18th Century Crowdsourcing and the AEC Industry

AEC professionals spend 30 – 60% of their time seeking, retrieving and organizing Building Product Information. Why not turn it into a solution that meets long-term needs?

In 1714 thousands of people were being killed in near-land shipwrecks, creating catastrophic human and financial stress for the British Board of Longitude.  They sought a way to accurately measure longitude (within 50 miles of shore). They launched a crowd-source campaign with an award of 20,000 British Pounds, which in 2015 USD, would equal around $7 million.

John Harrison – a woodworker turned clock-maker designed, built and demonstrated a series of machines, such as the complex device you see below.


His was one of many ideas submitted to solve the longitude problem. After a few iterations his device evolved into the Marine Pocket Clock which could be used to determine longitude based on accurate time keeping at sea.

Crowd-sourcing led to the invention and creation of the Marine Pocket Clock. Crowd-sourcing helped to solve what was considered an unsolvable problem.

Tell Time by the Sun

Flash forward to 1994: The advent of Wikipedia, crowdsourced by its very nature. You or I can add new content and edit the live content of this amazing source of information. Wikipedia is built on a free open source WIKI platform and various open source technologies.

At The Blue Book Network, we rely on a number of open source platforms. They help us manage, index, deliver, process and curate data for over a million AEC company listings as well as one hundred and twenty thousand commercial construction projects annually, with complete document sets which we privately deliver over 4,000,000 messages per month related to that stream of projects.

We depend heavily on Open Source to allow us to be innovative and agile as we deliver technology and information for the AEC industry. We also rely on and work closely with various Open Standards in order to contribute to the definition and implementation of information.

Open Standards

We deliver information-based solutions for building product manufacturers. These manufacturers use our services to help their stakeholders with estimating, value-engineering, product searching, pricing, and scheduling. The information we collect and organize helps the manufacturers’ sales and marketing, while supporting organizations which market, consult, configure, fulfill and monitor product performance.

Complete information organization helps manufacturers advertise their products, deliver technical data, and fulfill requests for clarification. Manufacturers can deliver submittals, shop-drawings, and operating manuals with ongoing diagnostic support information.

Our mission addresses the challenge of Building Product Information Distribution.

Building Product Info - Distribution

In my 20+ years in the AEC industry, nearly every manufacturer I’ve worked with struggles with this issue. They struggle to keep their Product Information sources up to date and available in a timely manner to their various audiences.

What if that information could be organized and structured as a Building Product Information Model, an information model that exists within a Building Product Information Service?

What if we could do this for all of the manufacturers in a profitable way, because there is a great economy of scale with repeatable big-data problems such as this?

Building Product Information Service

What if we could deliver the attributes, characteristics and product artifacts in tools, websites, and digital workflow?

These tools would support facet-based searches (like Amazon, for building products). There could be a web service that connects product attributes and performance requirements with estimating and take-off. Product information would be integrated with facility management workflows. BIM objects would stay light and lean by connecting with web-services that hold various attributes and performance information.

Such an offering would allow specific product data (including product usage) to be collected. This information could help the manufacturer to better understand when, where and how their products are accessed. They could convert this information into sales and marketing knowledge to improve their manufacturing business.

This “self-fulfilling” data-rich service would deliver a wide range of end-user benefits, such as Product Search, Comparison, and Integration into Design tools.

Reuse of BIM Info

From the AEC Practitioner’s point of view: these solutions would allow architects, contractors, engineers and Facility Managers to FIND and act on product information.

At The Blue Book Network, we work hard to create business relationships with Building Product Manufacturers.

There’s a new approach on the horizon for connecting with BPMs:

Crowdsourcing Applied

AEC professionals spend 30 – 60% of their time seeking, retrieving and organizing Building Product Information. They store this information for immediate use and sometimes organize it for future use. Why not turn it into a solution that meets long-term needs?

What if everyone spent just a few minutes adding product research to a Building Product Information solution? What if a very small group spent one day per week day adding, editing or confirming the settings, attributes, and performance data for manufacturer’s products?

What if you could do this in the context of your daily tasks as you search, spec and insert products?

What if your efforts contributed to a solution?

The result would be the most complete and accurate building product database, created with open standards, crowd-sourced and built by you.

Marc Goldman

Marc Goldman is the Director of Strategy and Product Management at The Blue Book Network. As an entrepreneur and proven leader Marc understands the potential power and frequent challenges of technologies in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industries. He is one of the leading experts in Building Information Modeling (BIM) and its impact on the processes and business of the building design and construction industry. With over two decades of delivering products and services for Building, Construction & Manufacturing, Marc has formed, hired, managed, mentored & inspired technical sales and development teams in large organizations and startup environments. Prior to committing to a career in Building Design Technologies, Marc studied Architecture and Civil Engineering at Tulane University. He lives in Littleton, Colorado with his wife Lynne (a veterinarian), his two kids, and way too many animals.

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