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BIM-in-The-Cloud Has New Competition With Newforma

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Video screen shots courtesy of M-six
The VEO platform helps project teams work inside complex 3D models on project delivery.
Video screen shots courtesy of M-six
VEO works across multiple devices.
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Model-driven project delivery on jobsites could be taking a big leap forward with a license deal between project information management (PIM) provider Newforma and M-SIX's 3D software platform, called VEO.

Robert Batcheler, a cofounder of the Manchester, N.H.-based Newforma, says with the VEO license, customers can view and navigate 3D building models without the need for the underlying software or authoring tools that were used to generate the model. This is a major trend in project delivery: deploying platforms that achieve true BIM-in-the-cloud functionality, including generative capacity, he says.

With the VEO platform, if a project is working with models that were created, say, using Autodesk's Revit authoring tool, project teams can access the files on the VEO platform without a full Revit installation.

Accessing BIM models on projects by construction teams "can be a challenge for mere mortals to master," Batcheler says. Using the VEO platform, project teams can access the geometry of commonly-used 3D models through the cloud "without the risk of an untrained person damaging or corrupting the model," he adds.

If that sounds similar to the souped-up BIM readers that are in use on many jobsites these days, think again, he says. It's true that many BIM readers for iPads and other smart devices are available, such as Bentley's ProjectWise for the iPad, Autodesk's hugely popular AutoCAD WS for iOS devices and Graphisoft's BIMx for iOS devices (which can view many 3D model file types. You can view a YouTube video demo here). Newforma claims the VEO platform enables more interaction with the models in the field.

On the VEO platform, the companies say, project teams can access the geometry of the model to tie workflow items, such as requests for information and other notes to the model through the cloud-based platform. Plus, users can search for information in models with the integration of visual context "linked directly to Newforma PIM data," Batcheler adds.

VEO’s Debut

Newforma CEO Ian Howell says project teams are interested in model-driven project delivery but suffer from the difficulty of managing all the project information, especially file formats, that contribute to those processes. This includes tracking different models, sharing them with other team members, coordinating models, and tying actionable items to spaces and elements in the model, he says.

That's one reason the companies decided to partner. They say VEO's use of cloud technology provides "scalable processing power and accessible-from-anywhere availability" to stream the model views necessary for PIM-BIM integration and model coordination across far-flung teams.

The deal is a kind of coming-out party for the secretive M-SIX. "After nearly [five] years in stealth," the company says in its joint press release with Newforma, "M-SIX will soon launch VEO, a unique integrated-platform approach that will change the way designers, contractors and owners leverage design." Beyond that, the firm is mum about its products and technology other than its website, which has a link to videos about VEO.

Some technology experts, however, are intrigued. David Light, an Autodesk Revit consultant who blogs about the topic, wrote recently that Newforma is a good tool for managing work in progress. But although it can manage digital BIM deliverables in many formats—including DWG, DXF and PDF—it is limited in its ability to view and manage project data. "VEO has viewing abilities and can aggregate data," he noted.

Hot Market Gets Hotter

The deal could turn up the heat on an already hot market for BIM-in-the-cloud tools that help project teams use models more effectively.

Autodesk, for example, is pushing headlong into cloud-based tools with its releases planned for 2013. The strategy is helped by the company's 2011 purchase of Horizontal Glue, which performs similar functions as VEO and is considered one of the more popular online platforms for sharing BIM documents in a web environment.

Autodesk also recently snapped up field-management provider Vela Systems, which offers BIM-in-the-cloud functionality. Meanwhile, Meridian Systems offers Prolog, which leverages the company's ability to manage project data in the field, and Bluebeam's latest Revu release offers cloud storage and collaboration improvements.

Newforma isn't sitting still, though. It just announced the purchase of Attolist, maker of collaboration software AEC-Sync, and has teamed with development group Tap Tapas to deliver more mobile apps to project teams.

Game on.

 

This is an updated version of the article that appeared in ENR's Aug. 27, 2012 print edition.

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