September 24, 2007
Mobile AEC Software for the Field
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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AECWeekly is a news magazine featuring important industry news profiles, a summary of recently published AEC product and company news, customer wins, and coming events. Brought to you by AECCafe.

AECWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Announcements, New Products, and Upcoming Events.

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Industry News

Mobile AEC Software for the Field

by Susan Smith

Vela Systems, a developer of mobile software that streamlines field administration for the AEC industry, focuses its attention on leveraging the unique capabilities of the Tablet PC. The brainchild of president and cofounder Josh Kanner and cofounder and COO, Adam Omansky, the company fuses Kanner’s background in enterprise software and software development and Omansky’s construction management background.

The idea for the company came while Omansky was working on a Four Seasons Hotel project in Budapest. He observed that it took three days from when he recorded information about work items and quality of the job to when that information actually reached subcontractors who could use the information.

“We wanted to use the capabilities of the Tablet PC and address some of the stumbling blocks that have kept mobile technologies from being effectively adopted in the construction industry,” said Kanner. Vela was developed as a result of research at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Fast forward two and a half years and Vela has recently completed a $6 million funding round, and are working on 200 projects from Las Vegas to Dubai. Recently, they brought in Tim Curran, a new CEO who most recently served as CEO of Eleven Technology, a leader in next generation handheld software applications for the consumer goods industry.

The software is designed so it can be used on a regular laptop or PC but has features that are well designed for use in the field. “You can replace your field notebook as well as your tube of drawings that you carry with you in the field,” Kanner pointed out. The field notebook is replaced by the specific modules that map to a specific work process, including everything from safety inspections to daily reports and punch list items and materials management.

Vela is a standalone software system, a hosted software service subscription model that can be purchased pre-installed on a Tablet PC or you can install it on your regular laptop. “You put in your user name and password and it talks to the server and you’re up and running, so the deployment model is really easy because it’s a software service subscription model. That said, we recognize, in the construction industry, there is excellent software already developed for construction management, design, scheduling, accounting, and document management.” Kanner said that Vela is not trying to replace existing software that offers these capabilities, but complement them
with their field software. Vela is actually an approved Primavera technology partner, and a Meridian Prolog partner.

What makes Vela Systems stand out? The following are a list of features:

-module approach with field notebook

-ease of use

-file synchronization technology

-Patent pending technologies like Vela Viewer

Vela has focused on how you can replace the field notebook/tube of drawings, and also addressed issues other mobile softwares have encountered when they’ve gone into the field. Their focused modules, each geared toward specific work processes, can be used right off the shelf.

File synchronization allows Vela to deliver plans, documents, specifications, even OSHA regulations in a safety module to the field, replacing the tube of drawings. Vela also has patent pending technology called Vela Viewer, which allows the use of the plans and documents in an interactive way in the field so you can bring up a document, floor plan, etc., and use what are called “Smart Pushpins” on the document, to create an almost Google Earth map of where all the problems are. You can use the Smart Pushpins to track all the information of a job, quality issues, RFIs, punchlist items, and they are all managed within Vela and also can be integrated with Prolog and go into
your construction management database.

There are two integration points for Vela:

1) Vela is tightly integrated with your email system so you can create a Vela Viewer map of issues, push a button and email it off to the relevant party so they can see a list of what needs to be done, but also where it needs to be done.

2) Interoperability with image files and PDFs. Vela built in to the Vela Viewer product a PDF rendering engine so you can bring up PDFs and mark them up without needing to have Acrobat on your computer.

Vela has some future plans which include materials tracking, where companies will be able to manage not just receipt but also where materials are on site. More future directions include Primavera integration in a Primavera schedule product so you can use Vela Systems to update your Primavera schedule in the field.

Also on the horizon is a new safety module. The safety module in Vela will include a checklist based on OSHA standards for managing safety on the job. The checklist allows both site superintendents and safety professionals to walk the job, notes safety issues and then within the software, relate them to the relevant OSHA specifications that go to that safety issue. Vela Systems includes all 8,686 CFR regulations.


Rick Hayden of Hafer Associates, P.C. has won a free commercial license of ArchiCAD 11 as the winner of the August round of the “BIM Experience Kit” competition.

“ArchiCAD’s Interactive Training guide is very user friendly and an excellent training resource. I was impressed with the content and in-depth way
Graphisoft constructed the lessons in each section,” said Rick Hayden, CAD manager of Hafer Associates, Evansville, Indiana. “I also looked at another BIM software and worked with the training that came with it, but found ArchiCAD’s interactive training to be far better.”

Intergraph Corp. has established the Intergraph Marine Services Center in Seoul, Korea, to provide consulting, support and technical resources for its growing marine customer base in the Asia-Pacific region. The company has also launched marine business units in Japan, China, Southeast Asia and Australia as part of this market emphasis.

Primavera Systems, Inc., announced that the Primavera 24th Annual Conference will take place Oct. 21-24, 2007, at the Walt Disney World Dolphin in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

The conference is an educational forum where attendees from a variety of industries can join peers from around the globe to collaborate and update their product knowledge. Attendees will learn the latest project, resource, program and portfolio management techniques, strategies and technologies to make their organizations more efficient, profitable and competitive.

New Products

Informative Graphics Corporation (IGC) announced the latest release of its popular Free DWG Viewer.

This no-cost viewer provides viewing for AutoCAD DWG, DWF, and DXF formats. It boasts a simple interface and runs on the Windows desktop or inside web browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox and Netscape. This release includes support for AutoCAD 2008, enhanced measurement capabilities, an updated user interface and support for the Windows Vista operating system.

Intergraph Corp. introduced SmartMarine(TM) 3D, its next-generation software that streamlines design processes, resulting in lower costs and faster delivery for the shipbuilding and offshore industries.

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.

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