This blog is a bit dated on the user interface side of things, but it makes up for that by providing a great level of in-depth data. Within their posts, they offer graphs and data sets that will help you better understand what is going on in the construction industry.
Having recently secured £0.5m in VC funding, Belfast-based mobile surveying application developer GoReport says annualised revenue has topped £1m, and its looking to expand in 2019.
Belfast, Northern Ireland-based mobile surveying application developer GoReport says annualised revenue has topped £1m. Turnover grew 60% in the year to 31 March 2019, and are up 128% since 2017.
Led by CEO Anthony Walker, a RICS PropTech leader who joined the firm in November 2018 (post), GoReport has grown to 22 staff and is aiming for 100% growth in revenues in 2019 as traction in the growing market accelerates. Currently recruiting, the firm aims to add more staff in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. To fund its expansion, the company secured a £500,000 investment from Belfast-based venture capital fund manager Crescent Capital earlier this month (June 2019), with Crescent investment director Bob McGowan-Smyth joining the GoReport board as a non-executive director.
The firm’s software is used by building surveyors and engineers, project managers, fire safety consultants, insurance loss adjusters and many other professions who have a need to capture data easily, flexibly and generate consistent outputs quickly. Walker, right, says: “We’re enjoying a combination of growing market awareness, an increasing adoption of technology across the property sector, interest from related sectors and industries, and a drive by clients to capture more data to inform their business operations.”
GoReport digitises data capture and reporting processes to help property professionals reduce the time taken to generate survey outputs. The resulting uplift in customer experience has helped the firm increase their customer base by 100% from the previous 12-month period.
GoReport digitising survey data capture
Founded by Conor Moran, the business launched its iPad-based application in November 2012 (post). Its software was originally developed to help commercial and residential property surveyors and other professionals capture building surveying and project management data rapidly and more easily than the traditional method of manual note taking, dictation and photography. Walker continues:
“As a profession, surveyors’ day-to-day work for clients involves a significant amount of report writing which, done in the traditional way, can take up an inordinate amount of valuable time. With productivity proving a persistent issue, technology and how data is captured has an even greater part to play.”
Users of the software include all types of specialist surveyors ranging in scale from national property consultancies with multiple offices to independent surveyors. Recent interest in the platform from the social housing, insurance loss adjusting and fire safety sectors has broadened the firm’s potential market opportunities, with specific solutions tailored to a growing range of sectors that have field engineers and operatives recording data on-site.
GoReport chairman David Bell says:
“We’re aiming to positively disrupt the sector with tools that bring the profession in line with other data-enabled business functions, as well as delivering efficiencies to property consultancies, and the growth in new users this year demonstrates the growing demand. The recent move into supporting related property management and facilities sectors, including fire prevention, social housing and insurance, is also exciting and I look forward to the next level on our growth journey.”
Dutch company Xinaps demonstrated its new Software-as-a-Service BIM data validation product, Verifi3D, for the first time at Autodesk University London.
Dutch company Xinaps presented its new Software-as-a-Service BIM data validation product, Verifi3D, at the Autodesk University event in London (18-19 June 2019). While Verifi3D is set to be officially launched at Autodesk University in Las Vegas in November 2019, founder and CEO Frank Schuyer has been warming up the market for several months.* As well as Verifi3D, Delft-based Xinaps, founded in 2015, also develops building product configurators.
Verifi3D’s rule editor allows design checks to be defined and customized by the user to align the model with local regulations and client requirements. Schuyer’s initial focus was on showing if, and how, buildings met regulatory and project-specific requirements regarding accessibility and life safety compliance. The latter is particularly topical in the UK following the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, the ensuing Hackitt report, and ongoing discussions about mandating the “golden thread of information” into future building regulations.
The latest development for Verifi3D allows users to upload Autodesk Revit and IFC (industry foundation class) files directly into Xinaps’ cloud environment. Users can then classify their building model data, visualise it in 3D and 2D and validate it using data and geometric checks. As such, it offers a SaaS alternative to other model-checking solutions such as Solibri (acquired by Nemetschek in 2015), and competes with Invicara’s BIM Assure (2016 post, 2018 interview with founder Anand Mecheri), albeit being more focused on fire safety and accessibility.
Verifi3D is now also seamlessly integrated with Autodesk BIM 360 construction management platform and the optimised digital workflow was demonstrated by Xinaps for the first time at AU London. According to the Xinaps team:
“The collaboration with Autodesk will allow us to create a comprehensive experience for our users and to further facilitate the digitalization of the AEC industry. Our mission is to automate, simplify and optimize the design and build process through the power of technology. Verifi3D will allow VDC professionals to enhance their workflow and to automate many of the pre-construction stage
processes. Autodesk is one of the biggest innovators in the industry and collaborating with them was a logical next step in accomplishing our goal.”
Ilai Rotbaein, senior director of Autodesk’s BIM 360 product team said:
“Construction is a high risk, low margin industry in which things can go wrong at any time. Xinaps Verifi3D helps design and construction teams reduce costly errors and delays during preconstruction and throughout the project by offering a real-time, cloud-based solution for teams to review models, check for clashes, and ensure building rules and regulations are addressed in the model. We are pleased to have Xinaps as an integration partner and we believe this will be a welcome solution for our shared customers.”
[* Disclosure: pwcom.co.uk Ltd provided consultancy services to Xinaps in late 2018.]
During this week’s Autodesk University in London (see also previous post), Autodesk announced additions to the Plangrid platform: ‘PlanGrid Advanced RFIs‘ and ‘Project Hub‘. These are said to give construction teams greater visibility regarding a project’s progress and unforeseen challenges. Advanced RFIs automates and so accelerates request for information workflows while Project Hub provides an actionable picture of key project activity in one central location within PlanGrid’s software. Together, they help construction teams to identify and resolve issues faster and keep projects on track.
Head of products, site construction, Autodesk Construction Solutions, Sameer Merchant says:
“Construction is a massive logistical challenge involving hundreds of people, and the flow of information on a jobsite can sometimes be like a game of telephone. Crucial data can get lost as it travels, whether it’s between the field and the office or between team members, and decisions then get bottlenecked. [These] innovations …, Advanced RFIs and Project Hub, provide greater visibility across a project, boost collaboration and help teams move forward faster. By automating and streamlining the flow of data, Autodesk Construction Solutions is empowering the construction industry to make decisions more effectively and keep projects on track.”
One of Plangrid’s US clients, Rob Winklepleck, general manager of West Brothers Construction says:
“On a typical project, we’re managing vast quantities of information, and we need a way to make this information manageable and easily accessible. If my team doesn’t have the insights we need, work stalls out and it can cause a domino effect on interrelated resources across the project. The new features in PlanGrid not only help speed up the building process but also show me exactly what needs to happen to move the project forward. My team is able to get a quick response to pressing issues, and I spend less time calling or walking back and forth from the trailer to the field to verify work.”
RFI processes resolve questions arising from drawings, specifications, contracts and other construction documents that aren’t fully coordinated. According to Plangrid, ideally, an RFI moves from one person to the next: from the field to the office and then on to a design team reviewer, who provides insight and sends it back. While the flow of information should be straightforward, when the RFI process is not streamlined, it often involves multiple conversations and can take several weeks to get resolved. Information also can get lost along the way and schedules may be delayed.
PlanGrid’s Advanced RFIs automate the process and gives construction teams a visual and structured workflow to manage and distribute questions and answers efficiently and intuitively. Project members can quickly draft a question from a log or sheet and attach photos, and then track RFI progress – all within PlanGrid. Reviewers are notified and can respond by email, and answers are immediately distributed to all critical team members. Responses are also automatically added to the RFI history within PlanGrid’s platform to decrease miscommunication.
PlanGrid will continue making the flow of data on a construction project seamless. Future features will allow change orders to be efficiently managed from start to finish.
With 1000s of documents to track and large teams to coordinate, project managers and engineers can struggle to have a clear understanding of what is happening across a project.
Project Hub is a centralised place within PlanGrid’s platform where project engineers and managers can get a pulse of their project in real-time and take action on the most critical field operations. Via an uncluttered interface that is easy-to-use and simple to navigate, Project Hub delivers a holistic picture of all project activity, providing instant answers to questions such as: ‘What has changed on the project? Does everyone have the most up-to-date information? What tasks need to be assigned or are still incomplete?’ Features include:
Team update status: displays what percentage of the team is working from the latest plans and documents, to ensure all team members are on the most current set by tracking status in real time
Recent activity: shows a steady feed of major activities happening on the project
Project work: a list of tasks that helps guide users towards work that needs attention on the project
With Project Hub, managers can immediately understand risk factors in the field, such as what is at risk of complications or of not being built correctly, and act quickly to address the highest priorities.
Plangrid webinars are planned to update users about the updates (to register, visit here):
North America: 2 July 2019, at 11:00am PDT/ 2:00 pm EDT
EMEA: 9 July 2019, at 12:00 pm BST / 1pm CEST / 3:00pm GST
[Apologies to readers affected by a site accessibility issue since Tuesday 18 June – a file got corrupted and I was only able to resolve this with my hosting provider today.]
Autodesk is aiming to merge and so strengthen the technologies currently contained in two separate solutions: Plangrid and BIM 360. The current focus, however, is more on construction than long-term asset management.
(17 June 2019, 10.45am BST) – Autodesk’s Connect and Construct Summit in London today started with a media breakfast hosted by Jim Lynch, general manager of Autodesk Construction Services. He highlighted CEO Andrew Anagnost’s strategic drive – “since August 2018 it’s been our number one priority” – to grow Autodesk’s construction solutions portfolio, evidenced by its US$1bn+ acquisitions of BIM solution Assemble (July 2018 news release), Plangrid (November 2018 post), BuildingConnected (January 2019 post) and , and continued investment in Autodesk BIM 360. The pace of population growth, particularly in cities, was part of the reason for this push, Lynch said. “The technology we’ve used to date won’t help us tomorrow – now is the time to be talking about the contributions that digital fabrication and manufacturing can make.”
There was some discussion regarding the focus of the two apparently overlapping solutions: Plangrid and BIM 360. Lynch said we need to separate BIM and digitisation of construction: “we needed a better way to collaborate on the jobsite, hence the deal to acquire Plangrid, a wildly successful business. But use of BIM in construction, on the jobsite, is in its early days, though this will change as rich data models are mandated.” Plangrid gives Autodesk a strong construction technology platform, Lynch said, along with a large installed user base and an established construction brand. Work is now under way to merge the offering: “they will start to merge and will become one sometime in the future“.
Will the two brands continue? “Branding is a different question,” Lynch said. Both products have strengths, so Autodesk needs to build up the combined offering and promote them to the market. Plangrid (with its association with traditional ‘plans’) resonates with construction users he admitted, but some people have shunned BIM 360 as it was seen as “only valuable if I am using BIM” suggesting the name has caused some confusion despite its value to people not using BIM in construction.
Autodesk’s Steve Manning, one of the company’s executives tasked with merging the offering, said 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.
Digital twin thinking
The UK has pushed forward with its “digital twin” thinking since the National Infrastructure Commission published its Data for the Public Good report in December 2017, with the Cambridge Centre for Digital Built Britain publishing its Gemini Principles in November 2018. In the built environment context, a digital twin is defined as “a realistic digital representation of assets, processes or systems in the built or natural environment” which, importantly, is connected to and shares data bi-directionally with the physical twin.
Asked about Autodesk’s digital twin thinking, Lynch focused on how tools like Revit helped project teams to collate both the design and the data and understand their investment in the digital model, with tools like Assemble and BuildingConnected potentially allowing the addition of more rich data. However, he admitted that, while BIM 360 has some asset management capability, it is still in its early days, with partner technologies likely to add value during the life of the building.
RIB Software invests US$42m to acquire 60% of USA-based BSD (Building Systems Design), strengthens its estimating and product data technologies, and gets a bridgehead in north America.
RIB Software, the Stuttgart, Germany-based provider of cloud-based technologies for the construction and real estate industries has invested US$42m to acquire 60% of the Atlanta, USA-based BSD (Building Systems Design) – a cloud software platform for building specifications together with data and analytics solutions for North American building product manufacturers. The deal strengthens RIB’s kernel of estimating and product data technologies, while also giving the company a strong bridgehead for expansion in the north American market.
The remaining 40% of the company is held by the BSD executive management team consisting of CEO Christopher Anderson (below centre), executive chairman Iain Melville (left), and chief innovation officer Arol Wolford (right), together with the Construction Specification Institute (CSI), whose mission it is to advance building information management. Prior to joining BSD, Anderson served in executive roles in the Gordian Group and RS Means; Melville was CEO for Construction Market Data (CMD) and RS Means. Wolford is the founder of CMD and a board member of Revit Technology Corporation.
The company was founded in 1983 to develop commercial software for the US federal government (some of its construction cost estimating software is still used by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Defense). The CSI had a majority stake in BSD from 2010 to 2017, at which point the current management team, and an investment from Caltius Structured Capital, set the company on a new course.
BSD provides thousands of American architects, engineers, project developers, investors, and building materials suppliers with a cloud data platform for the development of technical building specifications and the definition of products and construction services. Manufacturers can add their products to the building catalogue in the cloud. Approximately 4,000 new American construction projects are listed on the platform each month. Manufacturers can thus position their products directly at the point of sale. Currently more than 10,000 tendering engineers work within the platform and the cancellation rate of the annual users is far below 10%.
The two flagship products SpecLink and SpecLive will be integrated on the MTWO cloud platform and expanded via Managed Services (MSP) for enterprise customers. The BSD products will be supplemented with the virtual assistant McTWO, the artificial intelligence (AI), with smart Analytics. The 100 RIB Software iTWO 4.0 modules such as CX (Collaboration Platform), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Predictive Pricing, Modular Construction, Cost Estimation, and Value Engineering will be optimally connected with SpecLink and SpecLive. In the medium term, new business models based on xTWO technology are also planned.
According to RIB, BSD’s annual recurring revenue (ARR) is forecasted to exceed US$14m in 2019 with organic growth of approximately 25%. The addressable market for BSD products in the USA and Canada is over US$3 billion. Through BSD, up to 500,000 users for the MTWO cloud platform, driven by BIM and digital transformation, can be converted in the medium term from 8,000 construction suppliers, 80,000 architecture and engineering firms with over 10 employees, 150,000 construction companies, and 270,000 owners.
The addressable market in the 26 countries covered by the RIB Group is over US$10 billion (ARR) and over 1 million MTWO platform users. The RIB total investment, including expansion funds, is US$42m (€37.6 million) and represents the largest single investment in the RIB Group’s 50+ year history. This latest deal also comes just over a month after a strategic investment in the UK’s CADline.
Tom Wolf, CEO of RIB Group says:
“The investment in BSD demonstrates RIB Group’s strong commitment to the U.S. market. McTWO welcomes with Arol, Iain and Chris some of the strongest Executives and investors in the global AEC industry. The integration of 100 software modules connected to millions of BSD content data in the MTWO cloud platform super charged with McTWO our virtual AI assistant and managed data services has the potential now to digital transform the building and infrastructure industry to one of the most advanced industries. Re-platforming concepts like MTWO, combined with BSD data services, will enable developers and owners to build modern cities and infrastructure tailored for Gen Z and following generations.”
Chris Anderson, BSD president and CEO, says:
“At BSD, our goal is to create advanced technology designed to make collaboration easier, including seamless BIM integration and revolutionary cloud technology. RIB’s focus on MTWO and McTWO, cloud and AI based platforms for the construction industry perfectly aligns with BSD’s strategy. We are looking forward to working with RIB in this expanding area to push the digitization and transformation of a whole industry.”
This deal fulfils predictions made in 2018 by RIB COO Mads Bording, right, about RIB’s continued cloud expansion (post). He told Extranet Evolution the technology market was evolving towards support for more collaborative and value-adding work which demands “a more democratised end-to-end process leveraging data in the model, helping companies make money from the data in BIM”. Overcoming the inertia or resistance of 55-year-old cost estimators or engineers was vital, he said.
RIB Group grew 26% in 2018, boosted by its SaaS operations, with its Microsoft partnership expected to grow its SaaS user base ten-fold in 2019 (post).
A mobile application acquired from Appear Networks by France’s Script&Go in 2016, Site Diary has been revamped and given a new brand identity as it seeks to expand UK adoption of the solution. The French company announced its plans to grow a UK presence in early 2018, and 10 months later had offices in London and Birmingham and was planning a major upgrade to Site Diary, adding new features, a new user interface, support for UK currency, and hosting by Microsoft Azure.
The revamped Site Diary solution (available in both Android and Apple iOS versions, plus a web-browser accessed edition) incorporates:
a weather feed which automatically captures weather information for the mobile device’s location and associates it with the day’s reporting
task management enabling site managers to create and allocate tasks to team members, while retaining a record in the Site Diary, and
progress reporting including approvals management, with export to PDF, CSV or Excel.
The developers claim an average daily saving of 45 minutes compared to maintaining a traditional paper-based diary, with further savings in the event of disputes through more systematic and detailed time- and date-stamped data capture. One customer had switched to Site Diary having lost a previous dispute because their record-keeping had been inadequate.
UK customers include Alun Griffiths, Grosvenor Construction and Torsion Group, along with customers in Australia and the US. In total, Site Diary has over 8,000 users, and has over 140 paying customers in 34 countries, currently creating an average 14,000 diary entries a month. The company does not reveal revenues, but the product’s standard price is £10 per month per user when paying monthly or £96/year/user with annual billing (by negotiation, deals can done for project-wide or enterprise use).
The company says Site Diary is currently a point solution, but the development roadmap envisages integration with other solutions. This is vital, given that is competing with site diary capabilities incorporated into wider toolsets on some existing platforms in all its current English-speaking customer markets. For example, Trimble’s Viewpoint recently added a site diary to its Viewpoint Team solution (post); Australia’s Wiseworking (post), Tenderfield (post) and HammerTech (post) all offer site diary options; and in the US, Note Vault is an established competitor in the daily reporting field with strong integration with other solutions (post). US-based, but now growing its Australian and UK presences, Procore also offers a Site Diary feature as part of its Quality and Safety module.
AECbytes‘ Lachmi Khemlani has written an interesting and detailed review of a US-developed Software-as-a-Service project information management solution (PIM) called TonicDM. (She distinguishes between PIM and project management solutions, such as Oracle Aconex, Procore, etc: “The basic difference is that PIM manages the large volumes of information associated with a project, whereas PM manages the actual project—its design and construction—itself.”)
Based in Los Angeles, California, TonicDM was founded in 2016 by a former Gehry and Gensler executive Reg Prentice (now CEO) and a technologist, now CTO, Chris Pinckney (whose recent history includes spells at Riverbed and RedSky – the latter is now part of Presidio, and not to be confused with UK-based construction software vendor RedSky IT). The TonicDM solution – the DM comes from ‘document management’ – was born out of Prentice’s experiences with Newforma’s PIM product Project Center while at Gensler (the Newforma application started as an on-premise solution, and only later added cloud connectivity to its capabilities – post).
TonicDM aims to be “simple and easy”, and is tightly integrated with Microsoft’s Outlook email application (and the rest of the Office 365 ecosystem). It manages and tracks transmittals of large files, and has an RFI and submittal management system customised to the needs of design teams (with Procore and email integrations to manage contractor communications). Prices start from US$15 per user per month; the RFI and submittal management comes in a contract administration (Standard + CA) package costing US$30 per user per month. According to Khemlani, TonicDM is also beta-testing a NLP (natural language processing) capability to undertake sentiment analysis on emails and gain deeper insights into projects (the second time in a week I’ve heard NLP mentioned; it is also something being explored by Viewpoint – post).
How simple and easy TonicDM remains is open to question. Once solutions start to become embedded in users’ organisations, demands for new features start to grow, as do calls for wider integrations with other platforms used either by the users or by other organisations their firms are working with. And, as with other solutions that are document-centric, I also wonder about their long-term applicability when projects involve building information modelling and wider digital collaboration.
The British Safety Council’s Canairy app uses data from the London Air Quality Network, but its use is restricted to affiliated construction companies. Devices such as Atmotube could extend the reach while providing more localised and accurate data.
Air pollution, linked with up to 36,000 early deaths a year in the UK, is considered the biggest environmental risk to public health. Research from King’s College London suggests that more than 9,400 people die prematurely due to poor air quality in London alone. Ambient air pollution is linked to cancer, lung and heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infertility and early dementia.
Several pilot schemes are beginning to monitor and measure the levels of air pollution experienced by people working and living in London. Their findings will be instrumental in developing recommendations for reducing people’s exposure to air pollution in the capital.
However, at the same time, the government and regulatory bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), continue to demonstrate a lack of interest in relation to regulation and guidance on air pollution.
In March 2019, the British Safety Council launched its Time to Breathe campaign, which is focused on the protection of outdoor workers from air pollution. The cornerstone of the campaign is Canairy, a mobile app that gives outdoor workers and their employers insights into pollution and how to reduce staff exposure to it. It has been created in co-operation with King’s College London. Canairy draws on the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) pollution map at King’s and the worker’s GPS to calculate an individual’s exposure to pollution on an hourly basis.
However, judging from user comments on the Google Play Store, some users feel the Canairy app should be freely available:
“Restricted access. Why?”
“Waste of time. You need an access code. You can only use if you are a construction worker.”
“… This shouldn’t just be locked down to construction workers – breathing fresh air is something everyone should be able to do.”
Other air quality apps have been created by King’s College – Londonair, City Air – but are focused just on London, and get mixed reviews from users.
The British Safety Council’s latest report presents evidence about the causes and consequences of air pollution in Britain, and reviews international examples of initiatives set up to measure air pollution in different locations and their recommendations for risk reduction. It calls for:
The UK to adopt the World Health Organisation’s exposure limits for the main pollutants;
Government action to ensure ambient air pollution is treated as an occupational health issue and adopt a Workplace Exposure Limit for Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions (DEEE);
Improvements to pollution monitoring across the UK, so that all regions can have the same accuracy in emissions data as London;
Recognition that protection from the dangers of air pollution should be enshrined in law as a human right.
Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, said:
“The impact of air pollution on people working in large cities is starting to be recognised as a major public health risk. However, we are yet to see any true commitment to addressing this issue by the government and the regulators.
“The Time to Breathe campaign, together with our recent report, is a call to action for policymakers, regulators and industry leaders. The social and economic implications of ambient air pollution are clear. It must be recognised as an occupational health hazard, much like some toxic substances such as asbestos. Breathing clean air is not a privilege but a basic human right for the thousands of people who are undertaking vital work outdoors.”
New generation Atmotube
Of course, air quality can vary substantially even within very localised areas, so as well as accessing data hourly from official fixed sources, it can be useful to monitor air quality on individual sites or even in the immediate surroundings of an individual worker – recognising that some workers will also be highly mobile, sometimes moving between individual sites, or working on linear infrastructure projects spread over long distances.
In September 2016, I wrote about a portable wireless air quality monitoring device, Atmotube, that shares environmental data to a user’s mobile phone. I contributed to a Kickstarter campaign to fund the initial development of these devices by a US-based company, and I have remained a supporter, taking delivery in recent months of both the updated Atmotube Plus, and the higher-end Atmotube Pro.
Atmotube PRO — Personal air quality and weather tracker - YouTube
The latter device monitors a wider range of particles, and is also a real-time weather station, providing me with a personalised record of the air temperature and humidity around me, indoors and outdoors (and on trains, planes and other transport), as I walk, travel or work. I can also view a personalised historical map showing the air quality of the places I’ve been to, all managed by combining the device with my smartphone’s GPS.
This proved useful when I recently found I’d lost my Atmotube Plus, which had been dangled from my rucksack via a (still intact) carabiner clip. I opened up my Atmotube app and was able to review the most recently captured data, and identify exactly where and when the last reading had been captured (I had been attending a meeting at a London office building). I contacted my meeting host, the device was found and I was able to collect it (the metal casing to which the carabiner had attached had cracked, possibly after the clip got badly twisted – see right – so the device then fell off). I now have my Atmotube Pro secured by a carabiner but additionally semi-protected in a mesh pocket on my rucksack so that it can’t dangle and potentially get snagged.
Both the new devices have much longer battery lives, take readings every few seconds (not just hourly like the LAQN), and can be set to provide warning levels if air quality or humidity drops below particular levels.
I talked about the original Atmotube device at a COMIT event in 2016, and said that I felt such devices had the potential to alert us to malfunctioning air conditioning or heating, or to leaks of gases, etc. It could also provide facilities, HR or Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) managers with constant updates from employee users about their working conditions, offering more location-specific data – and also data from internal spaces – than is often captured from conventional weather monitoring services. The addition of particulate matter measurement makes the Atmotube Pro additionally useful as it will detect pollutants from vehicle, plant and generator exhausts, potentially providing highly site-specific measurements as workers move around a live site.
UK-based Snaffle Solutions has created an online marketplace, Snaffle, aimed at making it easier for SME builders to buy tools and materials, while creating extra online sales for traditional suppliers in the industry.
Incorporated in 2016, the company was founded by Luke Robertson, formerly a contracts manager in an office fit-out business, and Daniel Reiner, managing director of the Coulsdon, Surrey-based building products supplier, Bryson. With a combined 25 years’ worth of experience in supplying construction companies big and small, they believe there is a growing appetite for builders to purchase building products online, particularly if the seller guarantees fast delivery, meaning no downtime collecting materials. A Snaffle study showed that, on average, a builder or tradesperson can spend 2.8 hours a day driving to and from merchants.
First-time buyers will be able to search the Snaffle website (no mobile apps, but the site renders will in a smartphone browser – important for the tradespeople market) for everything they require for their project and compare costs from multiple suppliers. Depending on what is more important to buyers, the site will find the best price or closest supplier, anywhere in the UK.
Suppliers of building materials can upload their entire product range onto the e-commerce platform (at no cost) allowing customers to compare prices, browse an unlimited range and place orders to be fulfilled directly through suppliers’ own warehousing and logistics.
“It’s brilliant to see how this is benefiting everyone in the industry – both customers and sellers. On one hand we are giving many well-established more traditional businesses in the market extra sales with an online presence, and on the other we are making the builders lives easier by getting goods to site more efficiently.”
The dual targetting of both tradespeople and sellers is also a strategy pursued by London-based Buildiro, which launched its mobile solution in March 2019 (post).
Oracle says (news release) this will help resolve common BIM issues – a lack of collaboration, reliance on multiple applications, and missing integrations – by enabling construction design and project professionals to collaboratively manage BIM models across the entire project team in a true common data environment (CDE). As such, organisations can reduce the risk of errors and accelerate project success by ensuring each team member has access to accurate, up-to-date models.
“Issues with model management means projects go over budget, run over schedule, and end up with a higher total cost of ownership for the client. As part of the early access program for Oracle Aconex Model Coordination, it was great to experience how Oracle has solved these challenges,” said Davide Gatti, digital manager, Multiplex.
Single source of truth
With Oracle Aconex Model Coordination, organisations can eliminate the need for various point solutions in favor of project-wide BIM participation that drives productivity with faster processes and cycle times, enables a single source of truth for project information, and delivers a fully connected data set at handover for asset operation.
The Model Coordination solution enhances Oracle Aconex’s existing CDE capabilities, which are built around Open BIM standards (IFC 4 and BCF 2.1) and leverage a cloud-based, full model server to enable efficient, secure, and comprehensive model management at all stages of the project lifecycle.
The Oracle Aconex CDE, which is based on ISO 19650 and DIN SPEC 91391 definitions, provides industry-leading neutrality, security, and data interoperability. By enabling model management in this environment, Oracle Aconex unlocks new levels of visibility, coordination, and productivity across people and processes, including enabling comprehensive model-based issue and clash management.
Key features of the new solution include:
Seamless clash and design issue management and resolution
Dashboard overview and reporting
Creation of viewpoints – e.g. personal “bookmarks” within models and the linking of documents to objects
Process support and a full audit trail with the supply chain
Frank Weiss, director of new products, BIM and innovation at Oracle Construction and Engineering, says:
“With Oracle Aconex Model Coordination, we’re making the whole model management process as seamless and easy as possible. By integrating authoring and validation applications to the cloud, users don’t need to upload and download their issues and clashes anymore.
“There’s so much noise and confusion around BIM and CDEs, much of it driven by misinformation in the market about what each term means. We believe everybody on a BIM project should work with the best available tool for their discipline. Therefore, open formats are critical for interoperability, and the use of a true CDE is key to efficient and effective model management.”
Chief marketing officer Gabriele Famous joined Trustpilot in April 2019, and Aconex’s ConnectedCost guru Guy Barlow moved (briefly) to Ineight. From the UK team, one-time VP, International Henry Jones left in January, along with Aconex’s longest-serving UK-based colleague Yuval Attias; both are now with a London-based online mental health business called Big White Wall.
UK-based sales director Steve Cooper, right, and colleague Duncan Kneller (who were both part of the BIW Technologies business back in 2000, before it was acquired by Conject in 2010, and before it was in turn acquired by Aconex in 2016),* are now part of the Aconex product team at Oracle – Cooper is VP of Europe while Kneller is sales director, UK & Ireland; another veteran BIW/Conject consultant, Nick Sansome, is EMEA practice director, professional services. The above-mentioned Frank Weiss is another veteran of the business, a co-founder of Conject.
Assimilation of Aconex into Oracle has not been without some hiccups. Industry sources say there have been outages and periods of poor application performance, though I understand from company sources this is a reflection of ongoing work to update Aconex’s software architecture so that it is more compatible with Oracle’s standards (not dissimilar to what I heard this week about competitor Viewpoint’s technology stack needing to be updated). I also understand that plans are in place to transfer Aconex to Oracle hosting (meanwhile Viewpoint is shifting from Rackspace to AWS).
I have also heard industry gossip suggesting Oracle may have lost some deals due to poor flexibility on licensing Aconex. Project deals in this space in particular have generally been subscription-based, often paid by the month or quarter, allowing customers to curtail or extend usage if projects either finish early (rare) or overrun (more common). This, presumably, is challenging to an organisation like Oracle, culturally used to agreeing standard or fixed-term enterprise deals; construction and engineering is also just one of 23 industry segments served by Oracle, and while Primavera is a long-established part of its portfolio, it is an on-premise construction scheduling application, not a cloud-based solution.
(* I was head of communications at BIW Technologies from 2000 to 2009.)