thinkproject appoints new CEO

thinkproject logoGerman SaaS construction technology vendor has appointed former Nemetschek executive Patrik Heider as its CEO and further strengthened its board.

Former Nemetschek executive Patrik Heider has been appointed as the new CEO of Munich, Germany-based construction collaboration SaaS technology provider thinkproject

Patrik HeiderHeider, right, has held roles at PwC and the Hoffman manufacturing group, and spent five years (2014-2019) as spokesman of the executive board and CFO/COO at the Nemetschek construction software group, and 16 months as CEO of riskmethods (a supply chain risk management software vendor based in Munich). Under Heider’s tenure at Nemetschek, say thinkproject, “the company experienced impressive organic revenue growth and executed multiple group and brand level acquisitions – expanding the presence of the group from its core in building design and construction into building management.”

Heider replaces Gareth Burton who was succeeded thinkproject founder Thomas Bachmaier as CEO in May 2019 (post), having previously been the CIO of UK contractor Laing O’Rourke and, from January 2018, a non-executive director and member of thinkproject’s board of directors.


In late 2020, Swedish international investment group EQT took a majority stake in the German business (read: EQT takes majority stake in thinkproject). Florian Funk, a partner at EQT and member of thinkproject’s board says:

“Patrik is an inspiring leader with deep industry knowledge and a strong business acumen. He was a natural choice and an excellent successor for Gareth. He will continue the strategic focus on driving sustainable growth and further increasing the market position. I’m delighted to welcome Patrik to the company as he will play a key role in establishing Thinkproject as the leader in construction intelligence.

Heider says:

“I’m excited yet humbled to take on the responsibility of leading Thinkproject forward into the next phase. Digitalisation of the AECO industry is still at the beginning and there are a lot of opportunities as well as challenges ahead, both for us and the industry. I’m looking forward taking these challenges on with the talented employees, our customers and partners to help construct a better world.”

Gareth Burton (think project! CEO)Burton, right, told Extranet Evolution that he had agreed with EQT that now would be the right time for a transition.

“Life is like that in private equity – the soccer coach analogy is a good one: high passion, high intensity, but it can be over very quickly. Last year was exceptional … and I feel I am leaving on a high. …. The FY20 results were well ahead of budget [thinkproject achieved 40% revenue growth in 2020] and the business is in a great shape this FY.”

Further ex-Nemetschek representation on thinkproject board

Malou AamundSean FlahertyMeanwhile, Malou Aamund, left, is the new chair of thinkproject’s board of directors. Aamund is the managing director for Google Denmark, and has previously held international leadership positions at Microsoft and IBM in Europe, EMEA and the Americas. She is a board member for several companies and also chair of the Board of Ecoinnovation.

Sean Flaherty, right, also joins the board. Flaherty is an AECO industry veteran with over 30 years of experience in creating design software and working in BIM. He has held various leadership positions including spells as CTO then as CEO of Vectorworks; later, he was on the board at Nemetschek Group as CSO and chair of several of its brand companies.

Permanent link to this article:

Openbuilt spreads its “wings of transformation”

OpenBuilt sees major IT players including IBM and Red Hat combining to develop a connectivity and automation platform for the built environment industry.

OpenBuilt logoOpenBuilt is positioned as “a connectivity and automation platform that enables businesses to work faster and more accurately with their existing software“.

It has been launched by a group of businesses including global IT giant IBM, open source software leader Red Hat, international construction materials supplier Cemex and Oslo, Norway-based construction product data specialist Cobuilder. The OpenBuilt website says it “combines industry expertise and big tech credentials with the agility of a startup.” It is “building trusted data pipelines and low code development tools that will enable anyone to automate their business processes without complex software integration”:

“Through integration of previously siloed systems, enabling standardisation of data and providing tools to automate processes the OpenBuilt platform will bring the connectivity needed to unlock latent innovation – from industry 4.0 to the circular economy – that is required to meet the industry’s productivity gap.”

CDE … ecosystem … environment …?

OpenBuilt was launched yesterday (14 April 2021) and immediately  sparked considerable debate on social media about exactly what it is.

“IBM has just entered the CDE market,” tweeted BIMlauncher’s John Egan (who has history in this platform field with his 2016 Jenca Cloud; post). Edify’s Martin McDonell tweeted that IBM and Red Hat “seem to be making a big play as a CDE”. Cobuilder’s Antony Brophy insisted it wasn’t a CDE but a “connected ecoysystem”. BuroHappold’s Alain Waha felt it was “certainly more Common Data Ecosystem than any other system proposed so far by CDE vendors.” His colleague Shaun Farrell felt it was “more a component in the ecosystem … reliant on platforms being connectable.”

Some were more sceptical. One observer described OpenBuilt as “a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ lash-up grouping of reputable but less well-known names, which is trying to belatedly get a slice of what promises to be big action.” Also underlining it’s not a CDE, IBM’s Paul Surin was quick to defend the platform saying it was “not trying to muscle on the market”, adding “OpenBuilt is an independent company owned and led by a consortium of industry partners”.

BSI’s Dan Rossiter was “intrigued”: “The CDE process is about portability and QC, this appears to be more about retaining the syntactic and semantic relations as information is exchanged.”

CoBuilt standingAccording to OpenBuilt’s website, it’s not too late to get involved and help to build an automated exchange platform that works for the industry. The project is still at an early research stage, but its principles include “trusted data” and being “truly interoperable”, with the capability to “manage complex technical product data.”

“Take the edge off opaqueness … break down the deep silos and fragmentation …”

Mark FarmerAs part of the launch, one of the UK’s major champions of the need for change, Mark Farmer (author of the 2016 UK construction industry report “Modernise or Die), was interviewed for an IBM blog post. He said:

“Cloud platforms that enable people to collaborate in an open-source manner, such as OpenBuilt, could take the edge off the culture of opaqueness by enabling people to build interconnected ecosystems. It could build more trust in how we do construction and commercially contract.”

And in Designing Buildings, Farmer said:

“In pursuing the broad goal of construction industry transformation, there is a critical need to break down the deep silos and fragmentation that exists in how we organise and operate design, manufacture, construction and operation processes.

“This is equally true in the emerging digitalisation challenge. To create more strategic and scalable intelligent workflows, we need data and software to be part of a fully connected ecosystem. The concept of digital platforms is nothing new, but if construction is ever going to realise the full potential of some of the technology solutions that are now proliferating, and if those solutions are ever going to be given the chance to scale to maturity, then there is a need for market leadership in creating a unifying platform that can host these solutions and enables interoperability.

“What IBM and partners are offering through OpenBuilt is the opportunity to act as a digital integrator at an international and industry wide level, gluing together what is becoming an increasingly fragmented digital marketplace for construction technology solutions. This is an important step forward which has great potential to make our industry more efficient”.

OpenBuilt product development

According to Designing Buildings, OpenBuilt’s collaborative product development will initially focus on three areas:

  1. Establishing OpenBuilt using Red Hat OpenShift running on IBM Cloud to enable cconstruction companies to adopt a hybrid cloud approach and connect their supply chain. To maintain consistent technical language, OpenBuilt will use Cobuilder’s data templates to structure all data in a way that allows for machine-readability and interoperability with existing and future systems.
  2. Integration of independent software vendors to make an array of software and services accessible. IBM solutions and Salesforce open APIs will be integrated into the platform during the development to enable users to build functionality into their intelligent workflows.
  3. OpenBuilt ArchitectureDevelopment of new applications including a solution that will enable organisations to search, filter and sort building product technical data. Cobuilder’s data dictionary solution Define will be among the fundamental technologies enabling the use of a common language within the initial OpenBuilt flagship applications.

Echoes of the boom?

Reading about OpenBuilt and watching the social media conversations was reminiscent of similar conversations more than 20 years ago during the boom. That wider digital explosion sparked some major changes, but construction proved somewhat resistant to any significant digital transformation. During 2000, various major industry companies set out to create new construction trading platforms (eg: Mercadium, AECVenture, Arrideo, EU-supply, B2Build, etc – plus Asite, see update below), but competing construction materials giants or major contractors rarely wanted to work with each other. Sellers were concerned about aggregated spending driving down profit margins; buyers didn’t want their purchasing habits potentially visible to competitors; and the costs and technical challenges involved in channelling high volumes of data through centralised online marketplaces were beyond the budgets and technical competencies of largely traditional and highly cost-conscious construction businesses.

Only time will tell if OpenBuilt succeeds in its efforts to persuade partners to join its research and product development activities. Now that the initial partners have broken cover, will OpenBuilt attract a critical mass of other partners? (A couple of Paul Surin’s tweets mentioned a handful of UK independent software vendors including 3D Repo, SpecifiedBy and Asite – are they targets or already involved?) Or will it – like the era e-commerce platforms – spawn some competing platform players? IBM is certainly a big name backer, but there are other major generic IT players – Oracle, Microsoft, etc – who might also see the current, highly fragmented built environment industry as a potentially lucrative market.

OpenBuilt – “basically rebuilding Asite”

Asite logoUpdate (2.30pm BST, 15 April 2021)Extranet Evolution talked to Nathan Doughty, CEO of London-based Asite since January 2020 (read Nathan Doughty’s new Asite era), about OpenBuilt. He said he had been contacted by OpenBuilt to participate in late 2020 but had only had occasional contacts as they moved toward launch; there had been no concrete involvement by Asite so far. Following yesterday’s launch and reading more about OpenBuilt’s ambitions, he felt OpenBuilt was “basically rebuilding Asite”, recalling the early history of his firm.

As mentioned above, Asite was one of several ventures heavily backed by industry heavyweights looking to corner part of the construction B2B e-commerce marketplace in 2000-2001. In June 2001, Asite’s backers included British Land, Stanhope, Mace, Laing O’Rourke; technology partners included Microsoft, Compaq, Commerce One, BIW Technologies and Bidcom. However, after the bubble burst, Asite retrenched and refocused (with Doughty heavily involved then as CTO).

In-house, it began to build a web-based integration platform in the “cloud” on open source technology (Asite Exchange): an open and interoperable platform for system-to-system exchange of structured data. Doughty says:

Nathan Doughty“Since 2003 we’ve connected 100s of disparate systems for our construction clients, including pretty much every major ERP, document management system, and CAD/BIM package. We’ve been powering a decent portion of the UK construction B2B purchasing transactions using structured product catalogue data on our open platform for years and years. Asite Exchange powers our ‘CDE’, our supply chain (procurement and product data) and asset management functionality and the Asite ecosystem.”

He says Asite would be pleased to engage with OpenBuilt – or any similar venture:

“There’s obviously no rule saying there should only be one Asite. On the contrary, there should be as many as needed in the market – all underpinned by open-standards-based data interchange. So, of course, we’re happy to partner and lend our experience as this new project takes shape.  The same goes for other players in our market. The endgame for me is open systems connecting up to serve the needs of the built environment.  The more the merrier.”

Permanent link to this article:

Bentley collaborates with Nvidia

Bentley Systems is developing applications using Nvidia’s Omniverse platform for photorealistic, real-time visualisation and simulation of digital twins of massive-scale industrial and civil infrastructure projects.

Bentley logo 2017Visualisation and simulation are increasingly important in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector, but the costs and manpower needed to develop really sophisticated and powerful capabilities demand that AEC incumbents work with more generic hardware and software experts. This week, Bentley Systems has announced (12 April 2021) that it is developing applications using Nvidia‘s Omniverse platform for photorealistic, real-time visualisation and simulation of digital twins of massive-scale industrial and civil infrastructure projects.

Jacobs Waterworks TeamBentley Systems says it has extended its iTwin platform to integrate with Nvidia’s Omniverse platform. Bentley iTwin is an open-source, scalable cloud platform that enables the creation, visualisation and analysis of digital twins of infrastructure assets. The Omniverse platform (see this May 2020 AEC Magazine feature for detailed background) allows teams to stream data from multiple applications and to interact in real-time on the combined high-fidelity result.

So, instead of exchanging and collaborating upon massive files, architects, engineers and other designers can work simultaneously in their chosen applications, with any changes instantly appear in co-collaborators’ applications. Pixar’s USD (Universal Scene Description – an open framework for exchanging 3D computer graphics data) makes this possible.

Bentley/Nvidia collaboration

Bentley Systems CEO Greg Bentley said:

“Visualization and simulation underpin many of the use cases for infrastructure digital twins. The collaboration of Bentley iTwin and NVIDIA Omniverse is delivering real-time, immersive 3D/4D experiences that will enable true-to-reality, physics-based simulation of even the largest and most complex infrastructure assets. GPU-computing is transforming the world of engineering and construction and promises to unleash the potential of AI for simulation and advanced analytics in infrastructure digital twins.”

Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of NVIDIA

“Modern infrastructure are magnificent feats of engineering. NVIDIA and Bentley share a vision of physically based digital twins – so accurate and realistically simulated that they will revolutionize everything from infrastructure design to operations. NVIDIA Omniverse was built precisely to realize this vision – to create shared virtual worlds that are simulated with physical and photo realism. We are delighted Bentley is developing applications for infrastructure digital twins on NVIDIA Omniverse.”

… but collaboration costs

Application plug-ins are needed to connect to the Omniverse server platform. In the AEC software world, Omniverse Connectors are currently available for Autodesk Revit, Rhino, SketchUp, Archicad, blender, 3ds max, CityEngine, and Unreal Engine (see also: 8 March 2021 post, 3D Repo develops Unreal Engine-based 3D platform). Omniverse can also support point clouds – useful insofar as Bentley has invested heavily in  ContextCapture and related laser and photogrammetry data capture and visualisation tools.

However, collaboration comes at a huge cost that probably puts it out of the reach of all but the largest global firms. For, say, 25-strong workgroups, Nvidia Omniverse Enterprise prices start at US$1,800 per user per annum, plus $25,000 for the platform’s core, the Omniverse Nucleus Server. Larger implementations could run to $250,000 if they want Nucleus Server to service the needs of 500 people or more.

However, the Omniverse platform and some basic functionality is apparently available at no cost for individuals to try out. And Nvidia RTX Virtual Workstation (vWS) software, also part of the platform, lets users run graphics-intensive 3D applications on low-powered devices, including standard office laptops that don’t have powerful graphics processing units (GPUs).

In other news…

Update (15 April 2020) – Bentley Systems has announced it has acquired Montreal, Canada-based INRO Software, a developer of multimodal transportation planning, traffic simulation, and mobility visualisation software.

Permanent link to this article:

thinkproject acquires UK-based Formworks

thinkproject completes its second major UK acquisition to grow its mobile construction field data capture capabilities.

thinkproject logoMunich, Germany-based construction collaboration SaaS technology provider thinkproject recently announced (6 April 2021) its acquisition (for an undisclosed amount) of the London-based software developer, Digital Field Solutions, creator of the mobile application Formworks.

The deal comes nearly three years after thinkproject acquired Gloucester-based contract change management specialist CEMAR (May 2018 post) and six months after Swedish international investment group EQT took a majority stake in the German business (EQT takes majority stake in thinkproject).

Formworks ‘low-code’ environment

Formworks logoDigital Field Solutions was established in London in 2005. Formworks is a self-service application builder and workflow solution that enables rapid process automation. Users can configure customised mobile and web forms that can be linked to multiple data sources, including SQL environments, CRM, ERP and third-party software solutions.

Formworks websiteIn the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector, access to complex logic, calculations and validation can be critical. New data may need to be captured and validated in environments where there is often limited or no internet connectivity, or where security measures make it difficult to use technology to capture and collect the data needed. Formworks can quickly solve data collection challenges by providing users with a low-code environment in which they can build their own custom applications to capture, validate and share complex field data.

Formworks uses powerful browser-based technology to digitise dynamic forms and workflows through a simple interface. All regularly used business forms can be made available to all stakeholders involved in construction projects across multiple devices and platforms.

Deal perspectives

Michael Bischoff, CTO of Thinkproject, says:

Michael Bischoff, thinkproject CTO“Since its launch, Formworks has won numerous awards and is used by clients in construction, financial services, real estate, utilities, training, social care, maintenance and manufacturing. We are delighted to welcome the Digital Field Solutions team to Thinkproject and look forward to continuing to enhance and develop Formworks for both existing and new customers with a specific focus on the AECO lifecycle. We see significant potential for customers to combine dynamic forms creation and data integration to Thinkprojects application portfolio to drive their digitisation efforts.”

Tim Howard, co-founder of Digital Field Solutions, says:

“We are very proud to be part of Thinkproject’s expansion strategy. Formworks is an excellent extension of Thinkproject’s construction intelligence solutions to solve data collection and validation challenges for construction teams across the three phases of design, build and operate. … Becoming part of a large, successful software group will enable us to accelerate the development of Formworks to meet the rapidly evolving needs of all our clients and provide us with the platform to extend our reach into new territories and sectors across Europe.”

thinkproject growth

Now over 20 years old, thinkproject continues to grow, achieving revenue growth of approximately 40% in 2020, despite the difficult market conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (see thinkproject news), and now has almost 500 employees worldwide in 18 offices in 11 countries,

Karolin BeckFollowing the EQT investment,the management team has been expanded, with chief marketing officer Karolin Beck (ex Sauce Labs and Microsoft, right) the first woman to join the company’s executive team, and CTO Michael Bischoff (ex eFront and Sage) leading development of thinkproject’s construction intelligence platform. The business’s new board is chaired by Patrik Heider, who has been joined by ex-Siemens executive Janina Kugel and CCO of IFS AB Michael Ouissi, as well as private equity executives Florian Funk, Morgan Seigler and Stefan Dandl.

Permanent link to this article:

RIB Group grows revenues 24% in 2020

Germany’s RIB Group grew its revenues 24% to €254.6 million in 2020, despite a slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a reduction in its M&A activities. International expansion means over a quarter of revenue now derives from north America.

RIB software logoStuttgart, Germany-based RIB Group has announced its results for the year ending 31 December 2020. During the year, the group−since July 2020 part of French multinational Schneider Electric (post)−grew its revenues 24% to €254.6 million (c. £217m or US$301m) from 2019’s €214.6m (post) and its operating EBITDA grew 27.5% to €65.3m (c. £56m or US$77m).

Understandably, the 2020 revenue performance is towards the lower end of guidance issued in August 2020 (“between €240 million and €270 million”), with the Group talking of “severe economic implications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic”. First half results in 2020 had seen RIB revenues up 42% but a further six months of pandemic operation clearly slowed the trajectory. However, the business anticipates “organic growth in the Software business in the double-digit range” for the current financial year. RIB is structured into two main segments: software business iMTWO, and a much smaller procurement and e-commerce business, xYTWO, part of which it had been looking to sell. Overall, for 2021, it forecasts “revenues in the range of EUR 280 to 310 million and operating EBITDA of between EUR 65 and 75 million for the RIB Group.”

Global expansion

RIB regional revenues, 2020Revenues are increasingly global. Until 2016, the company drew more than half its revenues from the German market. Today, this delivers over a third (34.4%) of group revenues. Just over a fifth of 2020 revenues comes from the rest of Europe (22.8% – down from 30.5% in 2019), with revenues from north America up from 19.1% in 2019 to 26% in 2020, while APAC revenues remained relatively static.

The north American growth may reflect the company’s 2019 investment in US acquisitions: During a busy 2019, RIB acquired 60% of the Atlanta-based building specification software vendor, BSD (June 2019). The pandemic slowed its merger and acquisition activities in 2020. In January 2020, it acquired Intech, a cloud and managed services provider for Microsoft Azure in Puerto Rico to expand its customer base across USA and Latin America, and also bought BSD founder Arol Wolford’s startup VIM AEC (post). In June 2020, it bought a controlling stake in a Chinese technology developer, Bochaosoft, and in September 2020 it bought the remaining 40% of BSD. The Group now says it has over €350m in investment funds to finance its further global expansion.

In August 2020, RIB sold its xTWO e-commerce business area (primarily used in the business-to-consumer, B2C, arena for the online organisation of procurement and delivery of building products) to a Leipzig-based firm in which RIB CEO Tom Wolf has a majority stake.

RIB Group partnership with SoftwareONE

In November 2020, RIB Group and Switzerland’s SoftwareONE signed a strategic partnership agreement, aiming to accelerate the market introduction of RIB’s MTWO platform globally. It has set of target of 150 large deals in 20 countries by the end of 2021.

RIB has announced several major deals in the first quarter of 2021. Most have been focused on RIB’s German heartland, but there have also been some wins elsewhere. For example, in January, RIB said one of the consortia working on the UK’s High Speed 2 (HS2) rail network would be using its 5D BIM Big Data technology. It also did a January deal with Spain’s Avintia group. In March it announced deals with US-based precast concrete specialist Fabcon, and with a Hong-Kong-based property developer.

Permanent link to this article:

Bentley acquires E7

Bentley Systems has acquired E7, a Brisbane, Australia-based specialist in construction delivery software for heavy civil projects – formerly known as Envision (post).

Bentley logo 2017Bentley says the acquisition (announced on 25 February 2021 – no terms disclosed) will add to its project delivery capabilities to helps civil contractors meet schedule and budget requirements of infrastructure investment programmes. Specifically, it will extend the capabilities of Bentley’s digital construction management software, Synchro (acquired in June 2018 – post), to create what Bentley describes as a ‘comprehensive 4D construction digital twin solution’.

Envision-E7E7 is designed to help firms better utilise resources on site through mobile and web interfaces that transform manual, site-based tasks into digital workflows. It includes capabilities specifically designed for heavy civil construction, including daily diaries, unplanned event tracking, timesheets, dockets, daily costs, and quantity progress measurement. which enable managers to produce daily progress measurement reports.

E7 adds field resource management

Dustin Parkman - BentleyDustin Parkman, vice president, project delivery, Bentley Systems says:

“Visibility into field resource utilisation is key to project profitability. The addition of E7 to Bentley’s Synchro digital construction delivery solution complements our industry-leading 4D construction modelling with field-based resource management tools that are essential for heavy civil contractors. This new combination makes possible a truly comprehensive digital construction delivery solution for heavy civil contractors everywhere.”

Bentley Systems E7E7’s CEO Hugh Hofmeister and CTO Adrian Smith are joining Bentley as director of product management and director of product development, respectively. Hofmeister said:

“After more than 10 years of working, first as Envision and then as E7, to develop the leading field-based construction delivery solution for Australian and now global projects, Adrian and I and our colleagues are excited to be joining Bentley. There is already great alignment between E7 and Bentley’s SYNCHRO team. Our shared vision will accelerate the adoption of 4D construction digital twins that will significantly benefit our users in driving more profitable and predictable project outcomes.”

Extranet Evolution has tracked Envision/E7 since 2011 (read: Ennova and Envision). By 2016, the platform was supporting multiple parties across major projects, functioning as a data and reporting hub at the heart of a constellation of applications and web services (read: Envision expanding capabilities), and in 2019, the platform was being deployed on mega-projects outside Australia (Envision: building construction transparency).

Permanent link to this article:

Atlas ICAS targets healthcare market

London, UK-based startup Atlas is targeting the healthcare construction market with an integrated design and project delivery SaaS platform, ICAS, supporting design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA) approaches.

Co-founded by David and Maha Harper, London-based Atlas has developed an “integrated construction and architecture platform” (ICAS) that they believe can dramatically break down silos and improve productivity when it comes to delivering healthcare facilities. Funded to date by the founders, the startup is now seeking seed funding to help it support its first client projects.

David Harper - AtlasAtlas CEO David Harper, right, has 20 years’ experience in the healthcare construction industry as a construction project manager, having worked in building technologies for major hospitals in the UK (including Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital) and in Qatar (including the US$7. 9 billion Sidra Medical & Research Centre). Maha Harper, below right, Atlas’s COO, is a corporate lawyer with a strong background in corporate and real estate transactions. Both are convinced that the construction sector’s poor productivity and inability to deliver complex projects on budget and on programme (with the resulting legal disputes) can be overcome.

Breaking down silos

Maha Harper told Extranet Evolution that the company was inspired by work undertaken by the UN and the Gates Foundation in developing countries to deliver working hospitals and clinics. Maha Harper says:

Maha Harper - Atlas“One of the main issues holding the industry back is the so-called ‘silo effect’ – the linear nature of information being passed from silo to silo – plus the variety of different information formats involved.  While the industry has started to move more towards digital solutions, they are mostly ‘point solutions’ which, in effect, digitises those silos. This doesn’t, effectively enough, do away with the delays and cost inefficiencies.”

“We have talked to lots of healthcare customers and identified that we could potentially realise 20% efficiency savings by a targeted spend of 4% of the overall budget.”

She explained Atlas aimed to bridge the gaps between healthcare providers and the project delivery disciplinary silos (procurement, design, logistics), the point solutions they rely upon, and the disparate digital outputs these solutions create. Atlas, she said, was providing an integrated platform geared solely to the needs of the healthcare market, not just in developing economies but also in the US and Europe.


ICASA software-as-a-Service platform, ICAS starts by defining the customer’s needs, and then developing designs to meet those needs. Maha Harper says:

“You can develop the best tech in the world, but if you don’t really  understand the end-user’s needs and what they will actually adopt, then you’re just developing ‘great tech’ instead of a ‘must have’ solution for customers.”

Atlas has been engaging with facility investors, healthcare owners, and operators (“Many have been discouraged by previous projects that ran late, over-budget”). The company’s ICAS solution is currently being deployed to help deliver a $100m 150-bed hospital in the Americas. Harper says the project brief was developed using artificial intelligence and generative design to create a detailed configuration of the building and its rooms and systems. This process (and the supporting data) can inform feasibility stage decisions. Then, with a clear view of the proposed design, Atlas could then engage with preferred suppliers and manufacturers to procure materials and products, aggregating them into the integrated model. As well as streamlining design and construction, the ICAS platform also provides an environment to configure devices, equipment, etc, to speed up commissioning and handover.

The ICAS platform does not replace existing design or scheduling tools such as Autodesk Revit or Oracle Primavera P6. “By bringing together project systems through APIs [application programming interfaces], ICAS can minimise the disconnects between different solutions. We are using a lot of the Oracle and Autodesk software stacks.” ICAS will also help deliver a graphical interface to healthcare and building operation systems, including a hospital user manual, HUM, to support operation and maintenance work, and an intelligent clinic operating system (ICOS) for long-term operational information (healthcare informatics is one area where data standardisation is particularly advanced).

To date, the Harpers have invested £460,000 into the Atlas business and are looking to raise £2.5m in seed funding to push the company forward. A chief technology officer is set to be appointed to help drive the company’s devops model.

Permanent link to this article:

Bentley’s billion dollar buy: geoscience tech vendor Seequent

Bentley Systems is spending around US$1 billion to buy New Zealand-based geoscience modelling software provider, Seequent.

Bentley logo 2017Bentley Systems has announced an investor-backed deal led by Accel-KKR to acquire Seequent. The Christchurch, New Zealand-based business specialises in geological and geophysical modeling, geotechnical stability, and cloud services for geodata management, visibility, and collaboration. The deal involves US$900 million in cash, plus just over three million Bentley Class B shares.

Bentley says the Seequent acquisition will “deepen the potential of infrastructure digital twins to help understand and mitigate environmental risks, advancing resilience and sustainability.” Once the deal is completed, Seequent will operate as a stand-alone Bentley subsidiary. Seequent’s current chief operating officer Graham Grant will succeed the retiring CEO Shaun Maloney and report to Bentley’s chief product officer Nicholas Cumins.
Seequent logo

Seequent deal logic

Seequent has over 430 employees in 16 office locations, serving geologists, hydrogeologists, geophysicists, geotechnical engineers, and civil engineers in over 100 countries, plus the world’s top mining companies. Its established presence in mineral-intensive geographies such as South America and southern Africa is expected to accelerate Bentley’s overall opportunities in these regions with significant infrastructure requirements. In turn, Bentley’s established presence in China, and its mainstay reach across civil engineering sectors, is expected to accelerate Seequent’s expansion in new markets.

Seequent industry solutionsBentley says its current offerings enable digital twins to incorporate what’s constructed “near surface,” including foundations, drainage facilities, buried utilities, tunnels, and subsea structures. Now, the addition of Seequent will “make it possible for infrastructure digital twins to reach full subsurface depths, augmenting environmental resilience against flood, seismic, climate, and water security threats”.

Seequent had been planning an initial public offering (IPO) in 2021. Tom Barnds, co-managing partner at Accel-KKR and Seequent board member, said, “We had been looking forward to Seequent’s IPO this year, but we are so convinced of the logic of this combination that we are glad to anticipate instead becoming Bentley shareholders.”

Seequent software

Seequent first applied implicit modeling technology to geological science more than 15 years ago. It began using mathematical tools to derive and visualize 3D geological models from measured data and user interpretation. This advance caused a “leapfrogging” paradigm shift in understanding of the earth’s subsurface. Geoscientists and others are increasingly able to uncover and visualise valuable insights about environmental conditions and challenges.

Seequent - Leapfrog softwareSeequent’s products include Leapfrog, its leading product for 3D geological modeling and visualization, Geosoft for 3D earth modeling and geoscience data management, and GeoStudio for geotechnical slope stability and deformation modeling. Bentley’s complementary geotechnical engineering software portfolio, including PLAXIS, gINT, and OpenGround, will be integrated in due course to support open digital workflows from borehole and drillhole data to geological models and geotechnical analysis applications.

The mining industry, with its economic sensitivity and environmental responsibilities, was the first and fastest to adopt 3D earth modeling, superseding traditional 2D processes to speed and improve decision cycles. Seequent recognized the potential, for all major infrastructure engineering projects and assets to likewise “leapfrog” traditional 2D subsurface modeling and simulation processes. Leapfrog’s usage, often in conjunction with Bentley’s software offerings, has been growing consistently in civil infrastructure sectors.  Seequent is a leader in 3D modeling for geothermal energy sources, and its software and cloud services provide the important geosciences context for water resources simulations and environmental engineering.


Bentley CEO Greg Bentley said:

“We can be very confident about Seequent’s contribution to our shared future not only because of our product synergies, but because we recognize in Seequent’s trajectory an echo of the playbook that made Bentley Systems successful—except they have grown faster! They have made farsighted decisions to benefit the future at every stage: identifying and then laser-focusing on the 3D “vertical” opportunity in earth modeling, institutionalizing a subscription commercial model from the outset, directly populating the appropriate global markets, acquiring and consolidating the best software for adjacent disciplines, and bringing it all together with cloud services, ready for digital twins advancement together.”

Seequent CEO Shaun Maloneysaid:

“By ‘leapfrogging ahead’ with Bentley to align geosciences with infrastructure engineering through deeper digital twins, Seequent underscores our conviction that better understanding of the earth creates a better world for all. Users and accounts of Seequent, as a Bentley Company, can expect business as usual, with many product and commercial synergies eventually forthcoming.”

Bentley’s CFO David Hollister said:

“The transaction is expected to close in Q2, with the cash consideration settled via a combination of cash on hand and availability under our undrawn $850 million revolving credit facility. We expect Seequent to contribute in excess of $80 million to our ARR during this year. Seequent impressively has a historical and current organic revenue growth rate which, coupled with an operating margin profile similar to ours, makes Seequent accretive to our financial model.”

The Extranet Evolution perspective

This latest Bentley acquisition is a sizeable one, similar in magnitude to Autodesk’s recent acquisition of water engineering software provider Innovyze (February 2021 post). It is also the second major deal EE has tracked regarding a New Zealand-based engineering software business – just under a year ago, Germany’s thinkproject acquired highways asset management software developer RAMM (April 2020 post).

Seequent’s approach to data is also similar to Bentley’s. The latter is historically associated with powerful on-premise design tools, backed by a growing portfolio of online collaboration capabilities. In addition to Leapfrog, etc, Seequent has also developed a suite of cloud services. Seequent Central allows users to visualise, track, integrate, and manage their geoscience data via a centralised, auditable environment.

Permanent link to this article:

Unity acquires AEC AR tech vendor VisualLive

Some consolidation in the AEC augmented reality sector as Autodesk collaborator Unity acquires US-based VisualLive.

Unity logoUnity, the world’s leading platform for creating and operating real-time 3D content, has announced (9 March 2021) the acquisition (value and terms not disclosed) of VisualLive, an Arizona, US-based technology company enabling the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry to reduce costs and increase efficiency by visualising and collaborating in augmented reality (AR).

VisualLive logoVisualLive’s technology is complementary to Unity Reflect, the immersive collaboration and development platform that connects people, project stages, and data across the digital building lifecycle. The deal expands Unity’s strategic growth in the AEC industry. Julien Faure, GM of Verticals at Unity, says:

“Unity’s real-time 3D platform transforms every stage of the AEC lifecycle. With Unity Reflect, AEC professionals can unlock building information modeling (BIM) data through immersive realtime experiences. Adding VisualLive to our portfolio better allows us to connect the field with the design office, bringing BIM data via augmented and mixed reality to drive better quality assurance and project tracking. This will fundamentally change how design reviews, construction planning, field inspections, and facilities management are conducted.”

VisualLive useUnity says the current process of job site walkthroughs for construction and facilities management is fraught with human errors, and the promise of reality capture (the process of replicating the physical world and putting it into virtual reality) is time-consuming and expensive. VisualLive ensures users can instantly inspect and validate designs to prevent costly mistakes.

VisualLive employees will join Unity from VisualLive’s headquarters in Scottsdale. Saeed Eslami, CEO and founder of VisualLive, says:

“We’re incredibly proud of the rapid growth and market adoption of VisualLive products by the AEC industry since our founding in 2017. VisualLive has excelled in creating a software solution that works on multiple devices to enable field workers to overlay CAD/BIM models onto the jobsite in AR within a few minutes to review the design, validate against the existing conditions, verify install completion, create reports, and collaborate with the rest of the team in real time. Together with Unity, we can expand the platform’s capabilities and scale globally.”

Unity and Autodesk

Unity is used by top AEC companies to streamline real-world architecture, engineering, and construction workflows. Since announcing a collaboration with Autodesk in 2018, Unity has grown to support a suite of Autodesk products while also enabling Autodesk users to access real-time 3D experiences on a range of devices in AR and VR to bridge the gap between design and construction. Unity Reflect connects all project stakeholders, regardless of platform/device, model size, or geolocation to create real-time collaborative environments. This facilitates faster, more impactful decision-making throughout the entire building and infrastructure lifecycle.


VisualLive says it is the AEC industry’s leading platform offering easy-to-use and off-the-shelf augmented reality software on Microsoft HoloLens (HoloLive), and Android and iOS mobile devices (MobiLive) for design, engineering, and construction companies. Using VisualLive’s Autodesk Revit or Naviswork plugins or web uploader interface (with 70+ 3D file formats supported), users can push large BIM/CAD model files to mobile, tablet, or HoloLens headset as simple as one-click for augmented reality overlay on-site with no coding. VisualLive allows real-time 3D visualisation, collaboration, and field-to-office communication. VisualLive applications are currently being used in all stages of construction projects such as design review, coordination, constructability planning, fabrication QA/QC, install verification, field inspection, and facility management.

Update (16 March 2021)

Vectorworks partnership with Unreal Engine creates real-time rendering connection to Twinmotion

While on the subject of Unity, Vectorworks 2021 Service Pack 3 users now have a high-quality method for exporting their 3D BIM and design models to Twinmotion®, Unreal® Engine and other Epic Games products that support the Datasmith file format. Vectorworks has utilized the Datasmith SDK to ensure greater fidelity of the model export to these real-time rendering applications. Vectorworks director of product technology Dave Donley said:

“Our partnership with Unreal Engine is a dynamic solution to Vectorworks users allowing them to create real-time renderings of their model with open and advanced real-time 3D creation tools such as Unreal Editor and Twinmotion. It’s an amazing opportunity to bring this partnership to our users and we’re confident they will enjoy creating cutting-edge renderings and models.”

“Vectorworks’ new integrations with Twinmotion and Unreal Engine helps users go from creating models to deploying stunning real-time rendered scenes faster than ever before,” said Unreal Engine, Epic Games VP and General Manager Marc Petit.

Update (24 March 2021)

Global AR / VR / XR market to grow four-fold and hit $124.4B value by 2023

The global AR, VR, and mixed reality (MR) market is expected to continue growing and hit a $124.4bn value by 2023, a 305% increase in two years. Although VR technology use is rising in several markets, VR gaming and VR videos make up the largest use cases, with $20.8bn expected to be spent in 2023 on these areas alone.

In 2021, the global AR, VR, and MR market is expected to reach $30.7bn value, revealed the BCG survey. By the end of the next year, this figure is set to jump to $58.7bn. However, the following years are expected to witness even more impressive growth in the use of AR, VR, and MR technology. In 2023, the unified market is forecast to grow by another $65.7bn. By 2025, the market value is expected to surge to almost $300bn.

The IDC Worldwide Augmented and Virtual Reality Spending Guide revealed consumers lead in AR/VR technology spending. In 2020, consumers spent $6.3bn on AR/VR devices and solutions, more than all other segments combined. The distribution and services segment ranked second with $1.9bn in spending. Manufacturing and resources, public sector and infrastructure market followed with $1.6bn, $1.5bn and $380 million, respectively.

Permanent link to this article:

Microsoft Mesh mixed reality opens Bentley collaboration

Mixed Reality, XR, is supported by Microsoft through its development of its Mesh platform, with wider adoption enabled via open standards, benefiting industry partners such as AEC tech provider Bentley Systems.

Two days before a call with Bentley Systems’ Greg Demchak, I watched Microsoft‘s online launch of its new Microsoft Mesh mixed reality platform (on 2 March 2021 – read Engadget news), accessing the Ignite Keynote using Microsoft’s AltSpaceVR desktop visualisation tool (strangely reminiscent in its use of avatars of the web-based Second Life environment).

Microsoft Mesh

Microsoft Mesh launchThe Microsoft Mesh launch was preceded by a video keynote from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadel, presented somewhat conventionally as a 2D video, but embedded in a virtual auditorium that also resembled an aquarium (a bit like being immersed within Finding Nemo.). After that, the event was largely run within Microsoft Mesh, which is hosted in the company’s Azure platform and enables people in multiple locations to deploy various devices to join and collaborate in a shared holographic space.

Microsoft’s Hololens 2, smartphones, third-party VR headsets, and AltspaceVR are all supported, and the company plans to extend Mesh to support Microsoft Teams and its Dynamics 365 application in due course.

After Nadella’s contribution, Microsoft’s Alex Kipman welcomed people to the presentation and encouraged attendees to interact with the space – we could even choose the fish we wanted to see swimming around the event. As might be expected from a mainstream technology vendor heavily invested in the consumer market, there was some focus on how Mesh might be used to provide consumer applications (Pokémon Go for Hololens 2, for example), but there were also practical examples of business use cases.

This is supported through the OpenXR standard, helping industry to standardise around common functions and inputs such as hand- and eye-tracking, while also helping to support numerous XR devices from numerous manufacturers simultaneously. Mesh’s open-source approach also accelerates development of enterprise-strength features such as secure sign in and privacy compliance. Mesh also provides a cross-platform developer software development kit (SDK) enabling developers to create apps targeting their choice of platform and devices – whether AR, VR, PCs, or phones. Today it supports Unity alongside native C++ and C#, but in the coming months, Mesh will also have support for Unreal (see previous 3D Repo post), Babylon, and React Native (read Microsoft’s technical overview).

Bentley Systems and Microsoft Mesh

Bentley logo 2017The Ignite event included a segment about using Microsoft Mesh to share visualisations of infrastructure (in this case bridges) captured using Bentley Systems’ ContextCapture, and other tools, plus Hololens 2 devices.

Bentley Synchro XR and Hololens 2Bentley has long featured strategic inputs from Microsoft at its annual Year in Infrastructure events. In 2013, for example, it announced its Connect strategy to extend project and asset information mobility through the Windows Azure cloud (Bentley embraces cloud still further with Microsoft Azure). Just over two years ago, in February 2019, Bentley (and Trimble) featured in Microsoft’s launch of Hololens 2 in Barcelona (Bentley and Trimble launch new Hololens 2 products), by which time integration between Bentley and Microsoft had also extended to extensive integration between Bentley and the Microsoft Office 365 suite of solutions (October 2018 post), with Bentley’s SaaS SME collaboration offering now marketed as ProjectWise 365.

Greg Demchak, who joined Bentley following its June 2018 acquisition of Synchro, says Mesh enables the easy sharing of Azure real-time rendered 3D imagery for mixed reality interaction – for example, between clients and designers. In the US, Bentley has been working with Minnesota’s Department of Transport and Collins Engineers to improve inspection workflows by bringing detailed field-captured close-up imagery into the office – in the words of one project team member: “to bring the bridge into the office to do the inspection”:

An Extranet Evolution landmark

This is the 2,000th post on Extranet Evolution, a blog started in September 2005, and taking its name from the subtitle of my book on construction collaboration technologies published that year.

Before a change of hosting platform in 2012, I gave occasional updates on readership (here’s 2012’s). Since the start of 2013, the blog has received over 600,000 views, averaging some 6,400 view per calendar month (77,000 per annum). Many thanks to the many readers and others who have contributed to its content over the past 15 years. – Paul Wilkinson

Permanent link to this article:

Load more