Jan 07 2016

Envision expanding capabilities

Australia’s Envision has developed into a powerful data hub well-suited to mega-projects.

Envision logoIt’s almost five years since I was first contacted by Ennova’s Hugh Hofmeister to talk about the Brisbane, Australia-based company’s Envision construction project management platform (see May 2011 post). Then, a mobile-first approach to cloud-based construction management was relatively new, as was applying lean thinking, and integrating mobile devices with 3D, scheduling and time management tools, and Hugh was keen to develop integrations with other application – including complementary SaaS construction collaboration tools such as Aconex – rather than to compete with them.

QC LNGQCLNG mega-project

In late 2015, I talked with Hugh again and it was clear Envision had moved forward. It had been adopted for use on several mega-projects. For example, the company had completed a major project with Australian mining and natural resources giant, Thiess (part of the former Leighton Holdings group, renamed CIMIC in early 2015; see also Aconex CIMIC deal absorbs SaaS rival). According to an Envision case study, the Au$2.5 billion Queensland Curtis LNG (QCLNG) project saw over 1000 individual users of Envision, processing at the project’s peak over 3000 people’s timesheets. Achievements included:

  • Envision Activity TimelineFast-tracking the improvement cycle by an estimated one to two months
  • Enabling labour productivity to be calculated for each facility and plotted against time, based on the effective project start date
  • Supporting a massive 30-40 per cent improvement in labour productivity
  • Showcasing relative improvement in construction time comparative across the 14 separate projects under management using Envision

Following the successful completion of QCLNG, Leighton Contractors has rolled Envision out on three other major projects, QGC Surat North, APLNG Gas Gathering, and the design phase of West Connex Stage 1.

Other Envision customers include Australian pipeline construction contractor  Murphy Pipe & Civil, and resources industry equipment and services supplier FLSmidth (using Envision to track equipment maintenance and servicing). Its customers also include subcontractors, attracted by the Envision promise of an activity-centric single version of the truth detailing the hours and resources expended by every discipline employed on a project. Hugh sums up Envision:

Hugh Hofmeister“Envision today is a collaborative project delivery platform for design and construction projects that enables near real-time, site-based capture of project data and the continuous integration of that data into the decision-making process. It gives optimal visibility of a project’s schedule, progress, change and costs – drawing on the latest field information and collaboration among project participants, from field teams to design and construction offices and more – driving faster and more informed decision-making.”

The platform supports different stakeholders from the client at the top of the supply chain, through multi-disciplinary teams of contractors and suppliers, to individual supervisors – enabling them to review timesheets, payroll reports, equipment utilisation, and to manage issues (eg: defects, aka punchlisting), using mobile devices to combine text, images and GIS data. Live API integrations are in place with ArcGIS and iCuro Workforce management, with BIM integration coming soon following a proof of concept integration demonstration with iConstruct at a recent multi-vendor hackathon, Hugh told me.

Envision as data hub

Daily Production RatesIndeed, Envision can effectively function as the data and reporting hub of a constellation of applications and web services, from Autodesk and Bentley BIM authoring tools, SaaS document management (Aconex, the former INCITE Keystone, and QA Teambinder), scheduling (Primavera, MS Project), estimating (Exactal), financial reporting (SAP, Oracle) and payroll and timesheeting applications. Hugh showed me project dashboards incorporating earned value management (EVM) curves as well as conventional bar charts and spreadsheets (Conject strengthened its EVM capabilities during 2015, while Aconex acquired Worksite to bolster its financial reporting toolset). Envision retains its ‘social’ stream of status updates, and the core platform can report multiple datapoints across 100s of thousands of pieces of equipment deployed across a project.

[This is the latest of several blog posts held over from 2015 due to pressures of other work; again, I am aiming to publish the remainder of the backlog during January 2016.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/01/envision-expanding-capabilities/

Jan 05 2016

AECOM takes project collaboration global

AECOM’s ProjectHub programme puts a consistent user experience of Bentley ProjectWise at the fingertips of up to 100,000 knowledge workers worldwide.

AECOM logoOne of the Be Inspired Awards finalists at the 2015 Bentley Systems Year in Infrastructure conference was the international multidisciplinary consultancy AECOM. As noted in November, AECOM had signed an enterprise deal to extend its ProjectWise corporate commitment, and its (winning) entry in the “Innovation in Project Delivery” category related to a global ProjectWise implementation extending the reach of the collaboration platform across some 600 offices in 160 countries worldwide, supporting a potential user-base of 100,000 knowledge workers.

Bentley YII2015As one of Bentley’s strategic partners, AECOM worked closely with the software business to expand use of ProjectWise via a network of seven data hubs (six currently operational in north America, Europe, the Middle East, southern Africa, southeast Asia, and Australasia, plus a further hub to come online in south America). Integrated with AECOM’s intranet, CRM system (Salesforce) and other corporate systems, the ProjectHub system gives AECOM staff a consistent ‘window’ into the company’s back-office and project delivery systems, with rapid and reliable access (at LAN/WAN-type speeds) to the most up-to-date information on any project – maintained by cache servers using delta file transfer.

Phoenix-based AECOM global project collaboration manager Kevin Albright presented the various constraints the business faced – company-wide adoption of BIM, the laws of physics (“basically we can’t share information faster than the speed of light”), security, the need to support multiple languages, helping workers be self-sufficient in IT, eliminating disciplinary or information ‘silos’, and creating a common user experience – and he started this supported by just 2.5 (full-time equivalent) staff.

AECOM PW setupHe said ProjectWise was “the obvious choice”, “the most mature tool”, scaleable, and almost infinitely flexible (over one million configuration options) but wasn’t dependent upon everyone using other Bentley products (“ProjectWise is application-agnostic – we have lots of Revit users too”). It was also simple to start using; Albright showed the simple system icons and ‘software wizards’ used to help set up projects consistently on the system, and described his team’s philosophy of “Just in Time learning – what you need when you need it”, incorporating written help, graphics and video guides that anticipate commonly asked questions. The system’s support site is hosted by Bentley but populated by AECOM materials crowdsourced from its users.

ProjectWise was already used within AECOM (sufficiently widely that no other vendor could realistically be considered, Albright told me later) but the number of early adopters grew rapidly (400%) to over 20,000 in just over a year (a ‘dashboard’ screengrab showed over 3000 projects, around 6m documents, 68,000 user accounts and 23,000+ active users). The system was not mandated within AECOM but the impressive growth was achieved organically by grassroots adoption.

AECOM PW landingpageBenefits already identified include reductions in lost information, less rework from working on the wrong information, and the creation of a history and knowledge base for each asset. Automating, simplifying and reducing project administration tasks has cut the time associated with project start-up. And the use of local hard-drives has been replaced by the ProjectWise cloud, helping also to centralise system administration to a handful of individuals worldwide. Albright said “If the system increases resource utilization by just 2 percent, AECOM will save hundreds of millions of dollars on an annual basis.”

Talking to him after the finalist presentation, he underlined the importance of security:

“With unrest in the Middle East and concerns about east/west relationships, our clients want to know where their data will be hosted and which geographies it might pass through en route. When users set up a project they select the hub most appropriate to their project needs and client data is only hosted in that centre.”

Arup use ProjectWise for BIM

Another finalist in the same category was another multidisciplinary practice, Arup, who described their ProjectWise-based approach to developing and maintaining a BIM template for their UK-based operation, looking to help its people apply consistent and compliant business processes relating to BIM. While not as wide-reaching as the AECOM implementation, Arup identified significant benefits including rapid mobilisation of new BIM projects (a 2-10 day process could now be completed in under two hours (saving an average £1000/project), a 10 percent efficiency saving in use of draughtsman time (worth over £160,000/year), and delivering a marketing advantage.

My take

It was interesting to hear an enterprise case study on a ProjectWise adoption, but this is on a vastly different scale to most implementations. It looks to emulate the scalability and ease of startup and use claimed by some of the pure-SaaS construction collaboration vendors but reflecting exacting company-specific requirements and retaining the core infrastructure within the enterprise.

Other corporates have opted for rival solutions such as Aconex – the Australian SaaS vendor did three major deals, with Bechtel, Lendlease and John Holland, in June/July 2015, for example – which effectively allows them to outsource some risks relating to hosting to a specialist external provider. However, the AECOM/Bentley relationship is clearly close and committed on both sides, with Albright saying they were “co-developing” new capabilities to support their partnership.

For me, it was also a useful reminder that SaaS is not “the only game in town”. Two major consultancy organisations may use other platforms when required by their clients, but otherwise their corporate policies (and an aspect of market differentiation) are to host their clients’ data using a cloud solution that is retained within their own IT set-up.

[This is one of several blog posts held over from 2015 due to pressures of other work; I aim to publish the remainder of the backlog during January 2016. – Disclosure: I attended the Bentley Year in Infrastructure conference as a guest of Bentley Systems, who paid my hotel expenses. I was also a juror in the BE Inspired Awards, and judged the ‘Innovation in Project Delivery’ category.] 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/01/aecom-takes-project-collaboration-global/

Jan 04 2016

Sypro CAM (not a webcam)

NEC3 software specialist Sypro Management has launched a new compliance and asset management application.

Sypro logoHumberside, UK-based Sypro, best-known for its NEC3 contract change management Software-as-a-Service application (one of several competing in the NEC battleground, and a former software partner of Business Collaborator), launched a new product: Sypro Compliance & Asset Manager in late 2015.

Sypro CAM is, according to a Sypro e-newsletter, “an easy to implement, simple to use format that allows estate and facilities managers to effectively and proactively manage their assets therefore ensuring legislative compliance.” Sypro’s website adds:

Wilmslow High SchoolCAM has been developed with a modern, graphical approach, ensuring information and data is simple to understand.

As a web-based solution, Sypro CAM monitors, tracks and records asset data to ensure all are compliant, serviced and maintained in accordance with the relevant legislation or policy. The software can be used by public organisations such a schools, academies, health and care organisations/companies.

Sypro CAM is built for ease of use and to ensure that users can clearly identify actionable alerts relating to assets and compliance regulations. Live and instantaneous reports are readily available to assist the operative and responsible person with task management and adherence to legislation and guidelines.

The website also gives some case studies of Sypro CAM use in healthcare, leisure and education sectors – including Wilmslow High School (above).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/01/sypro-cam-not-a-webcam/

Dec 18 2015

A quick mobile AEC catch-up

Mobile-first SaaS construction collaboration vendors Cadbeam, Finalcad, Sherlayer, BaseStone and GenieBelt continue to compete for attention in the UK.

The thirst for mobile applications in the architecture, engineering and construction market shows little sign of being quenched, and there is scope for new start-ups to carve out a niche for themselves. Competing with relative veterans such as Viewpoint for Projects Field View, other SaaS specialists who have embraced mobile (eg: Aconex, Asite, Business Collaborator, Conject, Newforma, Zutec [previous post]), and domain experts who’ve branched out into software (eg: Dome), are several young businesses targeting the UK market with mobile functionality.

Finalcad speeds up Lexicon

In May 2015, for example, I wrote about another London-based start-up Cadbeam, also offering site-based issue management and integration with MS Project; in the same month, I also covered SherLayer. And in July 2015, I looked at a recent arrival from France: Finalcad. It recently completed a project with London-based residential developer Mount Anvil, working on the 36-storey Lexicon project in the Islington area, where supply chain members used Finalcad competitively to close-out their defects as quickly and efficiently as possible – one user estimates a time saving of 60-70% over using traditional paper-based processes.

Basestone builds profile…

I have also written fairly regularly about Basestone since I first met founder Alex Siljanowski in January 2014. This start-up’s solution has been used by Crossrail, and Alex recently spoke at the Rail Industry Association’s “Unlocking Innovation” event, delivering an “Elevator Pitch” covering the importance of connected data and collaboration for engineers, and innovations such as machine learning to intelligently work with Big Data on projects (Basestone blog post). Meanwhile, there is a new Basestone iOS app, its PDF functionality has been improved, and the London-based firm even featured in the capital’s Evening Standard.

… and GenieBelt gets proud

Meanwhile, just over a year since launching its Free Forever collaboration offering (unlimited users, unlimited tasks, but a maximum of 50 shared files), Copenhagen-based, but with a strong British contingent among its team, Geniebelt continues to push its workforce focus, urging individuals and teams to be “Proud of their projects” (GenieBelt blog post). The mobile-first SaaS business quietly launched its document management capabilities earlier this year.

Overseas providers eyeing UK…

However, it would be unwise to think that Europe-based vendors are always the first choice for UK mobile collaboration solution customers. The SaaS revolution has eroded international boundaries and made it easier for both vendors to reach new markets and buyers to test and adopt new products. As a result, I have been writing regularly about startups in Australasia (APE MobileProgressClaim, and SmallBuilders, for example), the US (eg: Plangrid, FieldLens) and other markets.

Bridgit logoOne of the most interesting north American businesses is Canada’s Bridgit (see August 2014 post Bridgit launches Smartglass push). Among other things, this has been pushing forward with wearable technologies, and attracting a lot of attention – last week, for example, it won a special Google Demo Day challenge competing against 10 other startups all started by women. According to co-founder Mallorie Brodie:

Bridgit wins at Google Demo DayPresenting at and winning Google Demo day was yet another great opportunity to showcase just how much construction technology is changing, and how quickly that change is happening. 2016 is going to be a huge year for software adoption across the entire construction industry. On-site and in-office construction teams now have the appropriate tools (iPads, smartphones, larger data plans, etc.) to use software in their day to day.

For Bridgit, we are already seeing the impact of this, with sales growing at over 20% month over month and sustainable long term growth opportunities. What are we planning for 2016? Expect to see a larger product offering that caters to more stakeholders in the industry. We’ve proven that the construction industry loves our software, and in 2016 we’re bringing it to a significantly larger audience.

Right now, Bridgit has its eyes set on US expansion. Over the past couple of months we’ve been building our customer base in New York City and Google Demo Day was a great opportunity to continue growing our U.S. network.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/12/a-quick-mobile-aec-catch-up/

Dec 14 2015

Construct.pm delivers mobile project management

Construct.pm logoLondon-based Construct.pm provides some real-time messaging alongside its core mobile construction project management workflow tools, and offers far more than the usual snagging tools.

With only a short time to spare to walk round the exhibitors at the Digital Construction Week show (post) in October, it made sense to arrange follow-up calls with some of those businesses whose products and services interested me. One was Construct.pm.

Construct homescreenThe core Construct product is a mobile App that uses real-time cloud technology to let construction managers and consultants manage their whole project on site without needing to go back to the office to handle admin and paperwork. It has been deployed on City of London office projects and on Crossrail, and while some rival applications are point solutions aimed at relatively discrete areas of work (defects, for example), Construct.pm – like ViewPoint for Projects Field View (post) – provides its customers with a growing range of tools tailored to their users’ needs. But it additionally provides Critical Path programme milestone management, digital forms and automated process workflows on top of drawing management, snagging and other workflow support.

Construct.pm, 10-strong and based in London, grew out of INTRO Labs, a mobile applications developer focused on making professionals “hyper-connected”, after founder Ant Erwin identified that enterprise use of cloud technologies and location-based services for project management was being repeatedly requested by corporate customers. Initial development of Construct.pm started in 2013, providing iPad users of with bespoke apps providing various site-based functions including daily checklists and site diaries. By putting these processes at users’ fingertips, Ant says Construct.pm was saving up to two hours a day per user.

Construct task progressCreating bespoke forms was inefficient, so Construct.pm developed a form-builder and workflow platform to expedite the creation of processes, so that client businesses could customise the application to their specific needs; the platform can also be ‘white-labelled’ to provide corporate branding. Reflecting the company’s legacy focus on hyper-connectivity, the forms allow users to ‘follow’ particular processes and track progress, and there is a real-time bulletin board tool that provides instant commenting or messaging (assuming users have connectivity, of course; this is not unique: among others, GenieBelt’s “Beats” offers something similar, post).

The application was piloted with a small number of customers in late 2014. One of these was ISG, which was also using the Conject SaaS construction collaboration platform to manage documents and drawings (Conject announced it had acquired a mobile business, Wapp6, in January 2014 and launched its ConjectMI mobile inspection application in May 2014).

Conject integration

Construct redliningConstruct.pm is not seeking to compete with SaaS providers – Ant sees Construct.pm as complementary – and the business worked with Conject to integrate simple sharing of drawings from Conject to ISG users of the Construct.pm platform. Before going out on site, users autosync their iPads, and can then, if necessary, work offline with the latest versions of information up to that point, then resync once they regain connectivity. Construct.pm also developed some pre-rendering technology that speeds up the loading of drawings on the iPad. The application offers redlining tools and the ability to associate drawings to tasks and forms.

As a project management platform it also allows to import and export schedules and milestones from MS Project. And Construct.pm is also now looking to include building maintenance into the app so it can be used by owner/operators and their FM providers throughout the life-span of a building.

Having quietly launched the iOS application in April 2015, Construct.pm plans versions for Android and for Windows, reflecting what Ant sees as growing popularity of the Windows Surface tablets among some of its corporate customers. The angel-invested business is currently focused on the UK market, but its work with international customers has inevitably attracted some enquiries from overseas.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/12/construct-pm-delivers-mobile-project-management/

Dec 09 2015

Zutec: desktop, mobile and even the “internet of things”

Ireland’s Zutec, through its focus on commissioning and handover has built a strong position in the megaprojects market, and is looking to expand further.

Zutec logoDublin, Ireland-based mobile construction technology provider Zutec exhibited at two London events I recently attended: the Digital Construction Week show in October (post) and Construct IT for Business’s “Future of BIM” conference (post). I arranged a post-DCW conference call with Zutec to learn more about the company and its products.

Zutec have been in my peripheral vision for some years. I first discovered them when looking at software solutions supporting operation and maintenance manual production in the mid 2000s; I mentioned them in Extranet Evolution almost exactly two years ago, and subsequently met the company’s founder Brian Maguire briefly at a COMIT drinks reception in London.

From CDs to COBie data

Chief operating officer Brendan O’Riordan told me the company had been founded by Maguire (now chairman) in 1999 and initially specialised in compiling O&M manuals on disk. It then switched to software development to enable its customers (often with Zutec consultancy support) to undertake the same task. It grew steadily, driven by organic growth and not reliant on VC investment, during the early 2000s, providing its services to major, complex projects such as Wembley Stadium and the Westfield Shopping Centre in London.

However, the flow of such mega-projects in the UK and Ireland dwindled as a result of the global financial crisis in the late 2000s, and so Zutec switched its focus to more buoyant markets in the Middle East (Abu Dhabi’s Cleveland Clinic and Doha Airport feature in the company’s track record) and the Asia Pacific regions (winning projects in Australia and the Philippines, among other countries, and opening an office in Mumbai).

As the UK construction market emerged from the recession, Zutec has successfully grown its UK presence, building on its relationship with the Wembley developer Multiplex, who, now Brookfield Multiplex, remains one of the company’s biggest customers, with Zutec used as its O&M tool, and for quality assurance and control (QA/QC) and ‘BIM to FM’ purposes.

The company is today around 40-strong, and, excluding the head office administration and sales operations, is still roughly equally divided between software development and provision of information management consultancy (some of its consultants are located full-time on site, others may manage multiple projects, providing initial set-up and training, Brendan told me).

Mobile tools

Zutec’s original focus on collation of post-project operation and maintenance information has naturally morphed into development of mobile applications to support site-based commissioning and handover processes, and planned maintenance (a field that puts them in direct competition with Dome Group and its iSnag tool – February 2014 post); Brendan said they rarely competed against SaaS collaboration vendors such as Aconex, 4Projects [now Viewpoint], or Conject – “often we are deployed alongside,” he said, citing a project where they imported floor plans from Aconex’s platform to use in QA/QC data capture).

COBie data view in ZutecDeveloped for Android and iOS devices, Zutec’s on-site data capture tools support defects management (AKA punchlists, snagging), quality inspections, safety hazards and test and commissioning data. The user interface creates pins that can be located on floor plans and used to help track progress (I was shown a room completion tracker, for example, and another tracking glazing installation) and record defects (at Doha Airport, the application helped contractors resolve around half a million issues). The tool is also able to handle IFC models and COBie data – useful for the developing market demanding BIM capabilities.

Planned Preventative MaintenanceBrendan also showed me a maintenance scheduling app, that will help technical staff identify and complete scheduled tasks, and also help them undertake these in sequence logical to the layout of a building. In a large building, around 2,700 systems needed to be managed, involving around 65,000 tasks per annum, he said; electronic management, supported by barcode readers and other mobile capabilities, helped ensure better planning, progress monitoring and faster resolution of any issues.

Remote sensing

Remote sensing - Live DataThe business has also started to look at remote sensing tools. Using standard Arduino micro-electronic components, Zutec has been creating multi-function ‘Internet of things’ devices that can be used to provide almost real-time monitoring of temperature, humidity, light intensity, CO2, etc, via wifi. These can be used, for example, during commissioning processes to monitor room conditions, with data accessible via both desktop and mobile devices, and updated at 30-second intervals. I was shown a model view of an as-built room overlaid with a box giving the room’s temperature alongside other, more process-related data.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/12/zutec-desktop-mobile-and-even-the-internet-of-things/

Dec 07 2015

Augment – use AR to present your buildings

Augment logoAccording to Augment, augmented reality (AR) on a tablet device is the ideal tool for architects to present their building ideas and collaborate with clients and other team members, and for property developers to let or sell the finished buildings to tenants or buyers (architecture and construction is just one market the company is targeting). The VC-backed company, with offices in Paris and in the US, exhibited at the Digital Construction Week show in October, and I got a demonstration of the platform.

Using an Augment app on an iOS or Android device, and then using the tablet camera to view an image, users can view 3D models of both building exteriors and interiors. I was given some sample images in an Augment brochure and I’ve downloaded the Augment app to my Android tablet and been able to view detailed 3D models, doing walk-throughs and spinning round buildings from every angle. Using a tablet allowed me to show the images to other people, something less easy with Google Glass-type AR tools (eg: Visual-Wise, May 2015 post), and it was relatively intuitive to use – within minutes I was zooming in and out of apartments, and showing others points of interest.

Augment is offering a 30-day free trial. Whether in sales meetings, design reviews or just using it internally, business users can upload models to Augment’s servers and then invite other users to view the models on their own devices. If you then want to continue to use the service, then prices start from $300 per device per year (with a minimum of 10 devices – though I wonder if this rules it out as a tool for small design practices?), which allows users to upload unlimited 3D models.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/12/augment-use-ar-to-present-your-buildings/

Dec 03 2015

Joined-up data needs joined-up CDEs?

Mature BIM use in future will increasingly require owners and their supply chains to share both legacy and real-time data about multiple assets. Being able to extract data held across multiple CDEs will be increasingly important. 

thinkBIMYesterday, I attended the final ThinkBIM conference of 2015 (“BIM outside the Building”, organised by Leeds Beckett University’s CKE); today, I’ve attended a Construct IT for Business conference in London on the “Future of BIM”. Before, during and after these events, I’ve also been talking to attendees (and tweeting to one or two others) about how the industry’s adoption of cloud-based common data environments (CDEs, a fundamental of BIM Level 2) will change as organisations look to share data drawn from multiple assets held on multiple CDEs.

BIM London Environment Agency slideThe Environment Agency’s Karen Alford spoke at both conferences, highlighting their use of Asite‘s platform as a CDE for their projects; Rob Jackson of architect Bond Bryan showed how his company has used the 4Projects platform (being rebranded ViewPoint for Projects) as their CDE; and in one of the ThinkBIM workshop sessions I heard Highways England’s David Owens talked about his frustrating experience trying to use multiple CDEs (this was developed further in a Twitter conversation this morning also including Shaun Farrell of Turner & Townsend).

A suggested basic requirement was the ability “to pass information from one system to another without needing to re-upload multiple times”. With clients sometimes specifying alternative CDEs, users can end up using multiple CDEs, none of which they can be expert in (“multiple systems equals lots of training every time and little opportunity to improve processes.”). Wouldn’t it be better, we discussed, if we could simply use our chosen system, and then (accepting relevant security provisions – the developing PAS1192-5 security standard was mentioned) be able to use its interface and tools to navigate to information held on other platforms?

From extranet integration to CDE connection

NCCTP new logoThis is a familiar suggestion. The concept of integrating different ‘extranets’ was something discussed at least 10 years ago when the Network of Construction Collaboration Technology Providers (now long-defunct) talked about having some common approaches, not just to construction information naming and numbering conventions (building on the Avanti principles that underpin BS1192:2007), but also extending to metadata describing workflows, reports, etc. The NCCTP objective then was to develop a common foundation to vendor platforms so that, if a vendor went bust, past and current projects held on that system could be easily recovered and set up with minimal fuss and business interruption on another vendor’s system.

BIM Level 3 Technical infrastructure - Mark BewViewpoint’s Ben Wallbank spoke at today’s London event, and included a brief mention of his company’s involvement in an Innovate UK-funded project to help project teams share information “tier2tier” (see 4Projects to develop ‘satellite’ CDEs). I understand this project still has another year to run, being mainly focused on small constellations of CDEs. I asked Ben about when we might, for example, be able to use our favoured CDE (hosted by Conject, say) to connect to and access legacy or real-time data held on, say, a Viewpoint-hosted CDE. He felt it might be 10 years before this became possible.

Part of his justification was an explanation of the importance of PAS1192-5 given earlier by UK BIM Task Force chair Mark Bew. Talking about Level 3 BIM, Mark had highlighted the importance of protecting the security and provenance of data, so that only authorised users could access relevant information. However, such an apparently simple idea would, he said, require significant changes to construction contracts, to intellectual property arrangements, and even banking processes (providing ways for the IP owners to micro-charge for reuse of their data by other users, if required). And all this in addition to the software development challenges…..

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/12/joined-up-data-needs-joined-up-cdes/

Nov 25 2015

Geospatial expertise vital in managing BIM and Big Data

“Integration of BIM and GIS is a good place to start connecting BIM and Smart Cities

Yesterdays CIOB International Inspiring Construction conference (hashtag: #CIOBInspire) in London heard a series of great presentations on a “Smart future”, from Arto Kiviniemi of Liverpool University, BAM Design MD Andrew Pryke, Sellafield’s John Robison and AECOM’s David Philp. Data – some of it open, some of it Big, some in BIM, some of it in need of security – was at the core of all four presentations, but it was also also clear from all four speakers that we still have a lot of work to do to get our data more joined-up and all-embracing.

Foresight report 2020

This point is also a theme in a new report (available here) published by the Association of Geographic Information (AGI) on Monday. With more and more data becoming available to the human race (according to IBM, each day the human race creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data – about the same as downloading half a billion new HD movies every day), the AGI says it is critical that we are prepared to understand it and to use it effectively to manage our societies, economies and the environment. Chief editor of the report Anne Kemp says:

Forbes predicts that over the next five years the number of handheld devices in the world will increase from 10.3 billion to 29.5 billion. This will mean a huge increase in data, and a phenomenal surge in the amount of noise we will need to sift through to find the information we need to make good decisions.

The role of the geospatial community in managing this data is vital. The management of big data through geospatial analysis helps us to visualise patterns of information, create better understanding and dialogue, and make more informed decisions.

AGI Foresight 2020 image(The geospatial community refers to specialists who gather, display and manipulate information that has a location attached to it, from an address or coordinates from a GPS. Geospatial specialists display this information in maps that help people analyse large amounts of information – from the damage done by a tornado to the total number of home foreclosures in a specific area.)

The report says a truly connected ‘Digital Earth’ can only be achieved through location intelligence. A common thread through the report is the need for the GI community, and location intelligence, to tackle issues of data quality and data management to enable enhanced decision making in today’s ‘Digital Earth’. The report highlights that to do this the industry requires a fundamental and deep understanding of its relationship with digital data.

Echoing a point made first by Arto Kiviniemi and underlined by David Philp yesterday – “integration of BIM and GIS is a good place to start connecting BIM and Smart Cities” – the report stresses BIM, Smart Cities and the Internet of Things are key areas where location intelligence is being used to underpin decisions and address key social, environmental and economic challenges. Anne Kemp says

There is far more to location intelligence than maps. It’s all about data, what you do with it and what outcomes you can provide that counts. We are seeing an explosion in the volume of sensors and mobile devices in cities, homes and workplaces which are producing torrents of data. The role of location intelligence in the management of these datasets is vital, with it becoming the glue to connect them.

The management of big data through location intelligence enables people, and technologies, to visualise information and draw out insights to inform better dialogue and make informed decisions.

The 2020 report consistently highlights the important role in which location intelligence is playing across a diverse range of markets. I am confident that the geospatial industry has the skills to shape the way in which information is managed in the future. To do this we need to ensure that the technologies, homes and cities of tomorrow are developed with location data at their core.

[Disclosure: I attended yesterday’s CIOB conference at the invitation of the CIOB. Anne Kemp is a fellow member of the ICE’s information systems panel.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/11/geospatial-expertise-vital-in-managing-bim-and-big-data/

Nov 23 2015

An SME AEC SaaS catch-up

I have a backlog of industry posts that I will be posting over the next week or so, but I’ve also been sent a couple of other news snippets….

1: Corecon updates

Corecon logoPitched at the small to medium-sized end of the north American market (“Run your entire operation for about $1 a day!”), Corecon Technologies recently updated its CoreconLink for QuickBooks Desktop and Sage 50 Canada accounting software, providing users of Corecon V7 construction estimating, project management and job cost software with increased efficiency between Corecon V7 and some popular accounting systems.  This streamlined functionality was already available in CoreconLink for QuickBooks Online, SAP Business One and Xero accounting software, but there are some updates of CoreconLink accounting utilities for the online software applications as well. Read Corecon’s news release.

Meanwhile, if you work in the southern hemisphere….

2: SmallBuilders.com.au

SmallBuilders.com.auAnother cloud-based construction software business, Small Builders was launched by a Sydney, Australia-based  building and construction lawyer and a member of the Master Builders Association, with the objective of helping its users run sustainable businesses (“Small Builders gets you paid, gets you compliant, and gets you organised” – all for Au$990 a year – the starter rate).

At first glance, the solution seems to be strong on contract management (so perhaps similar to the UK’s Sypro, only aimed at Australian SMEs) John Dela Cruz says he aims to help SMEs avoid poor business practices:

“The Small Builders building software has been built for the needs of home builders and commercial contractors. If you are good on the tools and managing relationships then Small Builders gives you the essentials you need to run a successful business. You don’t need to be good with computers, Small Builders has been built for you – the small business that needs a practical solution – it’s quick and simple to use.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/11/an-sme-aec-saas-catch-up/

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