“BIM is not big data”

‘Buzzword bingo’ may occasionally include ‘Big Data’ – alongside terms such as BIM, business intelligence, artificial intelligence, machine learning and digital twins. Growing use of such terms in the built environment suggests we are beginning to appreciate the value of data – or how data demonstrates value.

Common definitions of Big Data (such as the one in the English edition of Wikipedia, for example) make it clear that we are talking about enormous volumes of data – “data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage and process data within a tolerable elapsed time”. On 25 September 2019, at Bentley Systems’ digital academy in London, Constructing Excellence held a small conference on big data, and I helped to set the scene.

The ‘big picture

Humanity’s ability to create data is growing almost exponentially. Activities in meteorology, genomics, complex physics, biological and  environmental research, internet search, and finance and business informatics (to name just a few) are all spewing out huge volumes of data. In our daily personal and business lives, we are increasingly surrounded by devices that contribute to these volumes (mobile devices, software logs, digital cameras, microphones, RFID readers, wireless sensor networks and streaming instrumentation, among others). Population growth, wider literacy, associated use of mobile devices, and adoption of social media and the ‘Internet of things’ are accelerating the trend.

Big Data terminologyTen years ago (2009), we and our hardware and software created just under one zettabyte (that’s a billion billion megabytes) of data – by 2016, this figure had grown to 16.3ZB, and by 2025 it will be ten times as much: 163ZB. And a growing proportion of this data (around 80%) is also unstructured data – data that cannot be neatly defined in rows and columns or in databases – captured in images, video, audio, PDFs, point-clouds, emails, word-processed documents and the like. Such semi-structured and unstructured data requires more storage, is more difficult to manage and protect using legacy solutions, and is more complex to analyse.

BIM, the built environment, BI and Big Data

Core BIM processes, by contrast, tend to involve the creation and sharing of highly structured model data held in interrogable databases – and, at a project level, the data sets are usually well within the capabilities of commonly used tools. Yes, common data environments, CDEs, may also hold a wealth of associated unstructured data, but model authoring applications and the numerous workflows related to creating new built assets (or refurbishing existing ones) tend to be founded on structured data. As a result, we can generate a lot of business intelligence, BI, from all this information, holding it in data warehouses, and presenting it in reports and dashboards, but BI presents a tiny proportion of what might be contained in ‘Big Data‘.

Some AEC technology vendors might like you to think that their platforms will deliver ‘big data’ insights, but usually they are just crunching what is in their databases (a 2018 ‘construction dive’ from Oracle Aconex, for example, talks about Big Data, but the project insights come from BI tools within the Aconex construction management software).

  • BI uses descriptive statistics with data with high information density to measure things, detect trends etc.
  • By contrast, Big Data analytics uses inductive statistics to infer laws (regressions, nonlinear relationships, and causal effects) from large data sets to reveal relationships or dependencies and to perform predictions. Crucially, Big Data analytics is primarily (often c.90%) focused on un- and semi-structured data.

I used a water analogy to explain the difference. A data warehouse is like a store of bottled water. This water (data) has been filtered, disinfected, divided into neat portions and packaged for easy consumption – it is clean, refined and structured, and we have confidence in its quality. By contrast, a data lake is like a large body of water in a more natural state: water constantly streams in from different sources to fill the lake, and people can look at the surface, dip a toe in, dive in, or take samples.  That data lake holds a vast amount of water (and other things – from microscopic pollutants to plants, animals and inanimate objects); its water is not clean, refined or structured, and large volumes of it may need significant processing. Understanding the health and value of the data lake may also involve looking at its situation, and at its interdependencies with other systems, and re-appraising it periodically as it will be constantly changing.

Big Data analytics

Analysing big data is typically a multi-step process involving data- and text mining, data optimisation, natural language processing, searching, path/pattern analysis and statistical analysis. Often millions, even billions, of data points need to be processed, so analytics is often conducted on massively parallel software running across multiple servers (technologies include MapReduce, Hadoop and Apache Spark).

Human subject matter experts help identify what data might need to be ingested, how that data might need to be linked, and whether additional processing or data might also be needed. Artificial intelligence and machine learning  (post) are also exploited, as algorithms engage in anomaly detection, association rule learning, clustering, classification, regression and summarisation. The outcomes from typical big data analytics can be visualised through various dashboard ‘lenses’: groups / fractal maps, links and networks, geographical maps, and lists.

CDBB diagramThe information-intensive built environment industry has huge opportunities to exploit the data it collects, and recent UK industry debate about ‘digital twins’ and ‘national digital twins’ hints at what the future might hold. Owner-operators and their project teams often accumulate vast swathes of information, much of it in documents, and sometimes not always well-connected – disciplinary, organisational, contractual, and digital silos often need to be broken down to get the ‘big picture’ about how built projects are planned, designed, constructed and then operated and maintained.

Analysing such records across entire portfolios, and even establishing data connections to other portfolios, may yield further insights. Such insights might be even more valuable when decision-makers can also draw on data showing the social, economic and environmental impacts of interactions with the wider built environment, and then start making informed predictions about what new investments might deliver (this is the interconnected vision of the ‘national digital twin’ put forward by the Mark Enzer-led digital framework task group of the Centre for Digital Built Britain – post). In many instances, the analysis falls short of definitions of Big Data analytics; nonetheless, deploying BI can deliver powerful insights.

A case study: BAM Ireland and Autodesk Construct IQ

At the Constructing Excellence mini-conference, Michael Murphy of BAM Ireland illustrated how contractors might exploit the hitherto under-utilised data they collect while delivering their projects. He highlighted how silo mentalities hinder this process, and mentioned a research finding suggesting “95% of all data captured goes unused in the engineering and construction industries.” In its use of data, he said construction needs to shift from being:

  • reactive (responding to events that have already happened) …
  • … to become proactive (actively identifying risks by analysing an organisation’s processes), and …
  • … then predictive (analysing processes and the environment to identify potential future problems).

Murphy also cited a 2019 KPMG survey of 223 business leaders which forecast that data analytics and predictive capability would be the number one priority for tomorrow’s construction businesses (and he used the same ‘Digitise, integrate, predict‘ mantra promoted at Autodesk University London in June 2019 – post).

“What if every team member, across every discipline, could predict and act to prevent risk, every day?” Murphy asked. BAM worked with Autodesk to develop and apply its Construction IQ technology, which analysed data collected by its BIM 360 suite during delivery of projects. Like many other construction organisations, BAM was often engaged on multiple projects simultaneously, and was keen to digitise its information capture processes rather than rely on traditional paper-based data management methods (time-consuming to compile, with data rarely used to its full potential).

BAM Ireland risk dataWhile using the BIM 360 suite on a seven-project BIM to FM programme to deliver court buildings for Ireland’s Ministry of Justice, BAM began to exploit the thousands of pieces of data its teams were collecting. The initial project and programme dashboards were alarming, though: Murphy said 100s of high risk issues appeared to be outstanding on each project, suggesting BAM Ireland was a high risk contractor. However, further investigation revealed that many issues had been dealt with, but – and highlighting a training issue – the BIM 360 users involved had not closed these issues in the platform.

Once both BAM and subcontractor users got used to reporting and tracking issues through to closure, they were able to provide a more accurate view of their ongoing project risks. The analysis and reporting tools then became more useful in answering questions such as: What safety risks are trending on my project? Which projects are carrying more risk? What disciplines drive RFIs in my project? What are the root causes of RFIs in my projects?

Murphy said BAM Ireland achieved a 20% improvement in quality and safety on site with the added capacity to make better decisions supported by the solutions. Managers now have an easily accessible, cross-project dashboard that improves oversight across multiple complex projects. Data capture techniques improved – workflows were 95% digital – reducing paper usage to only mandatory, legal documents. And project staff now spends 25% more time focusing on tasks and risk items through the use of Construction IQ. Murphy finished his presentation with a quote from BAM Ireland’s head of digital construction, Paul Brennan:

“While other construction software solutions are simply focused on digitizing paper based workflows, BIM 360 is taking it a step further to truly harness the power of data. This is where our team sees the most value and where we can really start to have a positive impact on improving the challenges our industry is faced with.”

Murphy and BAM Ireland colleagues did a similar presentation at Autodesk University London in June 2019, talking about their focus on using data to promote pan-project change and look at the root causes of industry safety and quality issues (it also reminded me of an October 2018 AECOM presentation on Bentley ProjectWise and its Microsoft integration).  Digitised workflows combined with powerful data analytics can help firms gain insights into how their projects (and their project participants) can be made more efficient and predictable, and it seems we are now beginning to see the evidence. With UK industry also being urged to adopt whole-life value approaches, and for service providers to be assessed on their ability to add value, such data may also be a powerful factor in helping them prove their value.

[I am a long-time supporter of Constructing Excellence, and am a member of its Digital group. This post is a slightly edited version of a post written for the CE blog.]

Permanent link to this article: https://extranetevolution.com/2019/10/bim-is-not-big-data/

Trimble SiteVision AR solution launched

Trimble SiteVision is an augmented reality (AR) solution that enables users to visualise 2D and 3D data at 1:1 scale on virtually any project site with connectivity.

Trimble logoTrimble has launched SiteVision, an outdoor augmented reality (AR) solution that enables users to visualise 2D and 3D data on virtually any project site with mobile phone or internet connectivity for easier and more efficient planning, collaboration and reporting. Combining hardware and software in an integrated, lightweight handheld or pole-mounted solution, users can view 3D models and assets in a real-world environment at a 1:1 scale, from any angle or position.

The system combines hardware and software:

  • Hardware: The Trimble SiteVision Integrated Positioning System integrates the Trimble Catalyst DA1 antenna, electronic distance measurement (EDM) rangefinder and power management into a lightweight, handheld device (priced at US$3,250) that connects to a user-supplied Android mobile phone.
  • Software subscription: Available to single users on a monthly (US$250) or yearly (US$2,000) basis, the SiteVision software subscription combines Trimble’s high-accuracy positioning services and cloud-based processing technology to create a centimetre-accurate AR system. The system leverages Trimble cloud-based processing to manage and deliver data and design models.

Digital model visualisation

Trimble SiteVision enables users to visualise digital models from a wide range of data collection, design and constructible modelling tools in open industry-standard formats including IFC and LandXML. For civil projects, SiteVision accurately visualises data from Trimble’s Quantm, Business Center and Novapoint; design data from Civil 3D and Bentley OpenRoads; and GIS data from Esri ArcGIS software. SiteVision powers building information modelling (BIM) projects with open data from Trimble’s Constructible BIM solutions including SketchUp and Tekla, and BIM data from Autodesk Revit and AutoCAD software. For utility companies, PLS-CADD power line design, Distribution Design Studio (DDS) and other industry-specific design data is also supported.

Using Trimble Connect cloud-based hosting (October 2014 post), SiteVision can access models from all stages of the lifecycle of infrastructure and buildings—from initial concepts of roads or buildings through the operations and maintenance phase of the assets—to increase collaboration, enhance work accuracy and ultimately improve operations and utilisation. At this point, Trimble has not developed any specific integrations between SiteVision and other Trimble Viewpoint or e-Builder products (Trimble acquired Viewpoint in April 2018, two months after acquiring e-Builder).

SiteVision simplifies complex concepts by allowing users to blend digital content with real-world environments. For example, city planners can visualise a new building design in the exact spot it is to be erected, a work crew could identify the exact position of underground cables or pipes before digging, an electric utility can confirm placement of poles and lines with customers and crews, or a construction supervisor could assess the progress of heavy equipment by visualising actual work performed against the site plan. Mark Nichols, general manager at Trimble, says:

“It’s easier to understand complex ideas when we can see them in a real-world context. SiteVision improves our understanding of projects and worksites with a handheld device that is accessible to a wide range of users. Augmented reality is now ready for everyday use in a wide range of applications.”

Permanent link to this article: https://extranetevolution.com/2019/10/trimble-sitevision-ar-solution-launched/

Buildiro launches in London

Buildiro, a new mobile application aimed at independent construction contractors while also helping builders merchants get online, is being launched in London.

Buildiro logoIn February 2019, I wrote about Buildiro, a start-up which was trial-launching a mobile application aimed at independent construction contractors while also helping builders merchants get online. A wider launch across London is now under way, with Apple and Android versions of the mobile app available from 30 September, and a launch event in London on 10 October 2019.

The proposition remains broadly the same. Buildiro is described as “the world’s first mobile app for materials procurement which solves the key challenge of knowing stock availability thereby eliminating wasted time spent driving to merchants to source items.” By resolving inventory issues, tradespeople become more productive and merchants build better customer relationships with live online stock availability.  Buildiro says thousands of customers have been able to source materials up to 30% faster following the first trial earlier this year. Founder Lukas Polach, right, says:

“Not only do tradespeople need to save time and money in their search for supplies, but in the hyper-competitive materials-supply trade, builders’ merchants need innovative ways to attract current and potential customers to their stores. Buildiro delivers just that. When merchants post their inventories to Buildiro, they are not only helping tradespeople source supplies faster, more cost-effectively and in a more environmentally-friendly way, they are also opening themselves up to new sales opportunities.”

Buildiro was trialled by merchants including Bradfords Building Supplies, JMD Building & DIY Supplies and Lakedale Power Tools.  Lee Church of JMD Building & DIY Supplies, a family-run supplier in Hailsham said:

“I’ve been in the industry 20 years, and Buildiro is something that I knew the industry needed. We won’t have people turning up wanting things and then being disappointed if we don’t have them. Because stock availability is already in the app, tradespeople know what we have and what they are coming in to collect.”

Tradespeople reviews have been positive with comments including:

  • “Buildiro is the best app to find all the details on required tools and best pricing”
  • “Definitely on to a winner with this app. As this app grows it will become a vital tool for trades of all kinds”
  • “Amazing app as I work in a lot of different places and it’s very handy to help me find everything I need.”

B

Buildiro’s merchant-focused features include:

  • Better data sharing – When a tradesperson searches for materials within the Buildiro app, the algorithm records the product, location and time, so that data can be shared with participating merchants. Merchants can then analyse customers’ buying habits and need for materials, and so better serve their customers in the future through more targeted stocking and marketing.
  • A click-and-collect payment option gives customers the ability to purchase over 500,000 products 24/7, even when the merchants’ trade counter is closed, helping merchants fulfill orders faster and more efficiently.
  • E-invoicing – Buildiro can be configured to generate a PDF sales receipt, which can be linked to any accounting software for ease of processing. This feature saves merchants’ time and helps their customers to seamlessly comply with the UK’s Making Tax Digital scheme.
  • Buildiro also runs an incentive programme for participating merchants. Every merchant that joins (free to join) will receive a waiver on the first 100 Buildiro sales they process. After this period, Buildiro will collect a small percentage of every sale to fund development of the app.

Buildiro will be available from the Google Play and Apple app stores from 30 September and is currently expanding its list of merchants.  On 10 October 2019, it is hosting a launch event at Impact Hub King’s Cross for tradespeople and merchants.

Permanent link to this article: https://extranetevolution.com/2019/09/buildiro-app-london-launch/

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: https://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: https://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: https://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: https://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: https://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: https://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: https://extranetevolution.com/2019/08/rib-invests-india-iot-ai-specialist-winjit/

Load more