Singapore-based Novade, a developer of smart field management applications for the architecture, engineering and construction industry, recently completed a Series B capital investment round.
Novade, a Singapore-based developer of smart field management applications for the architecture, engineering and construction industry, recently (15 April 2020) announced the completion of a Series B capital investment round (value not given).
Lead investors were SIG and Vulcan Capital, while Wavemaker Partners (who led Novade’s Series A round in late 2018 with Enterprise Singapore) also participated. Novade will use the latest funds to accelerate its global expansion and market penetration in Europe, China and Japan, as well as step up engagement with the leading global firms in the industry. A London office has recently been established, headed by Tejas Thomas, who has relocated from Singapore.
Founded in 2014 by CEO Dennis Branthonne and serial entrepreneur Eugene Low, Novade is headquartered in Singapore, and also has offices in Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia, plus an office in Paris. In November 2019, I talked to the company’s Rob Zasadzki (ANZ country manager) about its software.
Zasadzki described Novade as a mobile-first application (“Novade started on smartphones then went to the web, not vice versa“) aimed at field personnel managing critical processes. Quality controls, safety inspections, task coordination, production reports, workforce management and equipment maintenance are all digitised and automated on the Novade platform. Importantly, particularly in a sector increasingly embracing offsite construction, Zasadzki also described how Novade was being used to track component quality in factory-type environments, with data additionally captured through construction, handover and commissioning, and into operations, maintenance and repair.
Depending on the tasks and on the mobile device (Novade apps are available for Apple iOS and Google Android; data is hosted in Microsoft Azure facilities), the toolset includes QR code recognition, near-field communication (NFC), image annotation, forms, digital markup (Novade is not a drawing revision management tool, Zasadzki stressed) and digital signatures. The core field modules — Quality, Safety, Logistics, Maintenance, Workforce, Activity — are also supported by strong geo-location services. Depending on the type of project, locations can be tracked in hierarchies (suburb, block, street, number, level, unit) or by chainage for linear civil engineering projects. Data was also being captured for use by project teams using 4D building information modelling (BIM) to support progress reporting, augmenting the data captured in project management tools and so-called common data environment (CDE) platforms. Field-captured data can also be summarised and reported upon via the Novade Insights business intelligence module.
In five years, the user base of Novade grew to over 50,000, working for 200 clients. The solution has been used extensively on residential developments for clients including Capita Land, Frasers, MQDC, and City Developments. Contractor customers include Eiffage, Bouygues, Obayashi and Gammon; civil engineering works have also been managed by customers including EDF and Spie, while the UK’s Wood Group Industrial Services (acquired by Germany’s Kaefer group in February 2020) has also been using Novade for industrial projects. Over 20m records have been captured using the Novade platform.
Technology, AI investment and COVID-19
With the new funding, Novade also plans to increase its investments in technology and AI capabilities. Leveraging the millions of records collected across sites, clients can optimise operations or identify potential issues ahead of time with machine learning algorithms. “The additional funds will support our mission to elevate onsite performance through technology,” said Branthonne. “In the current global context, improving quality, productivity and safety is more important than ever.”
With onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, managing health and safety on construction sites is paramount for employees, companies and governments. In March, Novade launched new functionalities that enable rigorous implementation of health monitoring procedures on sites. “We are working with our existing clients to help them maintain or restart operations when the situation improves and are absolutely committed to supporting our clients during these difficult times,” added Bruno Suard, general manager EMEA.
Business development director Pierre Megret expanded on use of Novade to manage COVID-19 precautions:
“We are able to centralise the monitoring and enforcement of health and safety procedures using our mobile application, making it a more contact-less process. Companies can also use the captured data to show they are constantly applying the latest measures on site. And this may well be a long-term requirement: even after the peak is passed, construction sites will need to maintain safe operating procedures for a long time to help avoid new infections.”
The competitive space
Novade enters an already crowded market populated initially by solutions developed by various ‘web-first’ construction collaboration technology vendors, and then by ‘mobile-first’ vendors. The first group includes Autodesk and its Construction Cloud solutions, Bentley ProjectWise and its March 2020 acquisition GroupBC, Oracle Aconex, thinkproject, Trimble Viewpoint and Procore. The mobile-first grouping of field applications is internationally diverse and includes Europe’s Dalux, LetsBuild and FinalCAD, US-based Raken and Buildtools, and at least three Australian players: Envision, HammerTech, and APE Mobile – recently acquired by Damstra*).
This space is constantly evolving, with occasional mergers and acquisitions rationalising the market, only for new start-ups to emerge and try to disrupt their more established competitors. The ‘web-first’ group has also shifted from being primarily design-focused to managing and monitoring construction processes. That said, particularly for larger projects and larger enterprises, BIM capabilities will be key, as will capabilities leveraging data insights both from single projects and across multiple projects and programmes. Some industry customers are already starting to adopt ‘whole life’ approaches to their assets, so tools which can help them instantly assess the performance and efficiency of their supply chains, as well as the performance of the assets themselves, will deliver greater value.
* Melbourne-based Damstra Technology has appointed Aconex’s former chairman, Simon Yencken to its board ahead of its mooted float on the Australian Securities Exchange later this year, reports The Australian. The company raised A$9 million in a private funding in late 2018 to accelerate growth, and is planning to expand into the key north American market.