The Common Data Environment market just got busier: acquisitive Trimble has wasted no time in launching its cloud-based collaboration platform, Trimble Connect.
Some seven weeks after acquiring Gehry Tchnologies, including its GTeam platform, and promising to add it to a DBO software solutions platform (post), US construction technology giant Trimblehas launched Trimble Connect, based on GTeam, providing a cloud-based collaboration platform for teams involved in the design, construction and operation of buildings.
According to the news release, Trimble Connect streamlines workflows and transforms collaborative processes, allowing teams to access, analyse, manage and share project data from anywhere at any time. As a hub for Trimble Buildings‘ portfolio of Design-Build-Operate (DBO) technologies, Trimble Connect enables seamless interoperability for designers, builders, and owners/occupiers – while also providing benefits to teams involved in site preparation and management. Bryn Fosburgh, vice president responsible for Trimble’s Construction Technology Divisions, says:
“Trimble Connect creates communities of collaboration across and within disciplines, integrating data from Trimble’s wide variety of applications and devices to reduce the barriers between teams and tasks. This new platform not only reinforces Trimble’s leadership as a provider of advanced software and hardware, but positions us to transform the way the world designs, builds and operates buildings through collaboration.”
Trimble Connect centralises and provides coordinated information for users across the DBO continuum, combining Building Information Modelling (BIM), 3D and 2D models via the web. It also helps project team leaders track their staff’s progress, while building owners can also audit and report on all past and present project data and activity.
Various Trimble products are already “Trimble Connected”, including:
And, in echoes of the Aconex BIM announcement earlier this week (post), Trimble Connect also supports the platform-neutral IFC file format for OpenBIM. And, coincidentally, both vendors are branding their offerings as “connected”.
Aconex has launched a ‘Connected BIM’ product, and a new Digital Manuals capability (but only if you are on Windows).
Away from the continuing repercussions of the ‘tepid’ and therefore cancelled or postponed IPO (post), Melbourne, Australia-based Software-as-a-Service construction collaboration technology provider Aconexhas launched Aconex Connected BIM, a new product extending the Aconex platform to manage building information modelling data and processes for project-wide collaboration between design and construction teams and handover to the owner.
According to the news release, Aconex co-founder Rob Phillpot (also senior vice president of product and engineering) says:
“BIM … [is] … transforming the way that capital projects are delivered. The industry is moving rapidly from 2D drawings and files to multidimensional models and data, as BIM adoption accelerates globally. On many projects today, its use is limited to designers with specialized modeling tools during the design phase of the project. While BIM improves design and constructability, the other 90% of the project team are disconnected from model data during the construction and handover phases.
“Aconex now connects all participants with BIM data and processes project-wide, enabling project teams to share, consume and enrich models on a single integrated collaboration platform in the cloud. From their web browsers and mobile devices, design and construction teams can resolve issues early and produce a fully documented visualization of the project that is ready for operation at handover. With a complete and accurate set of interconnected project data outside the model, owners can reduce operating costs, which account for up to 75% of total asset lifecycle costs. Aconex Connected BIM fulfills BIM’s true promise – improved efficiency, reduced risk, faster delivery, higher-quality built assets, and easier operability.”
With Aconex Connected BIM, designers can create and modify models in their native authoring tools and use simple software plug-ins to publish them in what it calls the ‘Aconex BIM Cloud’. Here, all members of the project team – other designers, engineers, consultants, contractors, subcontractors, and owners – can view, distribute, mark up, and contribute to model data at the object level, detecting clashes and optimising constructability.
As the project moves through design and into construction, team members can link each object in the model with relevant project documents, communications and workflows. Designers can continue using their native authoring tools for design updates via the software plug-ins. The Aconex platform apparently supports Open BIM, including IFC (Industry Foundation Classes). At practical completion, all project information – including the model, all of the documentation associated with each of its objects, and an audit trail – can be handed over to the owner for operation. Based purely on the news release, Aconex’s capabilities cover:
Open BIM standards
Secure, cloud-based platform – no software installation required
Fast viewing of large sets of merged models in web browsers – without specialised BIM tools or local software – and access on mobile devices
Version control to avoid errors based on out-of-date models
Real-time merging, collation and separation of component models for specific disciplines
Shared viewpoints and mark-ups for model review, feedback and resolution
Interrogation of models for clashes and coordination issues
Linkage of formal project communications such as RFIs with objects for resolution of clashes and issues
Handover of operation and maintenance (O&M) data within models.
On this final point, in a related announcement, Aconex also launched Dynamic Manuals, a mobile solution for owners and their facility management teams to manage digital operation and maintenance (O&M) manuals so long as they are using Windows tablets (no information has been provided about capabilities for iOS or Android users – which is strange, given that Windows is lagging a long way behind in terms of both consumer and corporate adoption).
This is regarded by Aconex as a logical extension of Smart Manuals (launched in February 2013), an online solution for contractors to build O&M manuals during the project for delivery to the owner at practical completion.
Aconex says Dynamic Manuals provides users with an intuitive graphical experience and the ability to view and update documents and technical files in the field. They can barcode or QR code each physical asset in a facility and then scan the code from a Windows tablet to access all information on that asset. They can also share asset information with subcontractors and other outside resources from the tablet desktop or via email. All document updates and communications are captured in a permanent audit trail.
Briefly, Aconex has been talking about its BIM capabilities for some years, but the functionality for a long time focused on extending its platform’s file-sharing capabilities to cover sharing of model files. ‘Connected BIM’ is a significant step forward. It delivers ‘federated’ model support – part of the UK government’s Level 2 BIM requirement (being carefully watched by other nations as they continue their own BIM journeys; see also post) – but I haven’t seen a demonstration of the platform’s capabilities so can’t compare it with, say, rival UK-based SaaS vendors 4Projects (post) or Asite’s functionalities (post). Without a briefing it is also unclear what the roadmap is for Aconex’s future BIM capabilities.
I am also bemused by the Aconex focus on MS Windows for its mobile Dynamic Manuals functionality. Why focus on a platform which is, by most surveys, the third choice (often by a long way) for corporate use? OK, Microsoft has substantial traction in the corporate construction market, but, on mobile devices, it lags a long, long way behind iOS and Android. Is Aconex going to soon release mobile tools for these platforms?
Finally, timing. These announcements could have helped push the IPO initiative forward, but they came two days after the IPO was shelved. The BIM announcement might have shown potential investors that Aconex was at the leading edge of web-based BIM and common data environments, but it’s too late for that. If I was an investor, I might also have been worried about the focus on mobile Microsoft when the rest of the world is focused on Apple iOS and Android.
(Aconex was approached for comment 12 hours before publication. No response was received.)
As well as this week’s COMIT/Fiatech two-day conference (post), I am also attending next week’s Year in Infrastructure 2014 conference, 4-6 November in central London, at the invitation of Bentley Systems (readers may have noticed a small ad for the event in my sidebar for the past two months). I was a juror in the BE Inspired Awards last year, and am filling that role again this year, with the award winners being announced on Wednesday evening.
The event provides an opportunity to learn more about how Bentley and its partners’ technologies are helping project teams collaborate, with ProjectWise and building information modelling (BIM) normally prominent. Last year, I also wrote about Bentley’s embrace of Microsoft Azure to extend its software reach further into ‘the cloud’, and about its push to promote another BIM: Better Information Mobility. The conference also plunges me into numerous meetings, media briefings with other journalists and bloggers, and networking sessions, and usually features some industry thought-leaders – this year’s event includes talks from mega-project expert Ed Merrow and a presentation by HS2’s chief engineer and technical director Andrew McNaughton.
[If any Extranet Evolution readers are going to be at the conference next week and want to meet up, please look out for me, or tweet me.]
Just the day before it was due to publish its IPO prospectus, Melbourne-based SaaS construction collaboration technology vendorAconex is reported to have cancelled the initial public offering planned for November. According to Bridget Carter in The Australian:
“… Aconex has cancelled plans for its initial public offering, despite its book build being covered within its pricing range. … it is understood that Aconex decided not proceed when it was told by its advisers that they were unlikely to secure sufficient demand to see the stock perform well during its debut on the Australian Securities Exchange.” [emphasis added]
Following the initial IPO announcement (July), there had subsequently been reports that potential investors had been nervous about its post-IPO offshore expansion plans (see my 15 October update to this post).
Updates (28 October 2014) – Aconex is not alone in cancelling ASX IPOs – two others (ArcPac and Hirepool) were also shelved just prior to anticipated listings (link). (29 October 2014) – It appears there is a crowded calendar of potential IPOs, and this is giving fund managers concerns about the quality of the stocks on offer; the Australian Business Review says:
“That nervousness was underlined earlier this week when … Aconex pulled the plug on its IPO after receiving a tepid response in its institutional bookbuild. Ironically, Aconex had increased its offer size from a minimum of $120 million to $232 million after it sensed strong investor demand.
That, however, did not translate into strong bids in the bookbuild, with the offer understood to have been covered at the lower end of the price range. It is not clear yet if Aconex has cancelled its IPO altogether, or put it on hold.”
London-based Software-as-a-Service construction collaboration technology vendor Asite is starting up an operation in South Africa. A news release says it is launching the new business on 6 November at a capital projects seminar organised by hosting partner Dimension Data at its Bryanston office north of Johannesburg. Ian Saunders, previously at EasyBuild but now MD of Asite South Africa, is quoted as saying:
“We are pleased to invite you to attend the launch of Asite in South Africa, where we’ll share real-world cases of how massive capital projects have benefited from this cloud solution.”
South Africa has been targeted by other AEC SaaS collaboration vendors. Docia (since July 2014 a subsidiary of RIB Software) opened an office in Johannesburg in early 2012, for example, and 4Projectsinternational partner strategy saw it working with CCS, also in 2012 (though that relationship has since ended – Vaughan Harris recently moved from CCS and is now at Asite as business development manager Africa). There is also an appetite for SaaS solutions among some South Africa-based corporations – iSite revealed last month that it had secured South Africa’s largest bank as a client.