While attending Revizto’s London Field Day earlier this year, Martyn Day caught up with CEO, Arman Gukasyan, to discuss the company’s origins, development path and latest release

In the world of digital coordination and project information dissemination, Revizto has been pushing the boundaries since 2008. Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the company quotes that it has over 150,000 AEC users in 150 countries. After sixteen years of development, it’s still a private company and has a user-base that’s growing rapidly, including firms such as AECOM, BAM, Atkins, Grimshaw, BDP and Balfour Beatty.

The software has evolved from basic viewing and filtering to being an essential tech stack element. The Revizto cloud-based hub provides a highly performant single source of truth for 2D and 3D project data, together with issue tracking, VR, clash detection, and now a full-powered iPhone and tablet client.

Martyn Day: Revizto has appeared in AEC Magazine for some time, but I don’t think we have ever covered the origins of the company and where its technology came from. How did Revizto start?

Arman Gukasyan: Before I started the business, back in 2005, I was working for a Swiss company called Infomap. We were developing a 3D GIS system for the creation of city models, working with the city mayors. It was really innovative. We were creating 3D digital twins and had modelled New Delhi’s most populated area, covering about 20 square kilometres. We also recreated the whole of Dubai in 2005 and created the city’s addressing system, which was pretty cool.

Infomap doesn’t exist anymore – they were acquired. I was basically developing the business, which meant I was going in meetings with high level people, and realising the data they had was really in a very bad shape. I was asking ‘How do you do this design? How do you make decisions? How do you understand how to shape parts of the city. How do you know where to put infrastructure, or buildings, and manage collisions, clashing?’ And so on.

Revizto CEO, Arman Gukasyan
Revizto CEO, Arman Gukasyan

I was told architects provide some of this data, and in each city, each country had their own set of standards and had their own attitude towards development. This was the very beginning when I started to think ‘this is not a good situation because the buildings and cities are getting more complex. Without access to all the data, how are they going to make the right decisions for city planning?’

It was clear there was a problem with data. At the time it was CAD data, as BIM was really at the start of adoption. People were talking about BIM as being the future and specifically Revit. I started to experiment to see which technologies could handle the heavy 3D data without distorting it, and create a lightweight, interactive version, which could be used for communication and collaboration. It was pretty clear that gaming technologies were the way to go, because by that time we were getting some nice games which had expansive maps, and sometimes that included modelling parts of cities. These games were interactive and rendered well. I decided to use gaming technology for more serious matters.

I started the business in 2008 with angel investment and hired the first employee, a game developer. We were looking at the AEC industry from outside the box and aiming to apply disruptive technology to project coordination, collaboration, and project communication. The app needed to be uncomplicated and scalable.

Our experiments started with 2D AutoCAD data, and us creating 3ds Max models. At first, we created a service for small to medium-sized construction projects, delivering an EXE file which created an interactive way to explore designs. This created a huge clash between owners and architects, as the architects didn’t recognise their designs, as they had never seen all their data imported into one place before! It gave them a whole new context on the project.

As I was coming from the GIS world, while you don’t need the whole city, it’s good to get the surrounding area because that provides context. If you’re doing a luxury building, you need to know what your penthouse can view and what is the value of that view?

Martyn Day: Autodesk bought UK developer Navisworks in 2007. To some extent this was their BIM viewer for the masses. It sounds like rather than delivering an application you were more of a service at the time?

Arman Gukasyan: We were not really coming across Navisworks. We started the business in the US and then Western Europe. What happened is that we sold the concept of creating an exact copy, a virtual model for the Olympics, in Sochi (Russia) to the Olympic Committee in Switzerland.

It was the first ever Olympics where beforehand they had a digital twin of the whole Olympic village, with all the infrastructure – an exact copy. At the end of the project, Coca Cola were using the model to place their billboards to see if each viewing point plays well or not. The model also enabled the Olympics organisers to train 4,500 volunteers half a year before the Olympics, which had never been done before.

However, for this we were basically creating a custom-made solution for that project. It wasn’t a scalable business, but it was a very interesting experience for me!

In 2010/11 we also did a model for La Sagrera project in Barcelona, which is the high-speed train connecting Paris and Barcelona. After we modelled one of the stations, they saw that the platform was too narrow to handle rush hour capacities, as we even simulated the people.

These were two key projects that helped differentiate us but after this project, I stopped the service business which was a separate company, as I couldn’t have thousands of modellers creating the 3D models. It was just not scalable and I was not interested in creating a service business.

At the time, Revit and SketchUp were the main authoring tools, so we developed a Software as a Service for creators of those models. This involved writing plugins for Revit and SketchUp which ‘sucked out’ their model data, bringing it into Revizto, where it could be optimised so people could interactively explore their designs in a basic way.

Seeing that this was not enough, we then created an issue tracking component to sit on top of it. A lot of developers in our team were using Jira from Atlassian for project management, so we basically took that concept of issue tracking and adopted it for the AEC industry.

Our first major market was the USA, so our first sales hire was there, and then we came to UK/EU and then APAC region.

We launched Revizto at Autodesk University in 2012. We were a very different offering from what was on the market. Revizto’s focus is on ease of use. If you look at project teams in their total, how many people are technically competent to run Revit or Navisworks? How do firms communicate with subcontractors and trades on a project?

We find that owners love it [Revizto], as it gives transparency to project data and liberates information beyond the 3-5% that can use high-end CAD tools.

After the initial successful launch, we started to develop the issue tracker more, bringing 2D and 3D together – because, even today, 2D is still a big part of the process, they’re the essential contractual documents.

Forget about iPads, tablets. Go for the device in every person’s hand. Our customers asked for phone because everybody has it already in their pocket. And this is what’s going to give us more access and more productivity

In 2015 we brought in automatic overlay with a 3D [model], which proved really popular, and we started to be trusted by bigger firms and used on bigger projects. By this time the real BIM industry traction was with Revit but we realised that we had to maintain being platform agnostic and support Bentley, Nemetschek, Trimble, Allplan, so we developed integrations for all the platforms.

Every market vertical has different prime tools — civil, oil and gas, architecture etc. We don’t care what you create your data in, you can bring it into Revizto.

In 2017/18 we added support for point clouds, as firms increasingly started to check the reality against the BIM data. We were the first ones to crack the code to get point clouds on phones and tablets. Our customers can load huge point clouds without any problem, and this is achieved without using streaming – caching locally, automatically.

When you’re using a streaming-base solution, you’re very dependent on your bandwidth, you’re dependent on where you are when you open your project. In Revizto, once you open a project, it’s cached on your local machine or mobile device.

Martyn Day: In all Common Data Environments (CDEs) and model viewers, clash detection is always high on the end user wish list. Last year you released a major update with a very good, mature clash detection capability. This caused some issues with Autodesk who refused you a stand at Autodesk University. With Spacemaker and Navisworks, you were suddenly deemed perhaps too competitive?

Arman Gukasyan: We were asked for years to develop clash detection and it took from 2018 to 2021 before we released our clash detection capability. We were carefully watching the market and wondering whether Navisworks or Solibri were going to be further developed in this direction or not, and we were seeing not. Our customers were asking us because they felt they don’t have a clash tool which was actively being developed and is part of one integrated collaboration platform.

Martyn Day: Autodesk really confused the Navisworks product, moving some functionality to the cloud and leaving some on the desktop, which meant your data needed to be in two places, depending on what functions you wanted to do. I’ve come across users who had been told that Navisworks was end of life.

Arman Gukasyan: It was a big mess. In 2019 we started to create a new format, preparing for clash detection, enabling a new capability called search sets. We cracked it from a different point of view. We didn’t go and copy Navisworks or Solibri, we started by talking to the users.

We have a brilliant implementation team of professionals hired from the industry, from all verticals, who came to our company. They ask customers to show us their problems and we’ll come up with the solution. In this case, our clash detection is uniquely collaborative. You can be in one office, I can be in another office, without sending a physical NWC or NWF file to you. Because of Revizto’s cloud architecture, if we are both in Revizto and in clash detection, you can see on which clash tests I am working on, and you cannot touch them because I’m still working. Once I’ve finished it, you can see that I’ve finished and you can see what I did, all in real time.

Clash detection is not about creating millions of clashes and stuffing them into an issue tracker. Clash detection is how can I create a clash free model, and then feed only the real clashes into the issue tracker. With other solutions, if you open up your mailbox, you have the 1,000 or 2,000 unread messages, you will never get to the bottom of. We [only] want to feed in the relevant issues.

Martyn Day: While clash detection is highly asked for and highly valuable to protect against causing millions of dollars of errors on site, the number of people that do clash detection seem to be a loud minority?

Arman Gukasyan: Clash detection is integrated into one platform. It’s not just clash detection, it’s not just search sets, it’s the overall collaborative solution that covers everyone from the beginning up until the end.

If you start to cut off features and fragment, you start to limit the capabilities for people. If we had an authoring tool, and a collaboration tool, a cost estimation tool, like Autodesk, we would end up with so many tools. We are concentrated on creating and delivering a single product with integrated pricing. We understand the industry, very well, from early design or schematic design up until the end of the construction, even now tapping into facilities management and Revizto is the product.

Digital twin, facilities management, AR are all interesting markets to us. One of the things we will be working on a lot within the coming year is drastic improvements to our 2D capabilities

Martyn Day: Moving on to the iPhone version, how much data can you hold on it? Can it be used on an iPad? Is there a memory limitation on your app or the generation of iPhone that you can open?

Arman Gukasyan: It depends on what project you’re opening, of course, which would start at the size of model. We don’t have a specific limitation. We’re testing right now a ton on the iPhone and Android. Android is less powerful simply because the operating system sucks a lot of the available RAM. But if we take iPhone, we really are pushing the limits all the time. That’s why we have created a brand-new app to have it all optimised. It’s not streaming the data, it’s loading highly optimised data and can open models that Navisworks and other desktop apps can’t.

We’re turning parametric models into triangles which are optimised, and we cut off anything which we do not need, like textures. The most important thing is that it only renders whatever you see (called occlusion culling). When it opens, it asks you what data you want – only the cached data, old updates, if you want to see a particular pipe. It can load files which contain hundreds of models, thousands of sheets, even point clouds.

Martyn Day: There are an increasing number of iPads / tablets on building sites. Why the bias to phones?

Arman Gukasyan: Forget about iPads, tablets. Go for the device in every person’s hand. Our customers asked for phone because everybody has it already in their pocket. And this is what’s going to give us more access and more productivity.

Martyn Day: So, what capabilities are missing from it?

Arman Gukasyan: You don’t need to do clash detection on a phone, Yes, you need to see the results. In the issue tracker you can see all the clashes that have been highlighted.

Martyn Day: With clash detection and now the mobile app rewritten, which areas are you looking to develop next?

Arman Gukasyan: We’re already covering from design up until the end of the construction phase, and a little bit of FM [Facilities Management]. We don’t want to create or copy anything that already exists, we always obey that design philosophy.

We will always come to the market with our own twist and product. We have made it very easy to access your data, invoke collaboration, anywhere. Digital twin, facilities management, AR are all interesting markets to us. One of the things we will be working on a lot within the coming year is drastic improvements to our 2D capabilities.

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Source: AEC