Fostering innovation: Cognicity and hackathons

A collaborative, open source BIM application, 3D Repo, won the Cognicity Challenge, underlining London’s leading role in developing new AEC technologies.

Canary Wharf and clockThe Cognicity Challenge is an initiative of London’s Canary Wharf Group, set up to identify and accelerate the development of interoperable smart city technologies, and encouraging participants to develop smart city solutions that can be retrofitted to existing buildings, as well as anticipating future construction and adaptation needs. The resulting technologies should help improve efficiency and reduce costs for people living and working in the city, while also personalising and improving the quality of their experience. Last night I attended the showcase event for its third cohort at Canary Wharf’s Level39.

The event also attracted a handful of other #UKBIMcrew regulars, including Aecom’s David Philp (also UK BIM Task Group leader, recruited to participate in the event’s “Fireside chat: The ABCDs of Smart Cities – Adapt, Build, Connect and Design”), Arup’s Casey Rutland and Rob Klaschka. We then had short innovator presentations from two six-strong groups of businesses, the first addressing the “Connected Home” (lots of “Internet of Things” talk), the second “Virtual Design and Construction”. Nearly all of the latter were addressing BIM-related issues:

  • BasestoneBasestone – familiar to me since January 2014, I have kept in regular contact with founder and CEO Alex Siljanovski and his team, writing about their v2.0 release last October and a startup funding win in November, and it was good to see them announce use of their system by Canary Wharf Contractors. Update (12 July 2015) – just seen a recent Basestone blog announcement regarding integration with Dropbox.
  • 3D Repo – developing an open-source BIM platform to enable better collaboration on construction projects, and announced as winner of the Cognicity Challenge VDC category. I talked briefly to some of the team and hope to get a fuller briefing on the platform soon.
  • Simudyne – provide a simulation platform supporting data assimilation, model integration and customizable configuration and visualization of simulations.
  • Tridify – imports Open BIM IFC files and transforms them into visualisations accessible on mobile devices, reality headsets and 3D ‘caves’.
  • iBISM – an abbreviation of intelligent building information system modelling, the iBISM application is particularly focused on mapping mechanical and electrical assets in existing building management systems, and outputting unique internal floor layouts mapping data.
  • CyberCity 3D Inc – delivers 3D geographical information system (GIS) models with detailed surface, roof, and façade attributes.

Initiatives such as Cognicity and Wayra (which incubated Basestone’s initial development) have helped propel London to become the second most important technology hub after California’s Silicon Valley (according to Eric van der Kleij, an ENTIQ speaker at last week’s Base London conference; ENTIQ managed the Cognicity project), and there is also a growing hackathon community. For those unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia says:

a hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development and hardware development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects.

AEC Hackathon, London, July 2015

London AEC HackathonA hackathon focused on the architecture, engineering and construction sector, is less than two weeks away. Running from Friday 17 July to Sunday 19 July, the first London AEC Hackathon is a meeting place for innovators and technologists on the one hand, and construction businesses willing to provide hack team challenges on the other:

Our industry faces fresh new problems that urgently need brilliant minds to solve them. Smart Cities, BIM, IoT, Energy and Urban Living will collide in an intense weekend event bringing innovators ideas, data sets, challenges and prototypes in front of new faces who can expand, bend and manipulate the ideas.

The event is supported by the KTN, Innovate UK and the Future Cities Catapult who will be offering unique data from recent Building Performance competition case studies. It will take place at the Catapult’s Urban Innovation Centre in Clerkenwell. I will be talking at the event on the Saturday morning, along with Su Butcher, ActivePlan’s George Stevenson and a host of other techie speakers, at the invitation of Paul Doherty of The Digit Group, who has helped with several AEC Hackathons in the US (and I understand there will be a further AEC Hackathon in Europe, in Eindhoven, Holland, at the end of October 2015).

Wikipedia science conference

Wikimedia UKHackathons also feature as part of the ‘fringe’ to the Wikipedia Science Conference, taking place in London on Wednesday and Thursday 2-3 September 2015 at the Wellcome Trust in London. Two hackathons follow – in Cambridge on the Friday (4 September) and in London on the Saturday (5 September).

There is a full two-day conference programme with 18 plenary speakers, plus a large ‘unconference’ session, and a Royal Society of Chemistry-sponsored wine reception on the Wednesday evening. And the princely sum for this feast of Wikipedia and STEM know-how is just £29 (register via Eventbrite here). I’m hoping that the event might attract some science, engineering and technology communicators too – the CIPR has had a working group focused on this area.

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    • Damon on 8 July 2015 at 10:21 pm

    Hi Paul,
    Great write up and thank you for spreading the word about the AEC Hackathon. Not to get too much into details but to give credit where it is due, the AEC Hackathons are organized by local professionals from Built Environment related industries that want to bring innovation to their area. These local organizers are the ones that make the event happen with light assistance from the organization’s Board members. This is the thing that makes the event so unique and special and definitely needs to be highlighted by those familiarizing themselves with the AEC Hackathon. It isn’t a traveling road show. It is people from the industry bringing this innovation to the field, a growing community of innovators taking charge and being the innovation they want to see and that the industry needs. I hope all can make it to see it for themselves as it is unlike any other event in the AEC sectors. Thanks again for the coverage and helping get the word out about this amazing community!

    1. Thanks, Damon. Your comment makes the point about local organisation very eloquently. I have been involved with, and helped organise, several self-directing ‘unconferences’ and ‘Barcamp’ style events on construction, technology and sustainability, and many new business relationships have been forged as a result of the new thinking inspired in such settings. I am even hoping that I might find some programming partners for a technology idea that I’ve been nurturing for the past few months!

  1. Hi Paul,
    Great post. The Cognicity Challenge looks like a great project – I hope we can help connect the Smart, Digital City of London to U.S. Cities developing complementary communities of innovation.

    As a Co-founder of the AEC Hackathons, I am excited to connect with other innovators building at the convergence of the technology industries and the built environment. We we the opportunities as so vast that collaboration critical and organizing innovation events helps connect those “opting in” to the future. We see many opportunities in connecting our innovation communities (digital and physical).

    Since AEC Hackathons have already been organized in the San Francisco Bay Area (twice), Seattle, New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, we can the innovation communities in each of these metropolitan areas is already better connected. We look forward to our open community growing in more locations and countries and welcome your input and participation. The technology industry is also increasingly interested and we expect to see even more participants from Autodesk, Trimble, Graphisoft, Microsoft, Google, Facebook as well as startups and small companies. Join us and help us grow the community.

    1. Thanks for the comment Greg. I am really looking forward to the event and seeing how it works and what it inspires. Paul Doherty talked about it in a presentation to a Fiatech event in London last year, and I’m delighted that we now have our own AEC Hackathon.

    • Laura on 3 August 2015 at 10:19 am

    Great to see such innovation in the sector and thanks for the post Paul!

  1. […] Fostering innovation: Cognicity and hackathons […]

  2. […] When I first heard of Demand Logic, my initial thought was that it might be a startup business riding the crest of the current new-build BIM boom in the UK, but the more I learned about it from chairman Sonny Masero and CEO Joe Short the more I realised this is a company whose application and services are just as relevant to many existing buildings, regardless of whether they have been designed using BIM or not. It also features strong collaboration and data analytics capabilties attractive to organisations involved in Smart Cities initiatives (Demand Logic is also a successful graduate of the Cognicity Challenge – see previous post). […]

  3. […] and innovation (incidentally, after the inaugural London AEC Hackathon in July 2015 – post – another London event is planned for 8-10 […]

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