Last updated: 13 March 2023
Published on: 26 May 2020
6 MINS READ
By Kami Navarro
With an abundance of moving parts—both figuratively and literally—the building and construction industry is one of the largest in the world. Despite driving 13% of global GDP, the sector’s productivity has lagged far behind comparable industries like agriculture and manufacturing. Over the years, construction projects have become notorious for exceeding deadlines and budgets.
The industry’s stagnant productivity can partly be blamed on its reliance on paper-based approaches like blueprints and purchase orders. This complicates information sharing and the translation of data into actionable insights—wasting precious time in the process.
Singapore-based Novade, however, is hoping to finally bring the construction industry into the digital age.
Its eponymous app offers field management tools that automate the full breadth of construction activities. For construction companies struggling to digitise their workflows, Novade might just be the productivity hack they have long needed.
Laying the foundations
The company’s origins date back to 2014, shared Mr Denis Branthonne, Novade’s founder and CEO. “The goal was to develop and introduce mobile applications specifically designed to streamline site processes, facilitate collaboration and improve productivity.”
Though Novade’s goal is certainly admirable, it is also quite ambitious. While other industries like retail and finance have quickly embraced digitisation, the construction industry has historically been hesitant to adopt digital technologies.
But there’s a silver lining to the industry’s reticence to digitisation. After all, it means that the construction industry is ripe for disruption—should there be an organisation brave enough to rise to the challenge. Hence, in 2014, Novade dedicated most of the year to significant research and development.
Shortly after, they launched the first module in their application. The module focused on digitising residential project handovers, an activity that typically generates tons of paperwork during inspections. To the delight of Mr Branthonne and the rest of the Novade team, around half a million quality observations were conducted using their module within 18 months.
The tools to succeed
Today, Novade is a global company operating in 20 countries. From its humble origins in 2014, the Novade application now boasts a comprehensive portfolio of modules addressing the various needs of stakeholders in the construction industry. Essentially, Novade is a one-stop shop for the numerous processes involved in any construction project.
There are six core modules within the app: quality, safety, reports, maintenance, workforce and activity. In the quality module, for instance, defects can be lodged into the system during inspection. This can be done by taking a picture of the defect, annotating it and subsequently assigning repair work—all through the app. Meanwhile, the safety module enables the issuance of digital work permits for activities like heavy lifting and work at height as well as the management of safety records for both employees and equipment.
Analytics integrated into the app can give insight into common defective items, making preventive maintenance possible. Generated reports can also identify top-performing employees and suppliers in addition to revealing patterns and trends in common activities, helping improve efficiency. Even the automatic computation of payroll is built into the platform through the workforce module.
Incredibly, despite the amount of data generated in the app, everything is perfectly synchronised across all smart devices connected to the platform. In addition, Novade retains its functionality even without an Internet connection. Progress is simply saved while offline, and then re-synchronised to a secure cloud server upon reconnection. With such powerful features, it’s no wonder that Novade has since become a trusted platform by leading contractors, real estate developers and other operators around the world.
Building the future
As a testament of Novade’s capabilities, the company has been accredited by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) through the Accreditation@SGD initiative. To become accredited, the app’s claimed core functionalities were thoroughly assessed, as well as the company’s ability to deliver.
“Being accredited by IMDA was a major milestone for Novade,” said Mr Branthonne. “When large organisations select a software supplier, [the] financial strength of the company as well as the quality and reliability of the service delivered are always critical selection criteria. The Accreditation@SG Digital’s evaluation relies on rigorous financial and technical audits—it reassures prospects and clients.” The accreditation has also opened opportunities for the company, added Mr Branthonne, particularly with Singapore’s government agencies.
Novade has also been quick to innovate in response to the COVID-19 situation. To help safeguard the welfare of construction workers, they have launched new functionalities within the app in collaboration with Obayashi Singapore. These new features include the automated capture of daily body temperature and contact tracing for employees.
Just last April, Novade also closed a round of Series B funding from investors SIG and Vulcan Capital. According to Mr Branthonne, the company will use the funds to accelerate their expansion into markets like Europe, China and Japan as well as increase their investments in artificial intelligence (AI).
“We believe that AI will become pervasive in field operations in the medium and long-term,” said Mr Branthonne. “Leveraging on millions of records collected across sites, clients can optimise operations or identify potential issues ahead of time with machine learning algorithms.” This, he added, supports their mission to improve quality, productivity and safety through technology—something more important than ever in the current global context.
This feature is the first in a series of articles profiling accredited companies under IMDA’s Accreditation@SG Digital (Accreditation@SGD) programme. First launched in July 2014, Accreditation@SGD contributes to an innovative infocomm media ecosystem by accrediting promising Singapore-based tech product companies to establish their credentials, build business traction, and help them to grow and compete in the global market. The evaluation process provides an independent third party evaluation on the SGD-accredited companies’ claimed product core functionalities and ability to deliver.
As of February 2020, over S$430 million worth of project opportunities have been created for accredited companies. Close to 1,000 projects have also been awarded. For more information, please visit the Accreditation webpage: Accreditation