for reputation,” he said.

Reporting

Construct.pm is also finding its customers are valuing its platform’s reporting tools, said Erwin.

“More and more, we are surfacing the data. We’ve got the data collection; now it’s about using what we call ‘trackers’ to monitor actions and resulting issues, particularly if there are cost issues. Effectively, we can start to do part of the project managers’ jobs by producing coordinated reports for them. And we are using the latest live data, straight from site, to build these reports. … This means project managers can start to work entirely differently – being able to react based on live data as opposed to the old way, based on information that might be two weeks old.”

He also described how Construct.pm also interfaced with Microsoft Project through an open API to help project managers assess the impacts of issues on project programmes.

Coates said Construct.pm now had 100s of customers, most of them paying a monthly subscription to use the toolset across multiple projects. In some cases, up to 70 subcontractors may be using the platform at the request of the main Tier 1 contractor, but the business was also finding some subcontractors proactively opting to set up their own Construct.pm systems so that they too could report across multiple projects.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/06/construct-pm-pushing-compliance-and-reporting/

Jun 14 2017

ShapeDo: change management in the cloud

Israeli startup ShapeDo has a powerful 2D drawing change identification capability to which it has added strong workflow management, making it an attractive contract change application.

ShapeDo logoWith most of the world’s construction industries still heavily reliant upon 2D drawings, Jerusalem, Israel-based start-up ShapeDo says it is finding a ready market for its software that helps manage design changes. Its software detects differences between drawings, and can then help manage associated workflows (requests for information, change orders, etc) and can help project managers track the cost implications of changes in contracts, budgets and other agreements.

Ari IsaacsI talked to ShapeDo co-founder Ari Isaacs about the company and its Software-as-a-Service application, which he said “has had a very high success rate” with contractors in the Israeli market. The company is now looking to expand overseas into markets including the UK, where – despite the recent growth in use of building information modelling (BIM) – he feels there is a lot of potential for the software’s use in dispute avoidance and resolution as well as for collaboration.

Spot the difference

“We create order in the drawings,” he said, demonstrating how a sequence of design drawings can be produced, with the differences between them prominently highlighted. These differences can be the focus of comment discussions that can be shared (as GIFs or PDFs) between designers during early stage design (work in progress), or, later in a project (during construction, say), can be discussed in RFIs, early warning notices, change orders, compensation events (Isaacs’s reference to NEC terminology underlines the company’s interests in the UK market).

ShapeDo ComparisonSuperficially, such ‘differencing’ is not new. Existing collaboration platforms (eg: Aconex, Asite, Viewpoint) already have ‘drawing overlay’ facilities (Ari also mentioned Bluebeam and Plangrid), but perhaps not to ShapeDo’s level of sophistication. Its comparison engine can review differences between drawings that are of different size, scale, scope, alignment or orientation – even import scanned images of drawings or other low-resolution views. The views of drawings also load very quickly, being created from initially low-detail ’tiles’ that incorporate more detail as users zoom into the detail (a la Google Maps) – ideal for viewing on mobile devices or where only low-bandwidth site connections are available.

Detailed differencingWhile viewing a design change, RFIs and other workflows can be quickly created. Isaacs said customer onboarding includes the creation of web forms and reports that replicate existing outputs (in Word or Excel, for example) – familiarity helping boost user adoption. New workflows can, he said, be created in five minutes instead of the 25 associated with manual creation of emailed forms and associated attachments, while future tracking and reporting via the application’s workflow dashboard is also quicker. On a typical project, 600 RFIs might be created, so the time-savings can quickly mount up (at 20 mins per RFI that works out at 200 man-hours, or around 25 days).

Dispute avoidance and resolution

ShapeDo DashboardWe discussed how the system can be used by either individual businesses or by project teams sharing information. Often, ShapeDo has first been used to help adversarially-oriented firms resolve a dispute. The sequence of production of design information – and any associated changes – can be quickly established, helping identify who did what and when, and what the impacts were on contracts and budgets, to provide evidence to support a claim or explain a delay. Once customers realise the power of such an audit trail, Isaacs said they often look to implement the system on future projects across teams and so encourage more timely identification of issues before they escalate into disputes (we debated the extent to which supply chain adoption of collaborative working and ‘expert clients’ would influence how the application is used).

Service provision

The ShapeDo SaaS product is normally licensed to a customer on a per-project basis, with no limit on the number of users or the amount of drawing uploads, etc. For a project in the £20m-£200m range, Isaacs said the annual fee would be £25,000 including initial implementation and creation of customer-specific forms, security provision, training and support. Enterprise deals can also be negotiated.

Hosting is provided via Microsoft Azure cloud facilities, and ShapeDo is expanding the locations where its servers are located. For sensitive projects, on-premise hosting can also be provided at extra cost, and the company also offers premium services to help customers engaged in litigation review the drawings and other documents involved.

I asked about support for BIM (in 2013 the company offered a service for sharing 3D objects); Isaacs said they had since (c. 2015) taken a strategic decision to focus on the 2D construction market: “For most project managers, their practical needs are focused on 2D information and supporting documentation.” The UK may be pushing forward with BIM (some momentum seems to have been lost since the passing of the government’s Level 2 deadline in April 2016, though NBS’s 2017 National BIM Report suggests progress continues), but most of UK projects are still reliant upon 2D drawings, especially on-site. “We will move forward with BIM when this becomes a market requirement,” Isaacs said.

My view

Early Warnings DashboardWhile our BIM conversation suggests that ShapeDo is not setting out to compete direct with vendors of ‘common data environments’ (CDEs), ShapeDo’s application bears comparison with other ‘project extranet’ platforms – most of which also have good process management tools. Its design change identification technologies and related notification processes seem particularly applicable, even complementary to, contract change solutions. Isaacs mentioned UK vendor CEMAR, formerly CMToolkit, which specialises in NEC3 contract event reporting; in a busy battlefield, other vendors include Sypro and MPS, the two [now expired] NEC-licensed content providers Viewpoint For Projects and Conject (now merged with Aconex), plus Asite, GroupBC/Business Collaborator and Oracle’s Primavera Unifier.

ShapeDo also faces something of a marketing dilemma. Should it position itself as a platform to help traditional contractors (or their claims consultants) retrospectively substantiate claims, or is it a platform that can help contractors demonstrate a more collaborative ongoing approach with their clients and suppliers to avoid claims in the first place? Or both? Most of ShapeDo’s customers to date have been contractors; if the platform was mandated from the outset by an informed owner/operator then it might be effective in preventing later nasty surprises – this might appeal to some contractors but dismay (more adversarial) others.

Almost as soon as I saw the drawing differencing capability, I asked if this was something that might be licensed to other technology providers. The drawing overlay functions in existing applications are fine when working with successive versions of existing drawings, but of little value when dealing with images that may have been uploaded from different sources, in different orientations, scales and resolutions. Vendors looking to improve the functionality of their viewing tools might be interested in incorporating ShapeDo’s core technology into their own platforms.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/06/shapedo-design-change-management/

Jun 07 2017

FieldLens acquired by WeWork

Mobile construction collaboration developer Fieldlens has been acquired by WeWork, the New York-based provider of shared office and co-working space.

New York, US-based mobile construction management application developer Fieldlens has been acquired (for an undisclosed amount) by one of its customers: WeWork, also New York-based and a provider of shared office and co-working space.

Fieldlens logoFounded by Doug Chambers (raising over $1 million in startup funding) and Matt Sena, Fieldlens launched the Beta service of its mobile construction collaboration service – once dubbed the “Facebook of Construction” – in late 2013. Then I was particularly interested in its shift from the industry norm of email-type communication processes to mobile-friendly short-form status updates and messaging feeds (Should construction dump email?). Fieldlens formally launched in March 2014, and two months later closed an US$8m funding round. The Fieldlens app is available on both Apple iOS and Android platforms; the platform is priced at US$15/user/month.

Founded in 2010, WeWork designs and builds spaces where individuals and businesses can share space and office services and collaborate. It has locations in 19 United States cities and 12 countries including Australia, Canada, India, China, Hong Kong, France, the UK, Israel, South Korea, Mexico, Netherlands and Germany. In 2015, WeWork acquired BIM technology consultancy Case (read Wanda Lau’s piece for ARCHITECT), for an undisclosed amount.

Deal logic

In a blog post, WeWork chief product officer (and Case co-founder) David Fano explains the rationale behind the move, saying the company is opening 5 to 10 locations every month, becoming one of the world’s largest consumers of design and construction services, and recognising the importance of information in efficient building processes:

“WeWork is in a unique position as one of the only true end-to-end solutions that is involved in every phase of a building’s life cycle — from identifying, leasing, and designing to building and managing.

Our vision for the built environment is to develop a fully integrated solution where we source, design, build, and operate space for every one of our members.

With that in mind, … WeWork has agreed to acquire Fieldlens, one of the building industry’s leading project management applications. Fieldlens is six years into their mission of streamlining construction by empowering users with effective on-site communication.

WeWork is actually already one of Fieldlens’ biggest customers. As an early adopter, our product and construction teams have seen first-hand what connected front-line teams can accomplish and we could not be more excited about the future together.

With the Fieldlens team now part of our Product and Construction team at WeWork, we want to innovate on every aspect of our building process and break the silos within the industry to ensure clear communication and a free and easy exchange of information at every stage.

Fieldlens founder Chambers has also penned a blog post, and makes it clear that Fieldlens will retain its own identity:

“… we’ll be working together to create a new paradigm for the construction, management and operation of physical space. …

Construction, and the built environment as a whole, is a critical component to our economy and overall well-being. It is time for our industry to rise up and lead all of us forward, and together with WeWork we are going to do exactly that.

The Fieldlens application will continue to be offered as a stand-alone construction communication product and we will continue to iterate and innovate. As part of WeWork we’ll have more resources to continue to focus on our goal of making the work-lives of construction professionals more efficient.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/06/fieldlens-acquired-by-wework/

Jun 07 2017

June 2017 collaboration news

International developments in mobile and web collaboration technologies for the architecture, engineering and construction sector… from PetroBIM, BIMSync, BaseStone and Bridgit….

PetroBIM helps on heritage

Petrobim logoLaunched three years ago in Oviedo, northern Spain, PetroBIM is a digital tool focused on historical heritage conservation projects and master plans. Despite its name, it is nothing to do with the oil/gas sector; it takes its name from petrology (Wikipedia definition here): “the branch of geology that studies the origin, composition, distribution and structure of rocks”. It addresses the life cycle of a historical building’s management (graphic documentation, analysis, design, planning, control, intervention and maintenance) using a database linked to 3D models and a viewer specifically designed for this application. According to an email I received:

“… it is possible to convert traditional cultural heritage master plans and restoration projects in a unique and lively 4D model in which an information system is implemented, allowing users to walk, navigate and interact with the building, create virtual sections, update information, generate filters for graphical and numerical queries of as many elements as there are in the model, as well as to generate searches for information.”

I am hoping to get a more detailed briefing on PetroBIM shortly. In the meantime, most of the resources I have been able to find online about PetroBIM (like the YouTube video below) are in Spanish, but it clearly aims to provide a visualisation tool for architects, archaeologists, historians, restorers and others involved in heritage projects – with the base data about the structure and stonework presumably captured using laser-scanning and/or photogrammetry techniques. In English, there is a blog post about PetroBIM on VisualARQ’s website, which describes how the solution can be used to view models imported in .3dm, .dwg or .ifc. A similar platform is apparently also being developed, focused on landscape models.

Update (8 June 2017) – In the UK, the North West BIM Region is holding an event on BIM for Heritage in Manchester on Tuesday 4 July – Register here.

BIMSync by Catenda

bimsync logoOslo, Norway-based Catenda are Open BIM devotees who have developed a BIM Collaboration tool called BIMSync.

A spin-off from SINTEF Building and Infrastructure, where its employees where responsible for research on buildingSMART, building process and knowledge system development, Catenda was established in 2009 to “give the AEC-Industry a simpler life and better products by connecting knowledge, processes and people, through the use of technology.” It is involved with buildingSMART both nationally and internationally and takes an active part in the development of IFC, IFD, IDM and BCF standards.

Built on these same buildingSMART standards while also supporting COBie, BIMSync lets users share, visualise and collaborate on BIM models, issues, documents and drawings in a standard web browser, without plugins or other installations. A hosted online service it allows stakeholders to collaborate, with issue management and secure digital data management features. What particularly stands out also is the company’s commitment to APIs, making it easy to embed and access BIM data from other software tools. BIMSync APIs enable 2D and 3D visualisation, issue handling using the standard BCF API and access to all BIM data through an intuitive REST API.

Basestone updates

BasestoneLondon, UK-based application provider BaseStone is continuing to develop its web and (iOS-only) mobile product set, adding new reporting features designed to reduce the administrative burden by letting users generate bespoke reports in one click. New features include time-stamped photos on reports, options to include or exclude items in reports (including attachments, comments, callouts, photos and signatures), and options to select issues across multiple drawings in reports (read the BaseStone blog for more on this).

Bridgit embraces Android

Bridgit logoTalking about mobile operating systems, Viewpoint recently announced (post) that its Field View application is now available on iOS and Windows devices as well as the Android platform upon which, as PriorityOne, it was originally developed. Expanding beyond a single platform is also the name of the game for Ontario, Canada-based Bridgit, whose Bridgit Closeout software was – like BaseStone’s – previously only available on iOS devices and the web.

Bridgit Closeout is now available as an Android app, allowing main contractors to automatically track and communicate tasks with their entire team, including subcontractors. Android users who previously used Bridgit’s web application will now be able to create and view photos and photo markups, have real-time access to task lists, and send updates from anywhere. Co-founder Lauren Lake says:

Lauren Lake - Bridgit“Bridgit was created to fill the gaps in communication on site. Bridgit’s tracking process saves time and money by automatically updating construction teams about tasks and deficiencies. Using an Android device shouldn’t be a barrier to this process—and now it isn’t. We’re delivering the same experience across iOS and Android, so everyone receives the same information, and the entire site is on the same page.”

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/06/june-2017-collaboration-news/

Jun 06 2017

CIAT backs DesigningBuildings wiki

DesigningBuildingsAs a long-time Wikipedian, I have contributed often to the English Wikipedia’s coverage of architecture, engineering and construction subjects, and have also taken an active interest in the UK-based Designing Buildings Wiki (launched in late 2012; read my post). Since then, it has grown, and now hosts over 5,000 articles (including a guide to BIMpost), attracting some three million users a year.

As a wiki, it is – like Wikipedia – “open access”, meaning anyone in the industry can edit and improve the wiki, the BIM guide or other articles. There are articles, for example, on project extranets, common data environments (CDE), and BIM collaboration Format (BCF).

The UK’s Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) has just become the latest sponsor of Designing Buildings Wiki. A news release says the relationship will help bridge the gap between theory and practice, adding the practical knowledge of architectural technologists to the property, design and construction professionals already supporting the site. CIAT will be publishing key resources on Designing Buildings Wiki and will encourage its members to become contributors to the ever-growing resource.

Existing sponsors include the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Chartered Institute of Building, BRE, BSRIA, the Institute of Historic Buildings Conservation, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, and U and I Group PLC.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/06/ciat-backs-designingbuildings-wiki/

May 26 2017

Opentree providing CDE WIP integration

Opentree’s Cabinet solution helps firms manages BIM work-in-progress, and offers automated file naming and seamless upload to common data environments (CDEs) such as Viewpoint for Projects.

Opentree logoExhibitors at the Viewpoint 2017 customer summit event (see previous post) included consultants Waterstons and PCSG, Sempre Analytics (helping Viewpoint deliver better dashboards) and Teesside, UK-based Opentree, who told me about their Cabinet enterprise-level document management solution.

Cabinet logoEstablished in 1992 as tsaADVET Ltd and selling network-based CAD solutions from Intergraph, Bentley and Autodesk, the company later resold and supported the Falcon EDMS for CAD management. However, they realised that the EDMS product was not meeting all customers’ needs (c 2000), so they developed their own EDMS, CAB-i-NET (now Cabinet). This product, with a ‘look and feel’ that will be immediately familiar to Windows users, was adopted by key engineering customers including British Steel (now Tata Steel) and Westinghouse Rail Systems (now Siemens) and Cabinet has evolved to manage office documents as well as CAD drawings. In 2014, after a management buy-out led by current CEO Andrew Frank, the company rebranded as Opentree. In addition to Tata and Siemens, customers today include Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Alstom and Sellafield Ltd.

Cabinet BIMFrank told me that they support the in-house “work-in-progress” phase of BIM authoring, prior to designs being shared with the client’s wider project team. UK BIM expert Mervyn Richards worked with the firm to help ensure it supports the BS1192:2007 processes required at Level 2, with Cabinet helping compliance through automated file naming and seamless upload to the client’s common data environment (CDE), eg: Viewpoint for Projects.

They have been working extensively with Viewpoint to integrate their respective systems via APIs (a recurring theme at the Viewpoint summit). Cabinet can also support automatic upload to other CDEs including Asite, Aconex, Sitedesk, Trimble Connect and Autodesk BIM 360 Docs – though two-way integration is dependent on these other vendors’ active cooperation and having fully documented APIs (some of these relationships were still at an early stage, Frank said).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/05/opentree-providing-cde-wip-integration/

May 24 2017

Growing Viewpoint continues BIM push

Viewpoint Construction Software continues to grow its EMEA revenues, with BIM a strongpoint for customer adoption, says Steve Spark. 

Viewpoint logo 2016Ahead of the Viewpoint Construction Software UK user conference in London this week (24-25 May), I met up with Steve Spark, Viewpoint’s EMEA commercial director, to hear what the company planned to share with its customers and end-users.

Continued double-digit growth 

The Newcastle, UK-based EMEA operation continued to grow its SaaS collaboration and mobile revenues in 2016, up 24% on 2015, Spark said (at the conference, a slide showed full-year revenues at around £14m – c. $17.3m or €14.7m). The company’s Middle East market was “tough” and growth there had been “flat,” but its partnerships strategy in mainland Europe had delivered a boost of around 15%.

However, the company’s strong position in the UK has delivered the bulk of the company’s revenue growth, Spark said, with Viewpoint UK winning work from asset owner/operators, tier 1 contractors and also from consultants and other supply chain members. Looking at the UK’s top 20 contractors, he says Viewpoint is working with all but one of them.

Given that some clients may insist on other systems and that some contractors may use several SaaS providers, this is hardly conclusive evidence of market domination (customer logos displayed in vendor slide decks often include the same businesses), but Spark highlights enterprise deals, which are more conclusive. “Fifty per cent of the top 20 UK contractors have signed enterprise deals to use Viewpoint For Projects (VFP), while we also have enterprise deals with 15% of them for use of Viewpoint Field View.” (Field View was formerly the mobile application Priority1, acquired in December 2014).

The total number of VFP users as of April 2017 is now 262,000, up 29% from 203,470 in 2016 (active users were given as 43,181, up from 37,936 in 2016). The VFP platform now hosts over 711,000 documents, up 27%. Total number of projects was up 48% to 117,628.

Viewpoint VFP stats May 2017

Why adopt Viewpoint?

Viewpoint 2017 survey dataWe talked about reasons behind this growing adoption of the Viewpoint collaboration products, with Constructing Excellence’s key performance indicators (KPIs; 2016 report here) providing some context for customer research that Viewpoint had undertaken. This survey showed that 84% of Viewpoint rated the software as delivering a medium-high impact on return on investment, 95% rated it similarly for improvements in health and safety, in quality, and in reductions in errors and rework. “Sixty per cent of our users said they made cost savings of up to 20% at the design phase. Fifty-six per cent made cost savings of up to 20% at the construction phase.”

I asked if Viewpoint had seen any change in the market following Aconex’s March 2016 acquisition of the Anglo-German Conject business. “We understand that the Conject platform will be discontinued with many customers eventually being switched to the Aconex platform,” said Spark. “As a result, we have seen strong growth in enquiries from customers who are using this change as a reason to review their options. We have won new deals from customers who prefer our approach to collaboration to Aconex’s.”
(Read what Aconex CEO Leigh Jasper said about their product migration).

Product development

Viewpoint has continued to capitalise on its investments in adding building information modelling (BIM) functionality to its platform. Some of these date back to the early days of the UK BIM adoption programme or are updates on announcements made a year ago, though the latest step forward has been implementing support for IFC4. The VFP product roadmap includes addition of BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) capabilities (“We can already create and share BCF notifications; next step is to manage BCF responses”; BCF was discussed at Viewpoint’s 2016 summit too) and new tools to support asset owners’ operation and maintenance requirements.

As well as BIM and document control improvements, Spark said Viewpoint is also continuing to develop Field View with expanded support for forms, and growing project management capabilities, including integration with customer back-office systems including enterprise resource planning (ERP) – a strength of the US parent company. “We have been looking to strengthen our enterprise offering so that businesses can exploit their investment in their on-premise tools – such as Viewpoint’s Vista – by integrating these with our collaboration products in the cloud,” said Spark.

Team and Field

Larsen talks at 2017 VPCSJeremy Larsen (Viewpoint’s director of product development) told the conference about plans to make VFP more accessible from mobile platforms, with better support across the three main operating systems: Android (originally the sole platform for Field View), iOS and Windows. Repeating Spark’s integration point, Larsen also said further integration between VFP and Field View is on the roadmap.

Barry Frangipane talked about Field View. The product is now fully available on iOS, and Viewpoint is working towards full parity with Windows (the release is imminent). The dated and cumbersome user interface has been replaced; it is now faster to load, requires fewer clicks, and is more responsive, with customisable screens. Field View dashboards have also been improved. He also talked about “skinny sync” – optimising synchronisation between the web application and local devices so that users didn’t sync data they didn’t require, or no longer needed. Forms can now be printed direct from tablets too, and support for PDFs is improving, Frangipane said.

What’s next? Field View will be able to link to documents that are held in VFP. Field View will be available on smartphones in 2018 (it will be quicker to onboard new devices too), and there will be more APIs to give greater access to information.

Josh Wright talked about VFP product development. Multi-file upload has been added to the system, deploying new and more user-friendly drag-and-drop technologies (requiring less training), with an interface that includes progress bars so users are updated on upload progress. VFP Desktop provides “the ease of Dropbox with the power of VFP,” he said.

What’s coming next? VFP is moving to an HTML5 viewer (dropping any reliance on ActiveX plug-ins or Flash); the new Brava viewer will support view and mark-up in all major browsers, with comparisons available in Chrome. Dashboard developments will include slicker visualisations, customisable to personal and project level tasks. VFP Mobile will provide easy access to VFP on tablets (Android, iOS and Windows) for access to documents in the field. The BIM viewer has been strengthened to support IFC4 and improve COBie navigation and model performance. BS1192-2 numbering is also on the product roadmap for the second half of 2017.

Innovation and the future…. Larsen’s team is also looking beyond six-month spans seeking user guidance on what might be needed two-three years in the future, particularly on project communications. Matt Harris, SVP, Products, had earlier talked about “Viewpoint’s next generation project platform” – Larsen talked about a “state of the art platform”, utilising the Microsoft Azure platform (echoes of Bentley here), Xamarin, HTML5, and AngularJS. The aim is software that is intuitive, ease to use and flexible, supporting defined business processes, Larsen said.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/05/growing-viewpoint-continues-bim-push/

May 22 2017

eviFile – geo-located progressive assurance

Complementing BIM, mobile geospatial services such as IDS’s eviFile will help infrastructure providers securely track their assets and associated processes.

Over the past 2-3 years, I have had a number of conversations with Ed Williams, now client services director at the Leeds, UK-based IDS Group. When we first met, Ed was working on the concept of a mobile reporting tool that used familiar (and therefore user-friendly) Google geolocation technologies such as Google Maps and Street View to help built environment clients and their supply chains capture data about, report on and manage projects across dispersed locations.

Highway engineering case study

The concept was tested with UK contractor Balfour Beatty (eventually leading to a project case study published by COMIT: Construction Opportunities for Mobile IT in July 2015). BIM manager for highways and infrastructure Harry Parnell had wanted a solution to link photographic evidence of motorway project progress issues to designs authored using building information modelling (BIM). Previously, coordinating site photographs with their exact locations in 3D models was slow and laborious, requiring manual cutting and pasting of data, and importing and exporting between multiple applications. Parnell said:

Harry Parnell“We wanted a more seamless way to quickly and accurately capture up to 40 different metadata attributes relating to a photo, so that, as section engineers identified issues, the data could immediately then be reused for checking, approval and electronic, rather than in-person, sign-off processes.”

During 2013, Parnell and his Balfour Beatty colleagues began reviewing different mobile photo mapping and geolocation tools, eventually testing what is today the IDS solution on a motorway improvement project: the £208m M25 Section 5, J23-J27 scheme, northeast of London.

From marker posts and signs to gantry elements (pile, pile cap, leg, boom), over-bridges and culverts, around 1000 assets were each assigned a unique reference number, which was also captured in the 3D model. As work proceeded, issues – structural defects, missing signs, poor paint finishes – were photographed and their locations could be fine-tuned using Google’s Street View technology, incorporated in the browser-based system. Being written in HTML5, it also worked across multiple mobile operating systems and devices.

“GPS accuracy was +/- 5m, so associating photographs gave a clear visual confirmation of each asset’s exact location,” says Parnell. “Using the application saved hours every week. New issues were raised at evening coordination meetings, allocated to the relevant section staff, and once rectified could be checked and closed-out.”

In five months, over 50 engineers and inspectors managed over 900 quality tasks raised on-site using the system. Real-time reporting closed the gap and accelerated collaboration between site and office-based project staff. From a survey of users, Parnell calculated an average saving of three hours a week per person, saving approximately £250,000 against comparable projects.

The M25 Section 5 team delivered the project 26 weeks ahead of schedule and under budget, while using the application to work more efficiently and capture data once. Certainty regarding defect closure was vital. “Rectifying a problem after traffic management had been lifted would cost over £10,000, versus the average £690 if traffic management was still in place,” says Parnell.

Deploying a single data capture and reporting system across multiple projects means a contractor like Balfour Beatty can ensure high levels of data consistency and quality, and standardise cross-project reporting for group quality, health and safety and environmental purposes. Clients also get richer, more accurate, real-time data about their new assets. Importantly, the technology can also be used to manage existing assets. Williams adds:

“Being managed in a secure, cloud-based environment, the system is highly scalable. And by using unique IDs for numerous assets, it provides a convenient way for field workers to collect and share high quality, location-specific data in real-time with their colleagues.”

The product’s secure, time-, date-, location-stamped and tamper-proof format, now branded eviFile (reflecting its evidence-based approach), also provided reassurance to compliance teams, concerned about any potential dispute or claim.

eviFile – field data collection and reporting

In the two years since that Balfour Beatty case study, the product has been developed further. IDS is now marketing eviFile as an enterprise-level application that can be used to record and manage field assets, track inspection routes and provide tamper-proof evidence of events happening in the field. The system is accessible on smartphones, tablets and desktop devices, with all data securely managed by hosting partner AQL, and is designed as a ‘drop-in’ solution that can be easily integrated with an ‘ecosystem’ of existing applications and processes.

eviTrackComplementing the eviFile data capture technology, the platform also provides ‘eviTrack’: functionality that provides “a visual snail-trail of event activity and routes”. This can show, for example, the sequence of locations visited by an inspector, with the data captured at each location automatically time and date-stamped. The eviFile digital signing process guarantees that reports were collected at a particular time and in a particular place, with digital signatures captured using standardised UK cryptographic algorithms.

As well as the highways sector, Williams says the eviFile system is attracting interest from other highly regulated infrastructure providers, notably the rail sector – drawn by eviFile’s ability to provide what he describes as “progressive assurance“. Delivering new rail assets, or updating existing ones, can involve a sequence of ten or more activities, each of which is subject to a quality inspection and must be signed-off prior to the next one starting. Contractors can quickly accumulate large volumes of paperwork documenting these processes – Williams recalls a recent project generating some 26,000 pieces of paper, “and the number grows further once you add in the snagging loop on top of the progress monitoring.”

EviFile is licensed to Regular Users, who can then share an eviFile with partners, clients or contractors (‘collaborators’) to capture their comments but without enabling them to make any additional changes to the captured data. Data is stored in a Vault – which is available with two grades of security: enterprise and military strength. For 25 enterprise users, I understand pricing starts from around £30,000 per annum, though the cost per user obviously drops if customers need bigger implementations – a 250-user requirement would cost around £150,000, for example.

The new geospatial battleground

Geospatial data is becoming increasingly important. Implementation of BIM to support infrastructure projects was hampered until the industry started to develop classification systems, such as Uniclass 2015, that more adequately covered ‘linear’ civil engineering projects in the road, rail, power and water sectors, for instance.

As infrastructure providers seek to manage multi-project programmes of work or widely dispersed existing assets, often a map showing locations is the most obvious, and user-friendly, way to navigate to particular sites or places within sites. Steve Crompton, CTO of SaaS collaboration and CDE vendor GroupBC (Business Collaborator, proponents of ‘Semantic BIM‘ or connected data; post), powerfully demonstrated this at a BeginBIM17 event which I chaired at Turner and Townsend’s London office on 18 May (the company will also be exhibiting its “GeoConnect+” service at this week’s GeoBusiness event, on stand M15, in London, 23-24 May with a workshop about the service at 2.45pm on 24 May – Update [26 May 2017]: read this PCSG blog post about GeoConnect+).

Aconex CEO Leigh Jasper had geolocation services on his product roadmap when I interviewed him recently (post); last week I also wrote about the US’s Unearth (post) which is merging aerial imagery with project data, and recalled Finland’s Infrakit (April 2016 post) – also seemingly focused on geolocated civil engineering data and workflows.

[Disclosures: I provided consultancy work relating to the prototype technology and to compilation of the original Balfour Beatty case study. I am also a dissemination partner of COMIT, and have provided marketing consultancy services to GroupBC.]

2017 COMIT conference

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/05/evifile-geo-located-progress-assurance/

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