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Drawing up Net services for architects, engineers

Cubus, a two-year old Internet firm founded by former Autodesk employees, develops software which simplifies some of the time-consuming processes in the construction, engineering, and architecture worlds.

A new Internet service is literally bringing the bricks-and-mortar world online.

Cubus Corporation, a two-year old Internet firm founded by former Autodesk employees, has developed software which simplifies some of the time-consuming processes in the construction, engineering, and architecture worlds.

Basically, Cubus's ReviewIt applications allows architects and engineers to automate the process of creating blueprints and other project documents. Employees can mark up these documents online, track and review changes, as well as easily check who made the changes, according to Gwen Marker, marketing manager at Cubus.

Internet services targeting business users are poised to take off over the next several years, analysts say, because of the increased efficiency and economies of scale that the Web offers. In addition, the Internet allows an unlimited number of users all over the world to easily collaborate on the same project.

"We saw the globalization of large organizations as a business opportunity," said Marker. "We leverage the Internet to facilitate that collaboration online." Employees can simultaneously view and revise documents either via the Internet or through private networks. Cubus hosts all the information on secure servers.

In the past, projects which involved several construction firms and other organizations were facilitated through fax machines and overnight mail, which was both time-consuming and difficult to track. Using ReviewIt, managers can control access to important documents.

"When we first started, the most compelling thing [about the service] was the sharing feature," she said. "But now people are very interested in tracking--everything is recorded and saved. It answers any questions about 'on what day did something get approved.'"

The service is a time-saver for large construction projects such as those taking place in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympics. More than 20 architects, 40 contractors, and 15 construction firms are collaborating to revamp the city's downtown hotels, retail, and cultural areas. These firms are using ReviewIt to share and revise blueprints.

The online service is proving popular in a market which isn't typically thought of as technology-savvy, Marker says. "This is a finger-pointing industry, and construction people are always getting pointed at," she explained. "They appreciate the increased accountability compared to paper-based processes."

Cubus offers different pricing options for projects of various sizes, although anyone can download the client software for free. The company will also license out its servers to larger organizations who want to keep the information inhouse.