News

Google inspires new BIM app platform 'Jenca' from Bristol start-up

17 March 2016 | By Elaine Knutt

A Bristol-based start-up hopes that its new platform for BIM apps – now available in Beta at jenca.org – will mark the arrival of today’s modern web technology in the BIM world, offering industry professionals the user-friendly, intuitive interface associated with Google apps.

Users will be able to launch different BIM apps from within the cloud-based Jenca platform, in the same way as Google users can launch YouTube, Google Play or Gmail or other apps once they’re logged in to Google’s domain.

The free-to-use platform will host applications from third-party software vendors and independent software developers. Currently, users can access apps from Owncloud, Redmine, Rocketchat, Ghost, Flarum and others (see logos, right).

The platform is based on open-source code called Kubernetes, an equivalent of the “Borg” technology that Google uses to run its data centres.

According to Jenca, this means that the Jenca platform can run BIM applications at data centre scale, meaning it will be able to cope with the massive volumes of data that will be in use as the industry moves towards Level 3 BIM.

Co-founder John Egan, who previously ran a BIM consultancy called BIMscript, told BIM+ that the technology lowers the barrier to entry for construction businesses looking to access BIM and offers an alternative to bigger software vendors.

He said: “We’re applying this established technology to the construction industry to create an open application store for BIM. You take an IFC file into the Jenca cloud, and then feed the data through the apps [for various operations]. We’re giving app developers a platform to run their operations at the click of a button, and it gives users access to these applications at a fraction of the cost.”

He added: “We’re responding to the requirements of the Level 3 Digital Built Britain strategy – that’s what we’re aiming to satisfy.” 

Egan said that Jenca, as an open-source venture, would be run as a not-for-profit community interest company.

It grew out of a BIMscript consultancy project, where the firm developed a BIM Portal for civils contractor Volker Fitzpatrick, and realised that it needed to be populated with various apps.

Egan said: “We’ve seen the industry as it is today, with all the different vendors, and feel there’s a need for a common denominator platform based on modern technologies.

“Rather than putting a lot of time ourselves into app development, we have focused on delivering a stable platform where other people could deploy their apps.”

Egan's colleagues at Jenca are co-founder Connor Alexander and software developers Kai Davenport and Daniel Craig.

Jenca has received funding from business accelerator X-Innovate. The platform was discussed at the Hack_Construct event in Glasgow in February.