Atvero: Office 365 SharePoint-based PIM

Many AEC firms use Microsoft SharePoint application internally. Now a cloud-based tool, it is the foundation of a new UK-developed solution, Atvero.

Atvero logoA new Microsoft SharePoint-based project information management (PIM) solution, Atvero, was launched at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London today (10 September 2019). Developed in just over a year by a small team of developers at London-based IT and consultancy services provider Nittygritty, Atvero is positioned as providing a cloud project delivery capability for design and construction professionals.

Paul Daynes of AtveroThe launch event was fronted by Paul Daynes, right, formerly at Newforma UK (post), and he differentiated Atvero from traditional on-premise database-driven information platforms and index-based platforms (such as Newforma). He said:

“We are very excited about the possibilities and opportunities for improvement that Atvero will provide to the industry. In a digital age, design and construction companies that have or are looking to migrate to cloud strategies, will benefit hugely from Atvero – increasing efficiency, improving quality and reducing risk in project delivery. Atvero is unique, it’s modern and presents a smarter way to manage project deliverables and communication, when compared with on-premise PIM solutions.”

At the launch, Microsoft consultant Andy Talbot talked about the depth of collaborative capabilities built into the Microsoft 365 platform – notably using OneDrive, Teams and SharePoint, but also bringing in wider Office tools, including Outlook and Yammer, and some 140 integrations with other vendors’ solutions. These capabilities deliver Team, Communication and Hub sites for intranets, and are today accessible across multiple devices. “SharePoint has a new lease of life,” he said (perhaps conscious that some people – like me – have had poor past experiences of the original manifestation of SharePoint).

Atvero – augmenting SharePoint

Atvero Sharepoint plusNittygritty’s operations director Liam Southwood was somewhat less positive about SharePoint (“… in terms of it’s document management capabilities, it doesn’t really offer much more than Dropbox”), underlining that Atvero was developed to add new areas of AEC-focused capability (right). He described how it integrated with Autodesk products such as Revit and AutoCAD, plus graphics tools from Adobe. It also has the potential to share information with other collaboration products (his slide showed links to AEC platforms including Autodesk’s BIM 360, Oracle Aconex, Trimble’s Viewpoint For Projects and GroupBC). Southwood said the platform could manage file naming (a la BS 1192:2007), and had powerful versioning and revision control. A project portal can also be created to share information with external partners, creating issue sheets and the like. An Outlook plugin in Atvero also allows tight email integration “to lighten that pain”. In a live demonstration, he showed how a Revit plugin for Atvero can “reconcile Revit revisions in compliance with BS 1192/ISO 19650”, support approval processes, create standard issue sheets, and issue model files in DWG, DWF and PDF formats.

Daynes outlined future plans including further enhancements to core functions, integration with Autodesk’s BIM360/Forge tools and markup using Bluebeam. 2020 aspirations include project accounting integrations, and support for ISO 19650 CDE information workflows. Integrations with other SaaS extranet/CDE platforms are possible, Southwood added, dependent on functional requirements and API access. The product is licensed at £16 per user per month, with initial consultancy costs of around £2,500, but negotiable depending on the size of the customer firm, Daynes said.

Customer adoption

London-based architectural firm Chapman Taylor has been using Atvero for some months and plans to roll out the platform more widely later this year (it has 455 staff in 17 offices around the world). Andy Hudson, a director at the firm, said the firm has been using Union Square (acquired by Deltek in July 2016) but is in the process of transitioning to a SharePoint-based platform (he also said the firm had painful experience of retrieving information previously shared via the Viewpoint For Projects system after the liquidation of Carillion). It had lots of Office 365 licenses and wanted to leverage its investment; originally, SharePoint couldn’t provide the document management requirements of the firm, but, over the past 18 months, Atvero has given the business those capabilities. All internal management of its UK projects will be via the SharePoint-based platform by the end of 2019, he said. Hudson also provided an Atvero endorsement:

“Atvero PIM provides Chapman Taylor with a modern and scaleable project information management solution that meets our business needs for the next decade and beyond. For Chapman Taylor to be competitive, win and deliver more successful projects, we need a platform that gives us flexibility, but also rigour in our project delivery processes. Atvero PIM offers us this capability.”

Liam SouthwoodDaynes said Atvero enabled firms to move from existing on-premise solutions – including 28Hands’ Mail Manager, Deltek PIM and Newforma – to a cloud-based Sharepoint platform. This can be hosted by Microsoft in region-specific locations, helping firms meet clients’ data sovereignty requirements.

Architecture-trained, Southwood, right, believes Microsoft, Autodesk and Adobe are the “holy trinity” of providers for the AEC sector, but also recognises that some firms may be using other vendors’ tools: Bentley products, ArchiCAD, Vectorworks, etc. When it came to interoperability between solutions, IFC wasn’t mentioned in the presentations, but Southwood said Atvero used Microsoft tools which were format-agnostic, so IFC models could be manually shared using the platform, and didn’t rule out his team developing more integrated IFC export capabilities if customers required them.

Extranet Evolution view

The SharePoint application connects multiple Microsoft products, and perceptions about it have changed since its transition from an on-premise product to being a cloud-based tool. Previous SharePoint-based AEC solutions (Organice’s Cadac, for example) were based on the on-premise system, but Atvero is looking to capitalise upon the reinvigorated product to provide, effectively, a cloud-based intranet for AEC design and construction firms.

This is not the only solution of its kind. Another developer, US-based Simplex Group, launched its VPO Cloud (‘virtual project office’) to customers wanting construction management software in the Microsoft Cloud in 2017 (read VPO: Microsoft 365-based project management); TonicDM (post) is also tightly integrated with the Microsoft Office 365 ecosystem. Such tools will help organisations still working predominantly with traditional 2D drawings and other construction deliverables (and this remains the case, even in the UK – at the CDBB Digital Twin Day yesterday [9 September 2019] it was said that 62% of projects are still mainly designed in 2D), but the demands of BIM and creating a common data environment require additional capabilities. With the UK continuing to push forward with BIM and data-driven approaches, Atvero clearly has to integrate with CDE platforms and workflows.

The almost universal adoption of Microsoft Office products across the AEC market has made integration with Microsoft a common requirement for other AEC tools. Outlook plugins have been a long-standing feature of many SaaS collaboration platforms and CDEs, and some vendors have pushed the relationship still further. Since 2013 (post), Bentley Systems has been nurturing a strong relationship with Microsoft using Azure to support its “connected data environment” (among others, Germany’s RIB has a similar relationship – post), and in October 2018 Bentley announced general availability of its integration between ProjectWise 365 Services and Microsoft 365 (post).

Mention of Bentley also raises a question about Atvero’s focus on Autodesk’s design authoring tools as a basis for its platform. While this might be valid for architectural firms and others involved in conventional buildings and structures, Atvero is not catering for many potential customers who work primarily in civil engineering / infrastructure projects. Also, other design authoring platforms are favoured in some marketplaces (in central Europe, Asia, etc), while Autodesk’s new subscription model has antagonised some customers who have then been tempted by lookalike products such as BricsCAD from Bricsys (acquired by Hexagon in October 2018 – post).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/09/atvero-office-365-sharepoint-based-pim/

Deltek: integration key to digital transformation

The digital debate in the UK built environment has been moving beyond its recent obsession with building information modelling (BIM) and looking more widely at digital transformation and business “digitalisation”. Integration of back office, design and project management systems will be critical to the future success of many design firms, says Deltek.

Some four years after the launch of the UK BIM push in 2011, the Digital Built Britain report was published in February 2015 as industry moved closer to the mandated deadline for BIM adoption across all centrally-funded government projects in April 2016. Often, the assumption was that BIM was mainly about use of BIM authoring software or common data environment (CDE) platforms, but the BIM Task Group and its various regional and sectoral communities consistently urged businesses to regard BIM as a process not a technology. BIM was also seen as a way to help make construction more collaborative, productive and profitable, particularly if it was also integrated with other back-office business processes across suppliers, contracting and professional services firms supporting project delivery.

Productivity and profit

Deltek logoProductivity and profitability among many professional architecture and engineering services businesses remains a challenge, according to a July 2019 Service Performance Insight white paper produced for construction technology provider Deltek (whose product portfolio includes project information management solutions; it acquired Union Square in July 2016). Trends including employee attrition, smaller projects, lower billable utilisation and higher project overruns all had potential to negatively affect businesses. Investing in staff training, improved monitoring of reasons for attrition, selling services more effectively, making projects more profitable and delivering work on time (“on-time delivery is the leading driver of client satisfaction in professional services“) were all advocated.

However, technology also has a key role, SPI said, noting professional services firms are using information-based tools at a higher rate than ever before, with European firms ahead of their north American counterparts. Firms with high levels of information visibility operate much more efficiently and have higher employee satisfaction, as shown by attrition, than those organisations with lower levels of visibility.  They also show much greater project and overall profitability, SPI said, recommending greater investment in professional services automation (PSA) tools with their emphasis on project and resource management, time and expense capture, and collaboration:

“PSA is like many of the project management (PM) solutions used by AE [architecture/engineering] firms, but includes greater collaboration tools and the ability to capture time and costs to improve project profitability.  It has become a ‘must have’ solution for many AE firms as they work to increase billable utilisation and drive project-based work to meet its time constraints.”

SPI says European AE firms are behind their north American counterparts when it comes to service delivery and financials (US SaaS project management systems often included cost management functionality, but UK-based vendors’ collaboration platforms rarely did; BIW had an optional financial control module in the early 2000s but it remained an isolated UK example until its eventual parent Aconex launched Connected Cost in 2017; since 2016 Deltek has been able to integrate project information management alongside financials).

In order to become world-class, SPI says each firm must analyse their operational procedures and processes, and work to improve in all areas of their business in order to remain productive and profitable. The task won’t be easy, but with the right information backbone, increased visibility and automation will drive these organisations to their highest levels. SPI continues:

A sophisticated and integrated information infrastructure is paramount to success in AE firms.  Integrated [systems] provide AE firms with the necessary automation and visibility to perform at their highest level.  They enable greater collaboration among the different organisational units, which will make the firms more productive and profitable in the large, complex and exciting projects that help define the industry.”

Deltek product director Nick Nieder says:

“Deltek’s customers are mainly contractors and architecture/engineering businesses who are looking to integrate their systems, improve their managers’ operational oversight, and deliver better project outcomes to their customers. SPI has confirmed that digital transformation is critical for the continued future success of UK construction businesses.”

Integration the key

The UK government still wants industry to shorten delivery programmes, lower costs, reduce greenhouse emissions, and improve its export performance – little of which can be achieved simply be digitising existing processes. As a result, a wide range of parallel industry changes have also been demanded – notably in Mark Farmer’s 2016 Modernise or Die. He advocates BIM and wider digitalisation, alongside other remedies including higher investment in R&D, greater use of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) or pre-manufactured solutions, and adoption of whole-life value approaches to built asset delivery. (Digitalisation is using digital technologies to “change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities: the process of moving to a digital business,” to quote Gartner’s definition).

CDBB diagramDigital Built Britain was produced to map the next steps in the digital journey beyond the April 2016 target of “BIM Level 2” (see March 2015 post: For Level 3 BIM, read Digital Built Britain), and the task of digital transformation in the built environment has now been moved to the government-backed Cambridge University-based Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB), working in partnership with the UK BIM Alliance* and BSI. Their work and Farmer’s recommendations also reflect the direction of UK government departments and agencies. Bodies including the UK Infrastructure and Projects Authority and the National Infrastructure Commission are also seeking more holistic and joined-up approach to planning, delivering and operating the built environment, with ‘digital twins‘ replacing BIM as the hot industry buzzword (read my August 2019 post: Bentley pushes ‘Digital Twin’ into AEC mainstream) – a concept that, vitally, is all about connecting systems.

I will be talking about these themes at Deltek’s half-day conference in London’s Kings Place on 18 September 2019 – more details here.

* I am a UK BIM Alliance ambassador, and in July became an executive director and chair of the Alliance’s Technology Group.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/09/deltek-integration-digital-transformation/

GoContractor targets safety compliance

GoContractor, a safety compliance solution provider founded in Ireland, is expanding in the US market.

GoContractor logoGoContractor was originally founded in 2012 as Induction Manager Ltd by Sean Fennell (formerly CEO, now SVP Partnerships) and Julie Currid (formerly COO, today chief marketing officer), with offices in London and Dublin. It traded as ‘Initiafy‘, providing online training apps to ensure contractors, temporary or seasonal workers are  quickly skilled up, accelerating their development as productive, safe members of the workforce. Development of the initial prototype solution was outsourced to a company with office in Ireland and Poland, and within 18 months, Initiafy had 30 customers, including Pfizer, British Gas, Adobe and Sodexo. Buoyed by this success, the founders raised €400,000 in October 2013 from Enterprise Ireland, private investors and the Cork-based Boole Investment Syndicate (read November 2017 Enterprise Ireland article).

In November 2014, it raised US$1.5m in seed funding from investors including Delta Partners, ACT Venture Capital and private investor Leslie Buckley (read May 2015 Silicon Republic profile), and had attracted customers in the US (its largest market), the UK, Middle East and Africa. The company opened a New York office in November 2014, though expansion meant some financial losses – it booked a loss of €990,000 in 2015 (reported BizPlus) – while staff numbers grew to 17. Today, it has offices in Toronto, Canada and Houston, Texas, and recently raised a further €0.5m (c. US$0.55m; read 8 August 2019 Irish Times article), and is looking to further expand its US presence, while doubling its headcount to 50 by the end of 2019.

Onboarding new workers

Initiafy screenWhen new starters begin working for a new company, they normally have to submit training records or other documents, be registered, and then initiated on their employer’s HR, safety and corporate policies. A ‘white label’ solution, GoContractor enables employers to create online forms, share documents, and build custom training, testing and interactive material. The new-starter works through the process in their own time using any web-connected device and arrives for work with sufficient knowledge to make an immediate start.

The company says this helps ensure “compliance with safety regulations while reducing the likelihood of accidents, less time wasted in classrooms and a better (and more comfortable) learning environment for electricians, plumbers, contractors and more”. US-based contractors including Gilbane, Lendlease and Skanska are using GoContractor (Irish customers include Sisk, Roadbridge and the ESB) to achieve compliance across all on-site sub-contractors, keeping workers safe and cost and risk low. It says: “Having the training done in advance frees up valuable hours each day for superintendents, safety managers and project managers by eliminating paperwork and face-to-face training requirements. This can reduce onboarding costs by as much as 50 percent.”

As well as providing online training it also has on-site tools including Access Control (a remote worker check-in and check-out service used to monitor site activities and hours), while its Traffic Light System uses a simple red/amber/green colour scheme to represent the status of temporary worker documents, as well as managing behaviours.

One of the latest projects to deploy GoContractor is long-time US customer Gilbane Construction’s development of a new $10 billion LCD screen factory complex in Wisconsin, for the Taiwanese company, Foxconn. The 20-million-square-foot campus is the largest greenfield investment by a foreign-based company in US history.

New GoContractor CEO

John Naughton - GoContractor CEOIn March 2019, GoContractor appointed a new CEO, John Naughton, based in the company’s New York office. Naughton has more than 15 years of experience in technology transformation in construction, agriculture, marine, mining, and manufacturing, joining GoContractor from Trimble where he was a business area director focused on civil engineering and construction technologies.

Naughton is a mechanical engineering graduate from Ireland’s University of Limerick, Ireland, and has an MBA from Torrens University in Australia. His focus is on sharing best practices and partnerships across the Atlantic:

“Because we’re working with the best of the best in both regions, and we have really strong relationships with all of our customers, we’re in a unique position of being able to add value in terms of what works well when it comes to the adoption of new technology into a fairly traditional market.”

Competitors

Other players in the AEC safety-oriented market include three Australian firms: SafeSite – 2015 post – iAuditor from SafetyCulture – July 2019 post – and HammerTech – April 2019 post. The latter has also experienced strong US interest in its products. Another player is UK-based BioSite Systems [disclosure:- a past pwcom.co.uk Ltd client], which helps construction businesses get insights into their workforces and supply chains.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/09/gocontractor-safety-compliance/

Autodesk’s BuildingConnected integrated with Plangrid

For north American customers, Autodesk has created an integration between two of its recent acquisitions. The BuildingConnected bid management platform can now push pre-construction information into Plangrid.

In November 2018, Autodesk announced its US$875m acquisition of the mobile-oriented construction management platform Plangrid. The deal provided Autodesk with new capabilities to support projects as they move into construction – not an area where Autodesk solutions had traditionally been strong (read: Construction-savvy Plangrid adds to Autodesk toolset). Two months later, in January 2019, Autodesk announced it was acquiring another US companyBuildingConnected, for US$275m. San Francisco-based BuildingConnected specialised in pre-construction processes including bid management and risk analysis, but operated almost solely in the north American market.

Push to Plangrid

BuildingConnected Autodesk logoToday (13 August 2019), for its north American customers, Autodesk has announced it has integrated BuildingConnected bid management solutions with PlanGrid technology. The integration allows construction project managers to automatically push design and pre-construction files from BuildingConnected to PlanGrid, saving time, reducing errors and further enhancing the cost savings associated with using both platforms. With this integration, Autodesk says project managers can also easily connect field workers with project planning and estimation workflows used throughout the building process.

Push to PlangridIntegrating BuildingConnected with PlanGrid solves a major problem for project managers, who typically use the same designs, plans, estimates and other documentation during pre-construction as in the construction phase. Historically, managers needed to manually transfer these files and documents into field collaboration software, a time-consuming and repetitive process that can result in missing files or data errors – and ultimately, miscommunications and project delays.

Now project managers can create PlanGrid projects directly in BuildingConnected. With a simple “push to PlanGrid” button, all project files in BuildingConnected are automatically sent to PlanGrid where they can be accessed immediately from mobile devices in the field. By transferring design and pre-construction files into PlanGrid, managers can sidestep manual project creation and ensure that accurate and holistic data is available to field teams.

Mike Mehrwin, VDC manager at US construction business CRB says:

“Successful project execution starts the moment we win a deal. Our team immediately goes into overdrive to make sure we maximize efficiency throughout the entire build process, connecting workflows and seamlessly transferring complex data from the design and planning phase into the hands of workers on the jobsite. By taking advantage of the BuildingConnected and PlanGrid integration, we’ll be able to close the gap between the pre-construction and building process and enable deeper collaboration between our office and field teams.”

Dustin DeVan, vice president, pre-construction products at Autodesk, says:

“The construction industry has struggled with transferring information from one project to another, and across the different phases of a building project. It’s easy to feel insecure about the logistics of kicking off a job when the right tools to facilitate workflows don’t exist. By reducing errors and the need for rework, this integration will help to mitigate overall project risk and help to ensure more predictable outcomes. Project managers can now feel more confident as they transition from precon to site construction.”

Integrating Plangrid

Autodesk has also developed other integrations including one between BIM 360 Ops and PlanGrid (owners using BIM 360 Ops can now manage work order tickets created in PlanGrid for more efficient building maintenance), and PlanGrid and Revit (users now access Revit Building Information Modelling (BIM) data, in either 2D or 3D, directly within PlanGrid on their mobile devices; read April 2016 post: Plangrid BIM launched). Jim Lynch, vice president and general manager, Autodesk Construction Solutions, says:

“By connecting our portfolio of construction solutions, we’re empowering customers to realize meaningful workflows across the entire project lifecycle, whether it’s delivering design files from the office to the field or referencing an accurate as-built during building operations. Autodesk is reimagining the construction business for the digital age, and we look forward to the positive impact this integration will have for our customers.”

At Autodesk’s Connect and Construct Summit in London in June 2019,  Lynch said work was under way to merge the Plangrid and BIM 360 offerings: “they will start to merge and will become one sometime in the future. (read: Autodesk’s Plangrid and BIM360 technologies to merge). Efforts were under way to devise a single interface to access the BIM360 and Plangrid functionalities. Lynch added it was important to show existing customers that their past investments are sound for the future. However, work to internationalise the BuildingConnected offering would take a little longer – BuildingConnected will not be launched in EMEA until next year, 2020.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/08/autodesk-buildingconnected-integrated-plangrid/

HoloBuilder builds its European backing

US-based 360° reality capture technology provider HoloBuilder has announced new investments from three Germany backers to help fuel the construction technology business’s international growth.

HoloBuilder LogoHaving established an EU hosting base, the US’s HoloBuilder is extending its European operation still further. The artificial intelligence (AI) solution provider for 360° reality capture of construction projects, has announced it is partnering with E.ON, an international private energy company headquartered in Essen, Germany, plus Berlin-based construction technology investor, Foundamental, and NRW.BANK, the promotional bank of Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). The new investments (amounts unspecified) are part of what the company calls a “global expansion round, which will foster the company’s expansion into new regions across the globe”.

CEO and founder of HoloBuilder, Inc., Mostafa Akbari-Hochberg says:

“Our partnership with E.ON, Foundamental, and NRW.BANK will allow us to significantly grow our team and provide more value to the fast-growing, international customer base. At HoloBuilder, we believe that construction software can unlock tremendous potential for the construction industry. It is our goal to enable any jobsite to understand and know about new powerful tools available to them. Besides growing our team, the investments will enable us to build out even more powerful AI-based construction technology solutions for enterprises around the globe, providing them with mission-critical insights to secure ROI.”

HoloBuilder JobWalk PlannerIn April 2019, HoloBuilder released its mobile JobWalk App, enabling off-site stakeholders to pre-plan construction documentation sequences for their teams. Captured digital construction project can be analyzed with SiteAI, HoloBuilder’s computer vision, and artificial intelligence technology. HoloBuilder says this combination provides “the fastest and most insightful solution to document construction projects in a secure SaaS cloud environment”. Over 15,000 construction projects have been documented using HoloBuilder, by over 1,600 construction companies (customers include Skanska and UK-based Kier).

On behalf of one of the investors, Thomas Birr, head of strategy and innovation at E.ON, says:

“As a future-oriented, innovative company, we have to reinvent ourselves continuously, constantly optimize our processes and digitize our business. The digitization of construction projects offers a high, yet unexploited potential. By investing in HoloBuilder, we are ideally positioned to digitize our projects, making them even more efficient, faster and more customer-oriented. I am convinced that we will benefit greatly from HoloBuilder’s expertise and unique portfolio of solutions. We are looking forward to deploying the HoloBuilder solutions internationally.”

HoloBuilder grows German R&D base

In many regions outside its core market in the United States, HoloBuilder says it is facing growing demand from construction, oil and gas enterprises and companies such as E.ON for whom infrastructure development is a part of their main business. The global expansion round allows HoloBuilder to expand into new regions by growing their team in the United States and Germany, in order to satisfy the needs of an international customer base. Especially in the company’s research & development location in the high-tech cluster of Aachen in Germany, the team of specialized engineers who build the technology behind HoloBuilder’s SiteAI artificial intelligence solution for construction will grow significantly.

Soon after its 2014 launch, Holobuilder raised US$665,000 in seed funding from High-Tech Gruenderfonds. It raised a further US$2.25m in an investment round in early 2017 (news release), backed by venture capitalist firms VC Brick & Mortar Ventures and Tandem Capital. Web searches suggest Foundamental also made an unspecified investment in January 2019.

(Incidentally, while watching the above YouTube video, I noticed its claim that it could “Create a Digital Twin of your entire project with ease.” This clearly depends on what definition of digital twin is used, and whether the reality captured data is connected to other data. It would not – on its own – deliver a digital twin in the way that it is being defined in the Gemini Principles developed by the UK’s Centre for Digital Built Britain: “A realistic digital representation of something physical. What distinguishes a digital twin from any other digital model is its connection to the physical twin” (emphasis added; read also: Bentley pushes ‘Digital Twin’ into AEC mainstream).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/08/holobuilder-builds-european-backing/

Congrid and HomeRun form partnership

Finnish construction technology businesses Congrid and HomeRun are partnering to share their complementary technologies and expand their marketing reach.

Congrid logoFinland’s Congrid, which launched a mobile application for quality and safety management in 2016,  has agreed a partnership with another Nordic construction software business, HomeRun. The businesses feel their products complement each others well, and plan to join forces in their international operations.

Congrid

Congrid ScreenshotBased in Helsinki, Finland, Congrid was founded in 2013 by a team of construction site managers who had become frustrated with the use of pen, paper and Excel spreadsheets to control quality and safety on construction sites. Congrid’s cloud-based software offers users one platform to handle quality and safety management on any construction project, reducing quality costs, improving safety and maximising site productivity. Over 100 customers include major developers, construction firms, contractors and subcontractors in the Nordic region.

Adoption of its applications was boosted by Finland’s regulatory regime which requires weekly safety measurement. It subsequently expanded into Sweden, and in July 2019 sponsored a London quality conference (read: Finland’s Congrid targets UK H&S market).

The application is available on Android and Apple iOS platforms and, as well as the safety measurement functionality, provides punchlisting, quality inspections and document management tools.

HomeRun

Formerly (until June 2019) known as TaloInfo, HomeRun was founded in 2012 in Helsinki, and – as its new name suggests – has developed a solution more targeted at the house-building and renovation and maintenance sectors. It is a digital tool for resident communication, document management, project management and management of materials selection. By 2017, it had grown to a 10-strong business generating sales of €730,000. It shares some customers with Congrid.

Congrid CEO Timo Makkonen, right, says: “Both companies are aiming to increase their business in the Nordic countries. This partnership will also benefit our existing customers in Finland. We want to help them succeed even better. Our applications complement each other. By combining data, our customers will have access to the best software easily, and they can enter their data into a single system.”

Otto LaurilaHomeRun CEO Otto Laurila, left, says that both companies already share some common customers. “Our products complement each other well, and both can focus more on their own core business. The partnership makes business sense both in Finland and internationally.”

Congrid and HomeRun are both aiming to reach markets in the Nordic countries, focusing first on Finland and Sweden.

The Extranet Evolution view

The Congrid/HomeRun partnership is reminiscent of the January 2019 merger of Denmark’s GenieBelt and Belgium’s AproPlan to form LetsBuild (read: GenieBelt and Aproplan merge to form LetsBuild). Both businesses were formed  to replace use of pen and paper for managing on-site construction processes. GenieBelt focused on on-site planning and progress communication giving customers a real-time schedule and progress reporting; Aproplan chose to tackle on-site follow-up communication by digitising snagging, drawings and checklists. Both companies experienced demand for functionality that the other company provided.

In the case of Congrid and HomeRun, existing customers were already using both solutions, so developing a partnership will potentially benefit those customers while also strengthening the joint proposition to new prospective customers.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/08/congrid-homerun-form-partnership/

RIB invests in India IoT and AI specialist Winjit

RIB software logoContinuing its 2019 spending spree and extending its international footprint still further, Germany’s RIB Software has taken a 15% stake in an Indian tech company, Winjit.

In the latest in a series of 2019 investments, RIB Software, the Stuttgart, Germany-based provider of cloud-based technologies for the construction and real estate industries, has announced that it has taken a strategic 15% stake in an Indian company, Winjit, which specialises in Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and blockchain.

Winjit logoFounded in 2004 by tech entrepreneurs Ashwin Kandoi and Abhijit Junagade, Winjit – based in Nashik – employs more than 300 people, and has sales offices in South Africa (Johannesburg) and the United States (New York and San Francisco) – both markets where RIB has struck deals this year. In June, RIB acquired 60% of USA-based BSD (Building Systems Design) to strengthen its estimating and product data capabilities and gain a bridgehead in north America (Winjit has a strong focus on the US market). A month later, RIB acquired a 70% shareholding in South Africa’s cost estimation and project control software provider CCS (which is also extending RIB’s UK presence).

RIB’s Winjit investment is based on an EBITDA multiple of 7x on expected fiscal year 2019 EBITDA. RIB acquires a 15% stake in Winjit and has the option to acquire a further controlling interest in Winjit through call options exercisable over the next four years. Winjit’s organic growth is expected to reach 40% p.a.

Winjit has developed at least three state-of-the-art software applications which RIB says will be integrated into the RIB MTWO vertical cloud platform:

IoTsense

  • IoTSense is an advanced full-scale IoT Platform, which securely connects modern and legacy protocol sensors on the edge and cloud to provide real-time analytics, rule-based actions and machine-to-machine communication
  • PredictSense is an automated machine learning platform that helps organisations solve complex real-time business problems with high-power algorithms on an open API structure
  • VisionSense provides image recognition solutions to various industries’ process challenges.

In particular, RIB plans to integrate Winjit’s applications into its iTWO Facility Management and iTWO Supply Chain Management solutions. RIB says it is pushing to create “the world’s first artificial intelligence engineer, McTWO“.

Abhijit Junagade, CEO of Winjit says:

Abhijit Junagade, CEO of Winjit“We are excited at Winjit to be a part of the RIB family. Our strategy and focus on IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning software applications aligns with RIB’s MTWO platform. We are looking forward to work closely with RIB teams worldwide in the AEC industry. RIB’s commitment to Winjit proves the scalability of its business model. This partnership further strengthens Winjit to serve its customers and employees much better worldwide.”

Tom Wolf, CEO of RIB Group says:

“IoT, AI, Machine Learning and Blockchain are the direction of future technologies for smart city and smart living. I am very happy to work with the two young and visionary entrepreneurs, Abhijit Junagade and Ashwin Kandoi, who shared the same vision with me to deliver the best infrastructure for the next generation. The investment in Winjit demonstrates RIB Group’s strong commitment to further strengthen our solution portfolio to advance the industry.”

Update (11 September 2019) – RIB has announced a further (unspecified) investment in India, signing an agreement with software reseller Capricot, the tenth RIB investment of 14 (worth almost US$150m) planned for 2019 . RIB says it has invested 20% with the right to consolidate Capricot into the RIB Group (somewhat vaguely) “within the next years”.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/08/rib-invests-india-iot-ai-specialist-winjit/

Bentley pushes ‘Digital Twin’ into AEC mainstream

Discussion about ‘Digital Twins’ and national digital twins has grown rapidly since 2017, with Bentley Systems leading conversations and supporting UK research.

The notion of creating a ‘Digital Twin’ of a built asset – a digital representation of the physical asset that is also connected to the physical asset to exchange real-time data – has been increasingly widely discussed in the past couple of years in the AEC sector.

Bentley champions ‘digital twin’ thinking

Bentley logo 2017It is something that I particularly associate with Bentley Systems, as the concept has been widely discussed by the company over the past three years. It was highlighted at the company’s Year In Infrastructure conference in October 2017, but was trailed almost a year earlier in a joint news announcement in November 2016 about the company’s alliance with Siemens. Technology consultancy Gartner included ‘digital twins’ in its Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends in 2017, and added impetus was created by the publication by the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission of its Data for the Public Good report in December 2017, which recommended a national national twin, an information management framework, and a digital framework task group. In October 2018, the NIC’s Sir John Armitt talked about the report, and there were several ‘digital twin’ announcements at Bentley’s YII event in London (read: Bentley ProjectWise365 extends Microsoft integration), including add Bentley’s Azure-based iTwin™ Services. Soon after, in November 2018, the Centre for Digital Built Britain‘s digital framework task group published a set of guiding principles – the Gemini Principles – laying out the foundations for national digital twin thinking (followed by a roadmap in April 2019).

Greg Bentley, CEO of Bentley (with Antony Oliver behind)In 2019, Bentley’s digital twin momentum appears to be growing. There was more talk of digital twins at the InfraHack event in London in May 2019 (read: Hacking the Bentley iModel platform). The company has also been running some invitation-only TwinTalk breakfast discussion meetings in London (organised by Mark Coates – see previous post – and compered by journalist and YII regular Antony Oliver, the events have focused on digital twin thinking – on 6 June, attendees heard speakers from Ordnance Survey and Google [article by Oliver; some #BentleyTwinTalks tweets here]; on 25 July Sam Chorlton from Data & Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure, DAFNI, talked about the Digital Twin Hub [more tweets here]). Another TwinTalk is scheduled for London next month and a follow-up will take place at the October 2019 YII event in Singapore – at the 25 July TwinTalk, CEO Greg Bentley (right) also highlighted the high number of award entries featuring digital twin thinking submitted for this year’s event (the finalists were announced this week). And before that, on 9 September 2019, Bentley is also sponsoring a ‘Digital Twin Day’ at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London (more details here) – part of CDBB Week.

What is a ‘Digital Twin’?

The term ‘digital twin’ was coined by Michael Grieves at the University of Michigan in 2002 and related to the then emerging concept of product lifecycle management. Grieves proposed that a digital model of a physical system (a car, for example) could be created as a virtual entity on its own, containing information about the physical system, and be linked with the physical system through its entire lifecycle. Data then flows between the real and virtual space to keep the twins synchronised.

As mentioned above, the concept is now being championed in the built environment. Responding to the NIC’s recommendations, Cambridge’s Centre for Digital Built Britain (established as a successor of the UK BIM Task Force to lead the next stage in the UK construction industry’s digital evolution) is working with the Alan Turing Institute and other partners to develop the UK’s digital twin capabilities. It describes digital twins as:

“realistic digital representations of assets, processes or systems in the built or natural environment. Essentially, they enable better decision-making throughout the whole-life of assets and systems – their delivery, operation, maintenance and use.”

‘Digital twins’ and the industry currently known as construction

While individual digital twins are powerful aids to efficient asset development, they will have even greater potential if connected with other systems. Thus the aspiration is to develop a ‘national digital twin’ – an ecosystem of digital twins connected via securely shared data.  In parallel, this aspiration also requires a transformation in how the architectural, engineering and construction sectors think and work digitally.

Digital twin approaches are a key development beyond BIM, which has dominated UK construction industry technology discussion since 2009. And the terminology is starting to change. Clients and project teams were once exhorted to achieve ‘BIM Level 2’, with projects being delivered in compliance with various processes, protocols and standards. Today, the CDBB, the UK BIM Alliance* and BSI are discontinuing the idea of BIM levels and seeking to make information management business as usual, in line with the emerging international standard ISO 19650.

Construction Sector Deal coverWith growing client focus on whole life value (look at the 2017 Industrial Strategy and the July 2018 Construction Sector Deal; also the Construction Leadership Council’s 2018 report, Procuring for Value), industry professionals are being encouraged to look beyond the ‘design’ and ‘build’ stages, and to apply processes and technologies that also support ‘operate’ and ‘integrate’ – with digital twin and systems thinking to the fore. So, while BIM may provide the foundation of the digital twins of new buildings or infrastructure assets, their value and utility will depend upon both the physical and digital assets being efficiently maintained and updated as necessary throughout their operating lives, and upon their performance and social and economic impacts being efficiently evaluated.

Bentley/CDBB digital twin research

With Bentley Systems, the CDBB has been working with Cambridge University Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) researchers plus partners from Redbite, Topcon and Geoslam on a pilot project to develop a dynamic digital twin of buildings and systems on the university’s West Cambridge campus (background here).  Bentley’s Bruce Hutchinson told me the overall goals of this activity are to:

  • Demonstrate the impact of digital modelling and analysis of infrastructure performance and use on organisational productivity.
  • Provide the foundation for integrating city-scale data to optimise city services such as power, waste, transport and understand the impact on wider social and economic outcomes.
  • Establish a ‘research capability platform’ for researchers to understand and address the major challenges in implementing digital technologies at scale.
  • Foster a research community interested in developing novel applications to improve the management and use of infrastructure systems.

Work has progressed in three packages. The first saw creation of a building information model of the IfM, drawing on a 3D model of the building created using Bentley technologies, plus a detailed context capture scan undertaken by Geoslam, and 3D geometry and photogrammetry based on drone and vehicle-based scanning and camera devices by Topcon. In parallel, Redbite’s asset management solution, ‘itemit’, was used to develop an asset register, along with asset identification tags, for critical equipment across the IfM. And the team has deployed and tested additional ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) sensors and devices that will help monitor and control the condition and operation of critical assets and the environment in the IfM. Hutchinson said 50 environmental sensors (including temperature, humidity, light), each taking readings once a minute, push data into the Bentley AssetWise solution used on this project.

Bentley Digital Twin

Example of model and operational data viewed using Bentley’s AssetWise platform. The dashboard first view gives a user more comprehensive access to all the available data. Users can create custom KPIs and dashboards to give maximum value, assist with decision support and navigate assets via a vertical hierarchical structure.

The second work package has focused on integrating data from various sources to enable effective data analytics and to drive better decisions. APIs with Bentley’s AssetWise platform form part of the solution, helping integrate data collected through the campus’s building management system – creating a digital operations platform. In keeping with the Gemini Principles, the digital twin uses common data standards such as IFC and is interoperable. This ensures digital twin development is vendor-agnostic and will help identify any gaps and weaknesses in the current IFC schema.

The third work package is focused on developing applications to exploit the captured data in the digital twin.  Potential applications include predictive analytics to improve asset maintenance, better asset tracking, tools to improve equipment utilisation and management, analysis to help reduce energy consumption, and augmented reality support for maintenance and inspection.

Practical examples from research such as this, plus insights and lessons learned being collated by the early owner-operator members of the Digital Twin Hub community (who include the Sellafield nuclear plant), will be invaluable as the Gemini Principles are progressively fleshed out, the national digital twin starts to connect assets and inform decision-making, and the industry currently known as construction embraces whole life thinking.

* In June 2019, I was invited to be a UK BIM Alliance ambassador, and in July to be an executive director and chair of the Alliance’s Technology Group (Mott MacDonald CTO Mark Enzer, chair of the CDBB’s digital framework task group, spoke at the group’s July meeting). With Alliance chair Anne Kemp, I will be representing the Alliance and the ICE’s digital transformation community of practice at the ICE ‘Digital Twin Day’ event on 9 September.

{Disclosure: I have been an invitee to Bentley Systems’ TwinTalks events in June and July 2019, and will again be attending Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure event in Singapore in October at Bentley’s invitation.]

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Bentley highlights need to digitise construction

Another report, “Unlock the Benefits of Going Digital in Construction” from Bentley Systems, underlines the under-digitised nature of construction – a well-worn theme at industry conferences in recent years.

Consultancies such as the McKinsey Global Institute have highlighted how construction digitalisation lags other industry sectors in the US, Europe and Australasia, while, in the UK, NBS’s 2019 Technology presented a slightly unrepresentative but nonetheless worrying view of how far building design firms had advanced (see Construction Technology Report 2019: the designers’ view). NBS found design activities still involve considerable work with documents and spreadsheets; 2D design was still slightly more common than 3D work (67%), and only 45% of respondents used ‘project extranets’ or CDEs. And the May 2019 NBS National BIM Report pointed to the emergence of a ‘two speed industry’, with 22% of those yet to use BIM saying they would rather not adopt it at all.

According to a July 2019 BIMplus article by the Electrical Contractors’ Association’s Darren Smith, 69% of ECA survey respondents had never been involved in a BIM project, and 24% had used BIM on only up to a quarter of their projects. Smith said some 4% had encountered BIM on 25-49% of their projects, 2% had used BIM on between 50-74% of projects, while just 1% had used BIM on more than 75% of projects – a poor show, but worrying as electrical contractors engage with BIM far more than other sectors of construction.

Unlock the Benefits of Going Digital in Construction

The latest report to show under-digitisation of construction comes from a Bentley Systems survey of more than 720 business professionals across Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Australasia, India, China, and South East Asia. It found that almost half of business (44.3%) had limited or no insight into company or project performance. Professionals were either not collecting data or were collecting it manually instead of digitally. Even though half understood the importance of collecting project data, they failed to make the most of it by not digitising it.

The Bentley survey identified that:

  • 22% of professionals had no capability for digital collaboration while 20% had limited capability “because project information is generally paper-based and data is siloed,”
  • Similarly, when it came to information mobility, Bentley found 16% with no capability, and 24% with “limited capabilities due to predominately paper-based workflows and inconsistent identification for digital models.”
  • For digital design and construction workflows, 18% of organisations claimed no capability, while 21% had limited capabilities as modelling mostly relied on “2D and paper-based workflows.”

Bentley Systems’ report (download here), authored by UK-based Mark Coates (who joined the company as industry director for project delivery earlier this year from Viewpoint), recommends a four-point programme to implement digital transformation within construction businesses. Summarised as the four Ps (coincidentally, Viewpoint acquired 4Projects, often abbreviated to 4Ps, in 2013), the steps are: preparation, pilot, probing (measuring and quantifying the success of going digital), and process (adapting and embedding digital ways of working as business as usual).

The costs of not digitising can be significant, Bentley says, citing research by global construction consultancy Mace. It estimates that, by 2030, the world will be spending US$5.25 trillion a year on infrastructure, but their analysis also showed around 80% of large projects experience cost or programme overruns, translating into costs of US$229 billion to the United States, INR 9.1 trillion to India, AU$59 billion to Australia, and £19 billion to the UK.

Bentley says that businesses that embrace and master the four Ps are setting themselves up to be at the forefront of construction over this century. “As an industry, it is important for us to remember that a construction project is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Project partners who are not working digitally do not have the level of productivity, communication, and assurance necessary for 21st century project delivery,” says the report.

Arguing that innovation will transform how firms work in the construction sector, the Bentley report calls for change. Coates says: “We need to challenge ourselves, our businesses and our project partners to spread the benefits of going digital and stop the deployment of 18th century … working practices on 21st century projects.”

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Procore acquires Honest Buildings

Procore acquires Honest Buildings, aiming to connect everyone in global construction platform.

Procore logoCalifornia, US-based construction management software provider Procore has announced it has entered an agreement to acquire [for an unspecified amount] New York City, US-based Honest Buildings, a provider of project management software for owners and developers. Procore says the deal will allow it to create the construction industry’s first full-stack platform to manage projects from start to finish. Together, it says the companies will use their platforms to create unified financials and cost tracking from the first dollar in from the investor or lender to its final spend at the subcontractor or material provider level.

Honest Buildings’ data-driven platform is purpose-built for owners and is used to ensure capital and construction projects are completed on time and on budget. It centralises projects portfolio-wide, moving workflows out of spreadsheets and onto its platform. Owners can also harness data to manage capital more strategically. Customers include global, national, and local owners, including Brookfield, Oxford Properties Group, and EQ Office, Blackstone’s U.S. office portfolio company.

honestbuildings.comBased in New York, NY, Honest Buildings was founded in 2012 by CEO and co-founder Riggs Kubiak. It began marketing in the UK in late 2012 and officially launched in the UK in February 2013 (read: HonestBuildings.com launches UK ‘buildings network’), though later seemingly retreated back to  north America (Kubiak today talks about the platform being used in 46 states and seven Canadian provinces – reminds me of Autodesk’s January 2019 deal to acquire BuildingConnected, also almost solely used in north America). An integration between Procore and Honest Buildings was announced in November 2018.

Honest Buildings’s over 100 team members, including additional co-founders Cody Roberts and Garrett Kubiak, will join the Procore team, expanding the company’s New York City presence.

Deal-makers’ views

Tooey Courtemanche, founder and CEO of Procore said:

Tooey Courtemanche“Procore and Honest Buildings share a vision that centers around transforming the construction industry, and we have an opportunity to realize this vision through the development of a global platform that connects everyone in construction. Honest Buildings has been solely focused on providing value to owners, and when fully integrated on the Procore platform we will create even greater value by delivering a powerful solution that provides transparency and accessibility of information to general contractors, specialty contractors, and owners on a single system of record.

“Procore became a reality many years ago from actual problems I was trying to solve as the owner on my own construction project, so it’s exciting to accelerate our focus on owners and our commitment to the industry by delivering products that help improve the lives of everyone in construction.”

Riggs Kubiak said:

“Honest Buildings has facilitated over $20 billion of projects for the world’s largest owners and fast growing companies. Joining Procore will accelerate our growth globally in building technology that empowers owners and their teams to manage projects and the capital that funds them. Our companies’ missions and cultures align so well that from our first meetings together the energy was palpable. We at Honest Buildings are excited about the speed and impact we can have on the built world by joining the Procore team.”

Customer perspectives

Honest Buildings customers and board members talked about the acquisition:

  • “Expanding the ability to gather and analyze data around the built environment is and will continue to improve project outcomes for everyone around price and project execution,” said Lisa Picard, President and CEO of EQ Office, Blackstone’s U.S. office portfolio company. “The integration of Procore and Honest Buildings’ platforms radically opens a world of value to owners and contractors that will re-shape our industries.”
  • “The integration of platforms designed for owners and contractors is a game-changer for anyone executing major development projects,” said Ric Clark, Chairman of Brookfield Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners. “Our construction and asset management teams have different needs and preferences, and the Procore and Honest Buildings combined platform will provide them best-in-class software that covers the full lifecycle of a project.”
  • “The cranes in every major city and burgeoning suburbs demonstrate the opportunity we have to transform the real estate industry, and anyone who touches construction,” says Michael Turner, President of Oxford Properties Group, a leading global real estate developer, investor and owner. “The joining of Procore and Honest Buildings creates the gold standard technology platform to manage construction projects of all sizes for owners, general contractors, and subcontractors, allowing them to collaborate and execute in ways never before possible.”

 

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