Basestone, a tablet application developed by London start-up BlueRonin, enables cost-effective mobile engineering drawing review.
The architecture, engineering and construction market for mobile solutions is expanding rapidly. As I wrote earlier this week (2014: year of AEC mobile?), existing software developers are augmenting both conventional and SaaS applications with mobile tools for site-based activities, while new businesses have also identified this as a market opportunity while adoption of smartphones and tablets continues to grow.
Yesterday, I met the team behind a startup which has spent a year developing an iPad-based PDF drawing review application called Basestone. The company, BlueRonin, was founded in December 2012 by civil engineer Alex Siljanovski: I also met CTO Simon McCabe and lead software engineer Manual Zapata. Clearly passionate about engineering, Alex had been repeatedly frustrated by the speed and quality of traditional drawing review processes. After undertaking a Masters in Technology Entrepreneurship at University College London, he began to refine his ideas for a simple Software-as-a-Service mobile solution which could be used by engineers in small and medium-sized firms (SMEs).
The company has enjoyed support from international telecoms giant Telefonica through its Wayra startup accelerator programme, which has provided BlueRonin with investment and office space in a building off London’s Tottenham Court Road. The app has been tested by engineers engaged on the HS2 rail project, with pilots for Capita and Crossrail due to start soon (though, scale-wise, these are actually not representative of the product’s envisaged target market).
The company is due to move very soon to new premises in London’s Tech City quarter, and to close a funding round that will help it extend its development activities to include an Android variant of the platform, add construction workflows and build associated business intelligence tools.
Drawing review and feedback management
The app – soon to be available in a closed Beta version from Apple’s AppStore – is slick to use. Upon issue of drawings to the secure cloud-based system, a recipient receives a notification and can open the associated file in the app. This also allows them to add comments and mark-ups to the drawing and – a nice touch – the importance of the amendments can be graded on a severity scale, helping other users quickly understand which items are rated as high priorities.
As with other SaaS construction collaboration solutions, the objective is to ensure team members always have access to the latest versions of designs, to provide a secure audit trail showing who had seen and said what and when, and to aggregate all amendments in a drawing commentary (we discussed ‘social’, threaded approaches to such commentaries as an alternative to traditional notifications – echoing conversations I’ve had in recent months with other startups such as FieldLens – post – and the mobile-oriented GenieBelt and FluidCM – post).
Where it will differ from the sophisticated SaaS collaboration solutions is in its pricing, which Alex says will be pitched at a level attractive to small firms engaged on modest-sized projects which would not normally be managed using a system like 4Projects, Aconex or Asite. More details should be available in February.
BlueRonin’s initial focus on drawings will shift to thinking about building information modelling (BIM). Alex says they will be developing their interpretation of the PAS1192-2 standard and how to relate their gathered data to the corresponding 3D BIM model (given that 2D drawings will increasingly be derived from BIM).
Update (6 June 2014) – Use of the Basestone app by Costain and Skanska on the Crossrail project to red line drawings, snag installations and run safety inspections on site was reported in The Construction Index.