kykloud is a very polished new SaaS platform with mobile apps, targetted at asset owners and managers
I first heard of North Shields, UK-based kykloud via Twitter last year and had been waiting for it to launch for some months, intrigued by its mention of Software-as-a-Service based life-cycle cost management and by the combination of its co-founders. I finally got to meet CEO Ed Bartlett and CTO Nick Graham earlier this week and they told me more about the business, and showed me the applications they are developing.
Ed was previously whole life cost director at Balfour Beatty Capital (other experience includes time at Cyril Sweett and Atkins subsidiary Faithful & Gould), managing an investment portfolio worth nearly £700m, and was frustrated by having to rely on spreadsheets or expensive bespoke systems to get an accurate view of the PFI/PPP assets for which he was responsible. He met Nick – formerly CTO at Sunderland-based construction collaboration technology vendor 4Projects – and they began to explore how SaaS-based database tools could enable web-based collection management, exchange and updating of asset data.
Together, they established kykloud (pronounced “k-eye-kloud” apparently) in early 2011 and – with venture capital funding from Northstar Ventures – set about designing a secure cloud-based platform and toolset for anyone managing the life time costs of major infrastructure programmes or large property portfolios. Its intended users will extend from the boardroom level where directors may monitor the performance of 100s of sites, down to the operational teams responsible for managing individual facilities, and the first customers (including asset-owning enterprise users, project managers and contractors) began using the system in late 2011 – just as kycloud finally unveiled its website and started recruiting a sales team.
The kykloud platform is beautifully designed and delivers a rich level of functionality in both its browser-based and (forthcoming) iPad and iPhone versions (I was shown Beta versions of the latter; and, yes, Android versions will follow). Upon logging-in to the service, users are presented with a workspace that includes a map of assets and an overview of the properties and sites for which the user is responsible.
Either interface allows the end-user to start interrogating the system for information, and there is also a simple page-top menu (portfolios, sites, plans, reports, directory) to open up different areas of functionality. Within seconds, Ed was showing me how an asset manager could start using the system to review different time-spans and get at-a-glance views of actual, budget and forecast life-cycle performance data quickly – across entire portfolios, across sub-portfolios (regions, sectors) or for individual sites. Bespoke reports could be created quickly, based on various criteria and assumptions, and Ed demonstrated how new reports could be created to deal with different “what if” scenarios, drilling-down into site-specific details to show how information about fixtures, furnishings and equipment, their costs, replacement intervals and other data could be manipulated.
Ed then switched to the iPad to show how the system could be used as a mobile platform to both provide data ‘in the field’ or to capture data entered by the user for later re-use, reporting, etc. Constant connectivity is not vital – the iOS applications will still capture data (including photos), which can be synchronised later, as necessary.
Nick talked about the potential for kykloud to import data from a wide range of existing asset management systems; inevitably, we also discussed the ability to import as-built data from construction collaboration systems for re-use in operation and maintenance, and Nick was relaxed about that opportunity. kykloud is purely focused on the asset life-cycle management market, he said, and he hoped that kykloud would be integrated with any of the existing project delivery or computer-aided FM platforms where owners wanted to import relevant data as a starting point for life-cycle-based work; at the same time, the platform could also be used to import a wide range of data such as building energy use and other environmental metrics (kykloud has worked with Sustain on a whole-life carbon project looking at the payback from a change of light fittings for a retail client).
Here we also discussed building information modelling (BIM) and data standards; kykloud is being developed with industry foundation classes (IFCs) in mind, but it will – in Nick’s view – be some years before we see routine export/import from BIM into asset management toolsets, particularly as most of the ‘geometry’-related data will be largely superfluous as far as asset managers are concerned. Nonetheless, kykloud’s north-east location has also enabled some useful discussions with academics and practitioners involved with Northumbria University’s BIM Academy.
kykloud is initially targetting three markets: housing management, PFI/PPP and retail – the latter a market where BIW has already provided some asset management capability to retailers such as Sainsbury’s. We briefly discussed BIW’s latest business intelligence module – post – and the capabilities of BIW’s German sister company conject, whose offering is focused on infrastructure life-cycle management, ILM, a similar-sounding sphere to that of kykloud.
Ed and Nick are SaaS fans who genuinely believe in the power of cloud-based solutions to collate and deliver rich information to business decision-makers and their operational colleagues. Like several of the construction collaboration systems, the platform is not licensed per-seat (the guys were coy about the exact pricing – free trials available too), so helping encourage access, sharing and collaboration.
kykloud is already a polished product offering a lot of functionality, and its initial users are apparently already feeding back ideas about how it could be developed and improved still further. It targets a potential clientele not currently well-served by SaaS solutions, and by being developed from the outset as a web-native platform can be quickly deployed and made accessible to authorised staff across a geographically-dispersed portfolio using a range of common devices, from standard web browsers to smartphones and tablet devices. In theory, it also suggests how business owners can really exploit the power of the data captured during design, delivery – including use of BIM – and operation of their assets, and reuse that data to manage both costs of their portfolio and – as will become increasingly important – its carbon performance.