California-based Holobuilder, a pioneer in AEC 360-degree photogrammetry, has been acquired by FARO Technologies in a US$34 million deal.
FARO Technologies has invested $US34 million to acquire HoloBuilder, the San Francisco, US-based 360-degree reality capture technology developer. The Florida, US-based corporation known for its 3D measurement, imaging, and realisation solutions for architecture, engineering and construction, says: “HoloBuilder brings to FARO its leading photogrammetry-based 3D platform, which delivers hardware agnostic image capture, registration and viewing to the fast-growing Digital Twin market.” (7 June 2021 news)
Holobuilder: the back story
Holobuilder provides contractors with a solution to efficiently capture and virtually manage construction progress using off-the-shelf 360° cameras. It has strong connections with Germany; soon after its 2014 launch, it raised US$665,000 in seed funding from High-Tech Gruenderfonds. It then raised a further US$2.25m in an investment round in early 2017, backed by VC Brick & Mortar Ventures and Tandem Capital.
First featured in Extranet Evolution in March 2017, Holobuilder soon had some 3,000 construction projects on its platform and its customers included 40% of the top 100 general contractors in the US (Holobuilder launches 360 Construction Documentation Solution). In 2018, it began to expand in Europe (post) and added an Artificial Intelligence solution, “SiteAI”, to automate progress control (HoloBuilder launches SiteAI progress control). This application calculated progress reports from capturing weekly 360° progress photos, helping contractors to detect discrepancies and accelerating progress payment processes.
In April 2019, Holobuilder added a “JobWalk Planner” feature enabling off-site stakeholders to pre-plan construction documentation sequences for their teams. By facilitating team management and planning of job walks, it meant more perfectly executed site documentation with less room for error or forgotten site images.
After establishing an EU hosting base, Holobuilder received investments from German energy business E.ON, a Berlin-based construction technology investor, Foundamental (an investor in early 2019 too), and NRW.BANK, the promotional bank of Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia (August 2019 post). The company’s R&D facility was located in the high-tech cluster of Aachen in Germany, and was where HoloBuilder’s SiteAI solution was developed.
Digital Twin hype
At the time of that investment, EE questioned the company’s use of the term ‘Digital Twin’. The Gemini Principles developed by the UK’s Centre for Digital Built Britain talk about: “A realistic digital representation of something physical. What distinguishes a digital twin from any other digital model is its connection to the physical twin”. (Update – 8 June 2021 – The UK BIM Alliance* has just published a positioning statement on Digital Twins; this reiterates that static BIM deliverables are augmented by “the addition of dynamic ‘right-time’ data“). However, Holobuilder and its new owners continue to stress their own view of the Digital Twin opportunity.
FARO says the deal means that HoloBuilder’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform will add fast and easy reality-capture photo documentation and added remote access capability to its 3D point cloud-based laser scanning. FARO it says it will create “the industry’s first end-to-end Digital Twin solution“—all without leaving the FARO ecosystem. The combined solution will provide comprehensive scanning and image management capabilities for the Digital Twin market including robotic assembly 3D simulation, construction management, facilities operations and management, and incident pre-planning.
Holobuilder deal views
Michael Burger, FARO president and CEO, says:
“The high-value that digitalization brings to the AEC and Operations & Maintenance industries creates significant market opportunity for FARO. The addition of HoloBuilder to our offering accelerates the reality of a true end-to-end Digital Twin solution and advances our strategic objective of increased recurring revenue through market share gains in this large and growing segment.”
HoloBuilder president and founder Mostafa Akbari-Hochberg says:
“HoloBuilder and FARO together furthers our vision of digitizing the physical world to enable process automation and workflow optimization. The powerful combination of high accuracy laser scanning with real-time 360° photo capture and collaboration will empower both companies’ customer bases with a comprehensive Digital Twin solution.”
As of 30 April 2021, HoloBuilder had US$4.0 million in annual recurring revenue with a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 75% since 2019. It is one of several ambitious players in the photogrammetry field – in July 2020, Israeli startup Buildots raised £12m to fund its own expansion (post).
[* Disclosure: I am a member of the executive team of the UK BIM Alliance.]