BIM, 3D Photospheres and AR R&D Project Update (2)

3D Photospheres
Altuity and the University of Bristol Democratizing BIM Project

In our previous post we described progress at the 3 month stage of our R&D project with the University of Bristol. This research project, which is co-funded by the UK Government Innovation Agency (Innovate UK), aims to democratise access to BIM within operations and maintenance by using 3D photorealistic environments and augmented reality.

Achieving this will provide the education sector (schools, MATs etc.) and the commercial sector with access to pragmatic, affordable and leading edge 3D technology to help maintain buildings, estates and assets which up until now has been unaffordable and/or required specialist skills.

Watch this short video (just over a minute long) to see the concepts explained below in action. It shows how you can:

  • capture 360º photospheres
  • calibrate the photospheres to floor plans within a browser (no CAD required)
  • mark up features of interest in the photosphere e.g. record a defect
  • access information in the office or on-site via augmented reality (AR)

After 6 months work we’re approaching the point where we’ll be making the software available to a limited number of early adopters for evaluation and feedback.

3D Photosphere project update
The R&D team reviews progress in Nov 2017

Capturing 3D Photospheres

Capturing a 3D photosphere is simple and cost effective which is why we’ve chosen to use this technology. However given that they’ll be used for asset and maintenance management purposes there’s a need for a best practice guide which we’ve now written. For example, there are two key areas to consider to get the most from the photospheres:

1. Distance and angle of the camera to the assets
Distance and camera angle are important considerations given the different sizes of assets that might need to be marked up in a photosphere. For example, there’s an optimum distance to visually recognise a fire alarm compared to a larger asset or feature such as a door or window.

Our testing showed that the optimal distance from asset to camera should be approximately 3m with an angle of 40º.

2. Room size and shape
The room size and shape determine how many photospheres are needed to get the required visual coverage of the space. A small rectangular or square shaped room will require fewer photospheres than a larger space such as a hall, gym or ‘L’ shaped space. With multiple photospheres in use they need to be linked together to facilitate virtual room walking as well as being able to virtually walk an entire building.

Calibrating Photospheres to 2D Floor Plans

While viewing and managing data related to assets or facilities requests in the photosphere is very beneficial it does not entirely replace the need for a 2D view in order to see it on, for example, a floor plan. Calibration is therefore required to integrate 3D photospheres to 2D floor plans.

The calibration process involves identifying the camera position on the 2D plan and then matching room features with the plan such as the room corners. Once the calibration has been completed markers can be positioned on the 2D plan and they appear in the right location in the 3D photosphere or alternatively added to the photosphere and then they’ll appear on the 2D plan.

Calibrating 3D photospheres and 2D floor plans
Calibrating 3D photospheres and 2D floor plans to provide a 3D and 2D immersive experience
Visual data management using photospheres
Visual data management using photospheres

The calibration process has been built into the software to make it quick and easy so that users can undertake this process themselves.

 

Photospheres and floor plans
Photospheres located on floor plan

 

Once calibrated data can be managed from both the floor plan and photosphere environments.

 

Delivering a Reliable Augmented Reality Experience

A reliable AR experience (AR) is essential in an operational environment. Although AR technology is advancing at a rapid pace we looked at what was required from the user perspective rather than purely from a technological one

This led us towards adopting a meta-AR approach. This involves using the photospheres on a mobile device with the photospheres automatically aligning themselves. We are then able to reliably overlay data onto the photosphere on-site rather than augmenting it via the camera view. The synchronisation of the photosphere and device is so good that it is often indistinguishable from the camera view as illustrated below.

Using meta-AR provides a better and more reliable user experience
Using meta-AR provides a better and more reliable user experience

Photospheres, Stakeholders and Income Generation

During our discussions with business managers and facilities teams they’ve identified that as well as using the photospheres for operational asset and maintenance purposes they’re much better than photographs in providing stakeholders with an interactive visual perspective of a room or space. Typical uses would be:

 At school governor meetings to better visualise and provide a virtual experience of the condition of school buildings needing refurbishment or replacing;
 To show new or refurbished facilities to help promote a school to prospective parents;
 To promote a school’s facilities for use by external organisations to help generate income.

They’ll be another final(!) update on the completion of the project in a couple of months’ time. At this point this functionality will be available in AltoSites.

Please check back regularly; complete the sign up form or use the contact us form to receive notifications of updates or to express interest in participating in our early adopter feedback programme. This gives you an opportunity to test and evaluate the technology for free in exchange for providing feedback and suggestions.

BIM, 3D Photospheres and AR R&D Project Update

In our previous post we announced the kick off of our R&D project with the University of Bristol. This research project, which is co-funded by the UK Government Innovation Agency (InnovateUK), aims to democratise access to BIM within operations and maintenance by using 3D photorealistic environments and augmented reality.

Achieving this will provide the education sector (schools and MATs etc.) and the commercial sector with access to pragmatic, affordable and leading edge technology to help maintain buildings and assets.

This post describes our progress so far with 5 months still to run.

Capturing 3D Photospheres

Our first activity was to visit several schools to collect a range of photospheres from rooms and spaces of differing sizes, shapes and lighting conditions.  We also gathered excellent ideas and feedback from school business managers on how the project could be used to assist with managing and maintaining school buildings and assets.

Collecting Photospheres
Fig 1 Collecting photospheres at The King’s School

From this work we’ve been able to assess the optimum number of photospheres needed in order to provide proper fields of view for an entire room which might not be a simple square or rectangular shape and also in many instances will have furniture or equipment obscuring the field of vision.

Importantly this process has also shown how quick, easy and cost-effective it is to collect the photospheres using a 3D camera with a connected smartphone. This is essential as we want our users to have the capability to do this work themselves without having to use external resources although this is a future service we’ll be providing for those that want it.

We’ve also shown that multiple, inter-connected photospheres will be required so that a user can fully explore a class room or office by virtually walking through it whether that’s a relatively small room or a larger space such as the assembly hall in figure 2.

Photosphere
Fig 2 Churchill Academy Assembly Hall photosphere

This is particularly important in order to provide the right level of coverage to ensure it’s possible to zoom into a feature or asset anywhere in the room e.g. a fire alarm or lighting switch.

This work also showed the need to assess the ability to read augmented reality markers in a room based on size, angle and distance from the smartphone’s camera. The results of these tests are currently being evaluated.

Integrating Photospheres and 2D Floor and Site Plans

Photospheres have been integrated into 2D plans within AltoSites. This means users can collect the photospheres and position them on a floor or site plan.

 

Photosphere marker integrated into a 2D floor plan
Fig 3 Photosphere marker integrated into a 2D floor plan

The extract below shows the ease of displaying a photosphere linked to a 2D plan.

With this integration in place we are now assessing how assets and maintenance/service request details located on the 2D plan can be augmented onto the photosphere for that room or space.

Stakeholder Engagement – Early project win!

During our discussions with business managers they’ve identified that as well as using the photospheres for operational asset and maintenance purposes they’re much better than photographs to provide stakeholders with an interactive visual perspective of a room or space.  Typical uses would be:

  • At school governor meetings to better visualise and provide a virtual experience of the condition of school buildings needing refurbishment or replacing.
  • To show new or refurbished facilities to help promote a school to prospective parents;
  • To promote the school’s facilities for use by external organisations to help generate income.

Given the interest in this we’re launching a service to provide:

  1. the capability for a school or organisation to take photospheres themselves (or we can do this as a service) and
  2. software which you can integrate into your website to display the photospheres

For more information on this new service please contact us.

If you’d like to receive notification of further project updates please register via the ‘Subscribe for email updates’ window, or provide your contact  details or simply check back in a couple of months’ time!

Democratising BIM through light weight on-site imaging

BIM, photospheres and augmented reality
Current 2D plan and map functionality extended to BIM, AR and photo-realism

In a previous post I described how we undertook a joint research project with the University of Bristol (UoB) to assess how various technologies, including Google Tango™, can help the education sector manage and maintain assets, buildings and estates. This has now led to a nine month R&D project with the UoB, co-funded by the UK Government Innovation Agency (InnovateUK).

This post is the first in a series of bi-monthly updates on our progress.

Why are we doing this R&D?

Currently the vast majority of education and smaller organisations managing buildings and assets do not use Building Information Modelling (BIM) in their day-to-day operations.  There are various reasons for this such as:

  • The need for specialised and expensive hardware/software, skills, expertise and software.
  • BIM data simply isn’t available because of the age of the buildings being maintained.
  • The complexity involved is off-putting to many.
  • Current BIM processes tend to be focused on design whereas our users’ interests are in the maintenance of assets and buildings.

This is why our strategy of ‘Bringing Simplicity from Complexity’ and applying this to asset and maintenance management is key to wider adoption. We achieve this simplicity by using a highly visual approach. For example, AltoSites our asset and maintenance software, uses maps and floor and site plans.

A class room showing augmented maintenance data
Prototype illustrating how augmented data can be overlaid onto a real world class room.

This project extends our existing mobile capability by offering users a more immersive experience – one that allows them to easily see and record data as illustrated to the left.

 

The Technology (Mobile, 3D Environments and Augmented Reality)

Using 2D plans, photospheres and augmented markers.
Using 2D plans, photospheres and augmented markers.

This R&D will bring a disruptive step change to mobile data collection and will also encourage wider adoption of BIM. Harnessing various technologies, combined with new software tools which are easy to use and affordable, will encourage widespread use within an organisation – the democratisation effect referred to in our project’s title. For example, this will help a building’s site maintenance staff and other stakeholders such as teaching staff in a school or university record and access information.

Our ambition is to leap frog existing state-of-the art mobile apps by providing suitably accurate onsite data capture and information access through the creation of interactive user environments that combine visually-realistic onsite imaging and BIM, asset and maintenance information. Innovations in augmented reality and mobile device innovations, such as the capture and display of 3D environments, allow us to explore how users can easily access and interact with combined digital and physical information.

What will it mean to you?

If you’re inspecting assets and buildings and need to record data and access information across the estate it’ll make your work easier. Augmented reality provides enhanced visualisation combined with locational context meaning you get to focus on the data that’s relevant to your position and you can also access other information e.g. from BIM, plans or internal reports.

This new software solution will lead to a step change in productivity. There will be improvements in operational efficiency such as staff utilization and productivity. No manual data collection nor re-keying of data will be required reducing inaccuracies, data redundancy and saving time. Better maintenance planning and works will lead to more productive and safer, fit-for-purpose workplace.

This R&D will also ensure that the solution is uniquely capable of being adopted by non-specialists. This means building users as well as site maintenance staff can use it. For example, school administration and teaching staff could report maintenance issues or make service requests. Putting this capability in the hands of front line staff improves overall quality and responsiveness and is consistent with the “uberisation” trend seen in many industries.

Want to participate or find out more?

We’re very interested in hearing from schools, colleges, universities and private sector organisations who’d like to participate in a short beta programme in October/November, 2017.  No technical experience necessary – simply an open mind and a willingness to provide feedback. To find out more contact us.

If you’d like to receive notification of further project updates please register via the ‘Subscribe for email updates’ window, or provide your contact  details or simply check back in a couple of months’ time!

Spreadsheet assets and reusing site and floor plans

Many asset and maintenance managers have physical and intangible asset information in spreadsheets as illustrated below. This can provide a simple and effective way to manage this information but doesn’t intuitively help with locational context.  The blurring used to hide the data below is also a metaphor for how difficult it is to understand data in this purely textual form.

What if you could take this spreadsheet data and simply and easily manage it in a more visual and intuitive way on site and floor plans?

With increasing amounts of data to manage visualisation creates a picture of your assets helping you immediately and visually see what assets you have; where they’re located and, where relevant their status. These benefits apply to physical and intangible assets. This valuable insight improves day-to-day administration and helps with prioritisation and reporting.

To help users with spreadsheets we’ve enhanced the bulk data loading ability of AltoSites and AltoSUE to provide a number of new features:-

  • Automatically locate data on site and floor plans e.g. by room or asset identifier;
  • Automatically cluster data on plans e.g. where there is a lot of data for a room automatically cluster it for convenience and clarity;
  • Automatically cluster data in defined map locations such as estates, grounds and construction sites;
  • Automatically cluster data in locations defined by a user including by user-definable attribute information e.g. cluster all documents of a particular type together such as separating leases from insurances or by user-definable labels which do not exist in plans.

In addition, as an added feature users can assign their own icons to these clusters so that they can see the data presented in a way which is meaningful to them e.g. a document icon could represent a cluster of documents or a car icon could represent a cluster consisting of vehicle leases.

Example: Floor Plan with room based clusters

In the screen shot below asset data was loaded from a spreadsheet and automatically located to the correct room. The screen shot shows how it’s possible to click on a cluster to ‘explode’ it into its individual records. A user can then click on one of these records to see its information. In this example, the exploded icon contains documents and a filing cabinet style icon is used to denote this. A user can therefore immediately see what type of data this is before even accessing the record.

Spreadsheet assets located on a floor plan
Spreadsheet assets located on a floor plan

Example: Multiple types of records

In this example we can see how different types of data are easily categorised. At the top two markers represent gas connection points; a blue marker in the middle represents a water supply and the two red markers are outstanding defects (one for a window and one for a door).

Floor plan with point assets and a cluster

 

In the middle there is a cluster of four records and the user has chosen to use a customised green icon to represent the cluster rather than the circular icons used in the previous example.

 

 

Floor plan with point assets and an exploded cluster
Floor plan with point assets and an exploded cluster.

 

The screen shot to the right shows this cluster exploded.

The cluster in this example contains compliance documents.

 

 

Example: Clusters and Maps

Clusters can also be used on maps (icons representing single physical or intangible assets can also be used as shown below). This means it’s possible to locate information about features outside of buildings in their proper place. In the example below a cluster of 8 records are positioned in the estate. This could equally be a section of highway or construction site.

Cluster of assets on a map
Cluster of assets on a map

Using these features it becomes easier to understand, find and update data. Separate reporting and analytical capabilities provide further benefits.

To discover how easy it is for you to move into a visual approach to managing your spreadsheet data contact us for an informal discussion.

Maintenance and Multi-Academy Trusts

Multi-Academy Trust Collaboration
Multi-Academy Trust Collaboration

This week’s announcement that all schools in England will either have to convert to Academy status by 2020 or be committed to converting by 2022 has put academies into the spotlight again. Schools currently under local authority control potentially face increased costs as economies of scale available via the authority disappear.

6 out of 10 academies are forecasted to be running a deficit in the next two years placing continual pressures and challenges on school leaders and managers to maximise efficiency and cost savings. Collaborative working has a valuable role in meeting these challenges. Collaboration takes many forms such as Multi-Academy Trusts, federations, clusters or simply an informal working arrangement between schools. This blog for convenience refers to multi-academy trusts although the principles apply to any grouping of schools / academies.

Collaboration provides:

  • Opportunities to get access to services on a shared cost basis enabling schools to take advantage of services previously inaccessible or too expensive to utilise.
  • Income streams to schools offering these services. Typically, these are shared teaching, financial or administrative services.

Saving costs in Asset and Maintenance management

Asset and maintenance management collaboration offers several benefits:

  • Potential cost savings by pooling capital works through larger contracts.
  • Simpler project management and less costs by working with one contractor rather than several across a network of schools.
  • Co-ordinating routine maintenance activities. For example, identifying that several schools require re-painting or refurbishment offers the opportunity to co-ordinate work into higher value contracts. This may secure larger discounts than can be achieved individually.
  • Prioritisation of resources based on need e.g. assessing capital maintenance funding needs and the later allocation of these funds within a multi-academy trust or cluster.

A holistic view of a multi-academy trust’s asset and maintenance requirements is essential to support the above.

Delivering holistic multi-academy maintenance

Bursars and school business managers need to co-ordinate asset and maintenance management requirements.

One approach is to introduce a single maintenance system across the multi-academy trust. However, this may not be appropriate if systems are already in place given the investment a school or academy will have spent already.

An alternative is to integrate disparate

Federated multi-academy maintenance data
Figure 1: Federated multi-academy maintenance data

asset and maintenance data from these systems. This federated approach enables individual schools to continue to use their preferred systems while benefiting by pooling certain data.

 

 

Either approach ideally requires a system which can:

  1. Offer a maintenance capability on its own merits for those academies that wish to use it; and / or
  2. Collate data from other systems to act as a central analytics and reporting portal.

Systems such as Altuity’s AltoSites™ include their own maintenance capability and uses REST API’s to provide connectivity to other systems. Summary information such as planned capital works programmes and maintenance activities could then be shared. Pooled data could also be used for Key Performance Indicators highlighting different issues that maybe facing a MAT’s academies.

Information can be compared very easily using analytics and dashboards. Two example reports are illustrated below.

Comparing Maintenance data in a multi-academy trust
Figure 2: Comparing Maintenance data in a multi-academy trust
Figure 3: Comparing total estimated repair costs in a multi-academy trust

Conclusion

The benefits of collaborative working extend into asset and maintenance management processes. This is achievable via a single cross-academy maintenance solution in a multi-academy trust, federation or cluster or alternatively via a federated approach. This delivers a holistic view of the group’s needs and priorities.

Such capabilities are essential given the ever increasing financial challenges within the education sector.

This blog is an extract from our eBook – click the title to download it – ‘Reducing School Capital and Maintenance Costs

To assess how your multi-academy trust, federation or cluster can benefit in terms of collaborative asset and maintenance management please contact us.

Watchers and Alerts: renewals, assets and maintenance defects

Software applications need to offer proactive management tools to enable users to cope with ever-increasing data volumes. Effective measures are needed to minimise the financial and non-financial costs of missing important events such as renewals or critical data changes.

Integrating proactive alert functionality, such as email, into an application is a key aspect of improving data management. These days this isn’t rocket science so we decided to make sure that our email integration provides more than a simple reminder service.

Maintenance triggers and alerts
Maintenance triggers and alerts

Key Deliverables

  • Monitor expiration dates – such as renewals for insurances, leases, certificates or vehicle taxes.
  • Provide alerts when other users create, update or relocate specific records to a new position. For example, when defects of a particular priority are created or assets of a particular type are installed.
  • User customisable trigger events including when alerts are triggered.
  • User customisable email content.
  • Enable records to be automatically updated by triggers, such as, setting a date or changing a record’s status.
  • Create chained events so that trigger events can in turn trigger later ones.

How does it work ?

  1. User definable query filters search for records of interest based on any attributes. For example, all records created after a particular date, or all records of a particular type, such as vehicle leases, due to expire in the next 60 days; amounts, priorities or any other attribute data whether it be for documents (contracts, leases, insurances, certificates etc), assets or maintenance defects.
  2. Geo-location can also be used in searches. This allows the search to be restricted to particular areas of a site or building allowing the software to let users know when data in specific areas triggers an event. For example, this allows the installation of new assets to be automatically tracked improving performance monitoring.
  3. Watchers are then created which automatically apply the filters. Watchers allow the user to:-
    • Define the events a user Is interested in tracking such as creating, updating and changing the location of a record or simply check for expiring dates and renewals.
    • Define the frequency with which the software should check for events.
    • Enable users to define their own customisable email messages adding to the information in the email the software generates.
    • Send the email to one or more recipients.
    • Watchers can undertake a number of optional tasks:-
    • Perform updates as an event is triggered. For example update a date field to show when a reminder was sent or automatically change the status of a record;
    • Create an event as a result of a previous event being triggered. This powerful process creates chains of events or actions;
    • Create activities – maintenance defects can automatically trigger an activities action for a contractor.

These features enable a comprehensive set of data events to be watched for and acted upon. Users responsible for their own site or facilities data are better empowered. Service providers managing their clients’ data, such as maintenance organisations, can automatically deliver added value communications enhancing their customer service.

Positional Intelligence for Underground Assets

One of the challenges in subsurface utility engineering (SUE) is a lack of reliable positional intelligence about underground assets. Where are they, and once located, what information do we have about them. Better positional intelligence leads to safer and more effective working practises which in turn improve the bottom line.

“Daylighting”, defined in CI/ASCE 38-02, is the highest level of accuracy, providing information on the vertical and horizontal positions of underground utilities and attributes such as type, size, condition and material.

Tagging underground utilities
Tagging underground utilities

Daylighting is an apt term as it implies bringing greater clarity to underground asset data.  While we cannot physically raise assets above ground to bring them into the daylight we can take steps to ensure data is visible, accessible and current thus improving the positional intelligence available to us.

A life cycle approach to improving positional intelligence requires data from site plans and surveys (e.g. from CAD), on site (as built / as maintained) data, asset and maintenance management systems and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). A key dependency is asset location.

Locating Underground Assets

Missing or inaccurate location records result in issues such as increased service strikes; heightened risks to health and safety and increased works costs. The location of underground assets can be recorded using a single method or several to reflect the degree of accuracy required; level of risk; budget and time available. For example:-

  1. Passive Remote Frequency Identification (RFiD ) – with or without GPS
  2. GPS
  3. Geo-tagged photographs
  4. Engineering survey methods such as GPR.
  5. Textual descriptions including attributes facilitating integration into other systems e.g. datum and node points and section details along a pipe.

PAS 128 “Specification for underground utility detection verification and location” references the potential use of RFiD for tagging underground assets. RFiD tags can cost effectively and accurately mark potential areas of failure such as joints or valves. Data associated with a tagged asset can be stored in the cloud. This is vital to ensure data is accessible; there’s little point in burying a tag and its vital asset information.

Accessibility is enhanced in an intuitive, visual context. For example, AltoSUE™ uses a geospatial cloud based database and maps and / or site survey plans provide locational context. Overlaying data on site plans is invaluable as the map detail may not be accurate nor up to date for construction use.  An output from a PAS128 survey will be a CAD plan of the utility services. Making these plans available on mobile devices overlaid with tagged asset data as well as the ability to use background maps enhances on site working.

Tagged underground asset portal
Tagged underground asset portal

Integrating on site and cloud based technologies improves the efficiency of data recording and sharing.  Collect using tablets or smartphones; upload to the cloud and make it available to on and offsite users immediately or with minimal delay.

Data Convergence

The positional intelligence of underground assets is enhanced by enabling other records to be easily accessible on and offsite such as:

  • project information
  • engineering records
  • health and safety
  • risk assessments
  • 3D data

3D models add value to the repository of underground asset data. However, treat these with caution as they often represent ‘as designed’ states; not the ‘as built’ nor later ‘as maintained’ states. The industry is still working towards practical and cost-effective solutions to the challenge of using 3D models with a variety of innovations under development and coming to the market. Keeping asset life cycle data current has always been a challenge and will become more so as Building Information Modelling (BIM) becomes widely adopted.

Conclusion

Better positional intelligence is fundamental to improving SUE. A holistic approach to managing underground assets requires a number of discrete but integrated processes:-

  • Identification of underground asset location via RFiD, geo-tagging etc
  • Capturing data on site
  • Managing and facilitating access to it on and off site
  • Supplementing on site data with other records e.g. site survey plans as well as maps and engineering data to aid with the quick and safe relocation of underground assets
  • Integrating SUE data into corporate systems for asset and maintenance management purposes

Daylighting our SUE data provides a safer working environment for on site workers; less disruption and more efficient and profitable works activities.

The themes in this blog are explored in more detail in our white paper – “Daylighting Underground Assets’ 

 

 

Better access to Facilities and Site Management Software

Facilities management (FM) professionals using manual processes or struggling with complex, functionally rich software need a new paradigm allowing easier access to software. Facilities and estate managers are responsible for a huge variety of estates varying in extent and complexity. Controlling the information associated with these estates is challenging.

Larger estates have more data to manage but typically have greater resources; smaller estates with less of a data management issue have fewer resources so that in relative terms the pressures are similar. For example, managing site records, infrastructure and asset data might be a part-time role as is common in the education sector.

To help manage the disparate needs of these sites a range of software solutions are available:-

  • Infrastructure site records management systems;
  • Maintenance and asset management systems;
  • Computer aided facilities management (CAFM) systems;
  • Document management systems;
  • Geographical Information Systems (GIS);
  • Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.

The above solutions tend to focus on medium to larger sized estates and provide substantial benefits from a management perspective. The required investment in consultancy, training, licensing and on-going support fees is worthwhile due to the complexity of these environments. However, site or facilities managers responsible for less extensive estates may find themselves disenfranchised from solutions. They will often tackle their site records management challenges using paper or manual processes or in-house systems based on e.g. Access® or Excel®.

A recent survey conducted by Facilities Management Journal (FMJ) and Causeway found that up to 65% of estates with 6-10 buildings use paper or manual processes to manage property data and even for those with 11-100 buildings just under 50% were managed manually (1).

The antithesis to this situation are those sites with the capacity to adopt solutions but find themselves with systems which are over complex. As the complexity of requirements increases so does the sophistication of the software as illustrated in figure 1.

Facilities Management Software Solutions
Fig 1: Facilities Management Software Solutions landscape.

Manual / paper based  – No systems in use.

Entry level – Some degree of software used to ease management typically through in-house means e.g.  Access®, Excel® etc

Med-Tier – Greater use of software whether more developed internal software or the use of commercial packages.

Enterprise Tier – Large estates, complex data management requirements within a complex IT environment necessitates the use of complex commercial packages.

For some estates this creates a dynamic where the software becomes too complex for their needs which results in functional redundancy as parts (or all !) of the software isn’t used. The worst case scenario is when the software drives the business and not vice versa. Processes and work flows become complicated by the software – not as a result of a business need. They become more complicated simply because they can.

However, a new paradigm encompassing several factors is now available to help site and facilities managers:-

  • innovative technology;
  • flexible design;
  • short and simple implementations;
  • using the cloud as a delivery mechanism, and
  • flexible commercial terms

This new paradigm reduces entry-level barriers to software adoption. Previously disenfranchised users now have the option to consider software solutions because the factors above have created a new solutions landscape. For example, those managers dependent upon manual and paper processes can now gain access to solutions scaled and fit for their purpose.

Equally, those with a need to manage sites on a temporary basis e.g. over several months on a construction site can now access software quickly and efficiently. Site records and the location of critical underground infrastructure, whether permanent or temporary, is sharable between client, contractors and sub-contractors.

Interestingly, managers also have a wider degree of choice. A choice which means they could even consider downsizing from an overly complex or expensive solution to one more appropriate to their requirements and without inherent lock-ins.

(1)     “Managing the state of the estate”, FMJ, Causeway, September, 2014