Aug 26 2014

4Projects adds Revit plugin

Watching the SaaS construction collaboration vendors adding building information modelling (BIM) capabilities to their platforms, it’s clear some have been moving more quickly than others.

As regular readers may recall, Asite was one of the first to champion what it called collaborative BIM (cBIM) and, recognising the high market penetration of Autodesk’s Revit BIM authoring software, it added a Revit plugin when it launched its v15 release in July 2012 – an enhancement then somewhat overshadowed by the product’s rebranding as Adoddle. Aconex added a third party Revit plugin (developed and supported by Queensland-based XRev) in early 2013 (see Matt Rumbelow’s blog), and now there is a Revit plugin for 4Projects (or Viewpoint for Collaboration, as it is known in the US and Australia).

4Projects by Viewpoint - blueDeveloped in partnership with 4Project’s friends at Northumbria University’s BIM Academy, the plugin allows rapid export of project information from Revit and incorporates a “best practice open-source IFC exporter and a built-in PDF driver”. According to the product enhancement brief, the plugin:

Viewpoint Revit plugin“… allows users to deliver models, drawings and schedules in a single process in a variety of file formats to make collaborative package publishing simpler than ever for Revit users. This release ensures you’ll experience time savings, less clicks and fewer errors.

Additional Benefits include:

  • Automatically authenticate your credentials for Viewpoint For Project Collaboration to Revit
  • Easily define where in Viewpoint For Project Collaboration you want your content to go using the new tree picker
  • Export models, sheets and schedules in one quick step
  • Easily define which file formats you are exporting to Viewpoint For Project Collaboration
  • Ensure that all information has been delivered safely into the CDE” [common data environment]

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/08/4projects-adds-revit-plugin/

Aug 22 2014

Asite adds US reseller

Asite logo 2012London, UK-based SaaS construction collaboration provider Asite has a new US reseller of its Adoddle platform: Microsol Resources, which has offices in New York, Boston and Philadelphia and is an Autodesk Platinum Partner. Emilio Krausz, president of Microsol Resources, says:

“We are thrilled to be able to partner with Asite to provide our customers with a superb product for project information, data management and collaboration. Our customers have been voicing the need for this type software, especially as BIM workflows demands an easier way to collaborate on project portfolios of all sizes. Asite finally addresses all of these needs and more.”

Asite CEO Tony Ryan says:

Tony Ryan (Asite CEO)“We are excited to welcome Microsol Resources to the Asite partner community. Together, we will provide leading digital services to the AECO industry in North America in an effort to simplify the complex challenges they face every day.”

Microsol Resources is hosting a four-week webinar series (on Tuesdays at 11 am, on 23, 30 September and 7, 14 October) on “Introducing Asite for Cloud-Based Project Management and Data Collaboration”.

Asite opened a New York office and another in San Francisco in April 2012, having earlier relied on resellers sourced via reprographics networks. It appointed a VP for US Sales, Alex Severino, in August 2013, and I met another US representative, Paul Seletsky, at the London launch of Adoddle 17 in March, when Tony Ryan highlighted Asite’s strategy to raise its US profile and finally crack the US market.

two attempts, the company still “needs to crack the US”. The Goldman Sachs deal was highlighted as a major step forward in raising their profile in north Amer – See more at: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/03/asite-cocial-and-mocial/#sthash.89KN7VnX.dpuf
US representative, AEC industry veteran Paul Seletsky) – See more at: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/03/asite-cocial-and-mocial/#sthash.89KN7VnX.dpuf
US representative, AEC industry veteran Paul Seletsky – See more at: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/03/asite-cocial-and-mocial/#sthash.89KN7VnX.dpuf
US representative, AEC industry veteran Paul Seletsky – See more at: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/03/asite-cocial-and-mocial/#sthash.89KN7VnX.dpuf
US representative, AEC industry veteran Paul Seletsky – See more at: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/03/asite-cocial-and-mocial/#sthash.89KN7VnX.dpuf
US representative, AEC industry veteran Paul Seletsky – See more at: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/03/asite-cocial-and-mocial/#sthash.89KN7VnX.dpuf

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/08/asite-adds-us-reseller/

Aug 21 2014

Bridgit launches Smartglass push

Bridgit combines armband, smart glasses and mobile construction applications to speed up site-based data capture and workflow.

Bridgit logoI haven’t previously covered Ontario, Canada-based construction software startup Bridgit (though I have exchanged a few tweets with them). Co-founded in 2012 by a construction engineer, Lauren Hasagawa, and an e-commerce entrepreneur, Mallorie Brodie, the company has much in common with several other recent startups (eg: Basestone, Cadbeam, Plangrid, FieldLens and GenieBelt), being focused on creating mobile-first Software-as-a-Service applications for construction users. Its first application, Close-Out (available on iOS, Android and Blackberry), supports ‘deficiency management’ processes (aka: punchlists, snagging, defects, quality control).

Wearable technologies

This week, Bridgit announced the launch of beta testing programme, Groundbreaker, harnessing the latest in wearable technologies (see this TechCrunch article). The scheme is aimed at bringing together technology evangelists and early adopters from across the construction industry and giving them access to the newest technologies and integrations such as wearable gesture control devices and smart glasses.

Bridgit’s flagship product, Close-Out, has been integrated with Thalmic Labs’s Myo armband. This armband recognises hand and finger gestures, offering a more efficient and effective use of applications on Google Glass. According to Bridgit, by integrating the Myo armband with the Close-Out smartglass application on-site, users can eliminate smartphone manipulation and voice commands that slow down access to information and multiple-step processes to input or retrieve data. Mallorie Brodie says:

“The construction industry has already seen some basic examples of smartglass, such as Google Glass, being used as an input device for existing applications. However, up until now, the standard for smartglass input has been the built in audio commands. As we continue to place our primary focus on ease of use, audio input just doesn’t cut it in terms of usability. The Myo armband provides us with the ability to optimize smartglass in a way that makes sense for our users.”


Construction technology leaders interested in participating in the Groundbreaker programme are encouraged to apply online at gobridgit.com/groundbreaker. Space is limited and admission to the programme will be granted on a rolling basis.

FieldLens

FieldLens - logoIncidentally, keeping my eye on what else is happening in the north American construction software market, I was pleased to be able to drop into FieldLens‘s New York office during a recent trip to the US. Unfortunately, I missed meeting CEO Doug Chambers, but I had a long chat with marketing guy Daryl Lang about the company, its competitors, its funding (see post) and product differentiation.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/08/bridgit-launches-smartglass-push/

Aug 06 2014

No SaaS ‘Safe Harbor’?

Will US-owned vendors of collaboration services be shunned by clients wanting to keep their intellectual property safe from prying US eyes?

I recently had an email conversation with someone who was trying to choose between different SaaS construction collaboration technology vendors. His initial focus was on the functionality of the various platforms, but he then began to consider other service aspects, including licensing models and the availability of mobile tools, and then got particularly concerned about the location and security of providers’ hosting.

It is not unusual for SaaS collaboration customers to want their project data to be securely managed nearby. Middle Eastern clients, for example, might want their data hosted in the region, not in Europe or the USA (equally, some US businesses have not wanted their data hosted outside the US). Several of the vendors have therefore created hosting outposts to serve customers in particular regions, and to provide scalability, flexibility, increased redundancy, and more predictable uptime (in June, Viewpoint opened up an Australian hosting environment for Asia-Pacific customers of its 4Projects/ Viewpoint for Collaboration service, augmenting locations in the UK and US, the latter established in August 2013).

My correspondent, working on a sensitive UK infrastructure project, was particularly concerned that the US Patriot Act, Act of 2001 and Section 362 and others in place, might mean providers such as ViewPoint/4Projects information could be accessed by US Intelligence anywhere globally. (This para updated 1330hrs BST, 6 August)

Is he right to be that concerned? While the 2013 Edward Snowden US National Security Agency revelations have sent rippled round the world about the role of US intelligence, this Legal Week article by Neil Cameron suggests he could also have grounds for concern in civil court proceedings. Microsoft was recently ordered by a US Federal Court judge to provide details of emails, even though the data was hosted outside the US, in Ireland, by a Dutch-owned subsidiary. It seems that the Safe Harbor Privacy Principles created to extend the EU Data Protection Directive regarding data privacy,and so facilitate US-EU trade and commerce, may no longer be effective protection (though Cameron does point out it’s early days and the decision may well be appealed).

I would be interested to hear the comments of any vendors on these issues.

(Update: 7 August 2014) – Aconex joins Cloud Security Alliance

In an unrelated announcement, Melbourne-based construction collaboration technology provider Aconex has announced that is has joined the Cloud Security Alliance, a not-for-profit broad coalition promoting best practices for providing security assurance within cloud computing.

The CSA published a sponsored white paper – What Rules Regulate Government Access to Data Held by US Cloud Service Providers – in February 2013, followed by a July 2013 survey on Government Access to Data.

(Update: 18 August 2014) – In addition to some interesting comments on this post, I have received the following from Alun Baker, managing director EMEA, 4Projects by Viewpoint:

Alun Baker… Viewpoint has been (and still is) looking at implementing localised data centres in various geographies in accordance with our commitment to provide the best service possible for customers.  As you would expect, we have extensive data security protocols driven by both best practices and global privacy laws and in any case would be considered a low risk target for governmental data seizure given the minimal data we collect.  It’s worth noting that we have never actually had an official request for information and if one were served upon us we would expect, within the bounds of the law, to challenge such a request.   As far as disaster recovery is concerned these systems are kept in the same jurisdiction as the main data centre so if your project is using a UK data centre the information will never leave UK soil.

In terms of protecting information globally from the US, remember that the lack of any law such as the Patriot Act in the majority of non-western countries means that information can be seized without restriction or judicial oversight – meaning data could arguably be considered safer in the US or UK than most other geographies lacking specific protocols and judicial oversight.

We are growing rapidly and are seen as the market leader in the collaboration and BIM space across the globe.  As a result, such policies have been rigorously scrutinised by some of our most risk averse customers”.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/08/no-saas-safe-harbor/

Aug 04 2014

Cadweb goes bust

cadweb-logoA clutch of broken link alerts, a website now longer accessible, emails bouncing…. It seems that west London, UK-based construction collaboration technology provider, Cadweb, has ceased trading, weeks after UK rival Woobius did the same.

Cadweb crash

Formed in 1995, Cadweb launched its first commercial product in 1998 (I wrote an IT Best Practice Programme case study about its use on a project at Green Park, Reading in 1999); its Cadweb.net SaaS solution followed in March 2002, and the company claimed to be one of the longest-established UK project collaboration providers, delivering collaboration services to several long-standing customers (including Land Securities, PRUPIM, Gardiner & Theobald, Chapman Taylor Architects, and Sweett Group).

Its CEO Francis Newman often attended meetings of the short-lived Network of Construction Collaboration Technology Providers (NCCTP) trade grouping, and I occasionally bumped into business development director Tony Dodd (briefly a BIW colleague of mine before he joined Cadweb in 2002), though he left the company in late 2013 – which was roughly when I last met Francis. The Cadweb team carefully guarded information about the company’s financial performance (see my January 2009 post), sometimes making a virtue that it had not required external funding (the company, always one of the smaller collaboration vendors, was 99% owned by a Newman family trust). However, during the late 2000s (when the global financial crisis adversely affected the revenues of several collaboration vendors) and judging from the limited information made available via Companies House returns, its liabilities grew and its net assets declined, and it seems it’s eventually ended in insolvency.

On 15 July 2014, the London Gazette published a notice regarding a meeting of creditors to be held last week on Wednesday 29 July at the Wheathampstead, St Albans offices of insolvency practitioners Maidment Judd.

rapier logoMeanwhile, in October 2013, Francis became a director of a new business, Rapiere Software, which is developing a web-based decision support tool for design of low impact buildings. Apparently based in Architype‘s London office, the new company’s backers include Sweett and BDSP Chapman.

Reaction

It comes as little surprise that Cadweb has closed down. It rode the wave of interest in SaaS-based construction collaboration in the early 2000s and benefited from early adopters testing out the various solutions, and it gained some loyal customers. However, rivals say they rarely encountered Cadweb in client competitions in recent years, and as these rival solutions developed stronger capabilities, Cadweb’s relatively simple platform had less appeal.

After Woobius closed down recently, I used a UK football analogy to describe the gradual polarisation between the “Premier League” of leading providers and a “Championship” level tier who support loyal long-term customers, but who compete at a product and price level below that of their more successful rivals. If a business can’t manage customer ‘churn’, if its premium services can’t be adjusted to attract the SME market, and if it doesn’t have other services in its portfolio, it will struggle – and this appears to have been Cadweb’s fate. (Long-time Yorkshire-based rival Sarcophagus, for example, offers e-tendering and email management solutions as well as SaaS collaboration.)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/08/cadweb-goes-bust/

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