Because you house is worth caring about.

The Chimni Blog

To Build Unicorns, We Should First Build Lions.

This blog by Chimni founder Nigel Walley argues that the Irish and UK tech sector should pioneer a new kind of start-up company structure. Aimed at letting start-ups reach for scale quickly, a joint approach could be rolled out to willing participant markets across Europe.


If you start a tech company in the US, your immediate home market is 120 million households or 320 million people. These customers are all linked by a single language, a single currency and a single media landscape. With a single web site and a single registered company, a US tech start-up has access to a massive domestic ‘launch’ market. This is why, by the time we meet them, US tech start-ups are already huge beasts.

US companies also benefit from having an immediate ‘second market’ next door in Canada, with another 12 million households containing 45 million potential customers speaking the same language and sharing a similar and interconnected media culture. Their access into Canada is facilitated by a raft of inter-government initiatives designed to ease cross-border trade. 

UK and European tech start ups often feel like minnows in this context. The dream of the European single market initiative was to create the circumstances that would give European companies access to a market of a similar scale. However, the failure to implement the various Services Directives in European trade agreements means that this is still a pipe dream. Services account for 71 per cent of EU GDP, but only 3.2 per cent of this is from intra-EU trade.  For tech start-ups this is a significant problem but we think there is an opportunity for the UK and Irish tech community to cut through this.


The Problem and the Solution

Chimni's launch intention was always to focus on Anglo-Irish residential property sector.  We launched initially in the UK but moved rapidly to set up a base in Dublin.  To secure the Irish URL and to trade, we had to set up a separate Irish company, with a separate corporate listing and a separate Irish bank account. Our small tech-start up, that has barely started trading, has had to occur the time and fees cost to submit two separate sets of annual accounts to two separate tax authorities. We now have separate registered offices, and required local directors for each company. All this to add another 1.5 million potential households for a start up that is just experimenting with its first launch product.

For Irish property tech start-ups the problem is the same but with more to lose.  With free access to the UK, the 25M British homes and 65M consumers can ad 'heft' to the 'weave' of Irish innovation. Meaning they can exploit British consumers as an extended home market, to gain traction before tacking Europe and the coveted US. We should be making this as easy as possible for Irish tech start ups.

The long term aim for Europe is for single companies, to work in single regulatory / financial context. With or without the UK in the EU, this currently feels like a pipe dream.  But rather than waiting for the larger European issues to be solved, the Irish and UK government should sponsor a new kind of corporate entity, specifically aimed at the tech start-up market, that can immediately operate across borders in Europe. We are proposing this new entity could be an SME version of the UK's Tech Nation Visa scheme which targets individual talent.   This would have a unique trading status to be agreed by inter-government agreement, that allows a single company to operate in multiple territories without needing to re-incorporate, or establish local offices for tax purposes. This structure would only be available at start-up and for companies who are the 's' in SME.

A new company could elect to adopt this format at incorporation, and do this through a new, separate shared web infrastructure, built once but shared by all participating countries. A company operating with this proposed status should be given the unique right to buy all relevant country URLs from a single supplier, without needing any further incorporations or trading presence in each participating country. They should be able to choose a ‘prime territory’ to list in, whose regulatory infrastructure will have pre-eminence on their operations. But their financial reporting and tax payments channeled through a new, separate web infrastructure, built once but shared by all countries. The tax rate applied could be an average all the tax rates applicable in the trading countries, with tax revenues apportioned on a pro-rata basis.

We propose that PAYE for all employees would also be paid into the same, floating structure with employees able to relocate in either territory quickly and easily without re-listing for tax purposes. Management of the concept could be on a devolved competence basis, similar to Interpol, with a central directorate staffed by dedicated employees, but with support from local country experts as required. Participant companies could also be eligible for a Tech Visa scheme to move staff between participating countries.

How To Implement

This is clearly a complex concept to negotiate on a 27 country basis. But tech companies are meant to be arrogantly disruptive.  This normally means disrupting markets, but it could also be with regards to ignoring treaties.  So we are proposing that we start with a two-country attempt with the UK and Ireland pioneering the relationship – under the auspices of the British and Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIC), to keep it out of the quagmire of the wider Brexit debate . The UK and Ireland are already close trading partners in a large number of areas, we share a language and an interconnected media market; and we already exchange people and skills between our major cities. Most importantly we have a set of unique inter-governmental relationships like the BIC within which to negotiate and then trial the concept. Currently Brexit seems to be pulling the UK and Ireland further apart.  Disruptive tech companies could cut that.

Once we have it operating with two countries, we can roll it out on a country by country basis across Europe, inviting other states, EU or otherwise, to join the process.  This could start with Estonia, a fellow European member of the Digital 5 group of countries committed to using digital technology to revolutionise government. Next, adjacent countries with similar history of cross-border co-operation, such as the Scandinavian countries, could be the next triallists invited to join.  Countries with similar corporate trading cultures like Holland or Denmark could be the fast followers into the system. The tech industries should fight to keep this arrangement out of any of the other, existing trading blocs or arrangements.

British and Irish tech-ups should be in the vanguard of a new pan-European market of 800 million customers - across all countries of Europe beyond just the EU.  The UK and Irish Governments can make this happen by pioneering the concept and set a new generation of huge tech start ups free to trade across Europe. Let Silicon Valley keep its Unicorns, the British & Irish should be building ‘Lions’.

Nigel Walley @ChimniWalley


This blog has been verified by Rise: R3e182c7cc5ba22627826714268f180ac
Housing Needs Level 3 to Succeed In The BIM Revolution


Lizzie Newman - In 2015 Chimni were part of  the founding group of companies of the BIM4Housing working party.  That year we held workshops and meetings with a wide variety of players in the new housing industry to evaluate the challenges we faced.  The overall finding was that the house building community is having numerous difficulties with the adoption of BIM. 

In our final report, we broke down the challenges house builders faced in each of the key development phases: concept design, detail design, and construction. Each posed problems, particularly for small and medium size builders.

However, the biggest challenge we flagged up was in the fourth phase – operations and maintenance. House builders told us that there is currently almost no BIM user case at this stage in most housing developments and this therefore removed a significant push to adoption.

We made the case that in a small number of “structured” housing sectors, such as social housing, there are FM models emerging that can use BIM output. Many of the current commercial initiatives to integrate BIM output into FM models and software will eventually be applicable to residential apps targeted at the social or managed housing sectors.

However, the wider housing culture, and particularly the new “homebuild for sale” market has yet to address this potential source of benefits. 

The industry has to recognise the context is changing. The process of owning and managing new homes is increasingly being digitised. While only a small number of new homes are being built using BIM models full of useful, digital information, other aspects of home management are leaping ahead into the digital world. 

As the traditional “handover pack” is being digitised, homeowners are increasingly dealing with utilities and other service providers who are driving an online relationship. No one foresees a time when we will be handing BIM models over to new homeowners, but there may be ways that BIM data can be used to create new products and services that support the homeowner in this increasingly digital market.

This is consistent with the industry’s vision for the next iteration of the BIM revolution, BIM Level 3, or ”iBIM” as it is sometimes called. This will be the point where BIM adoption in housing leaps ahead.

The Chimni project is the first in the market to look at how to deliver useful consumer outcomes using BIM data. Our starting point is not the BIM model or its data. Our first focus is on consumer behaviour. We have looked at the needs and interests of the homeowner through the complete lifecycle of buying, maintaining, developing and then selling a home.

We then constructed a potential service vision around each of these stages, looking at how we could use data to revolutionise the way a homeowner managed their home. Only then did we ask the question: where can BIM data help us deliver this?

The challenge we are facing in BIM Level 2 is that the industry has yet to establish a culture of open and free flowing data sets necessary for the iBIM revolution to take place. It will come, but we are only in the first stages of establishing how data could and should be formatted, packaged, and distributed freely around the industry.

Beyond the new homes market, there is a strong argument to say that the retro-fit and refurbishment of existing homes will also benefit from the BIM revolution if we can get the services model correct.

The BIM object data now being created by manufacturers of products and systems used in retro-fit can also be brought into this new consumer-friendly iBIM world. Products like central heating, and home security, where significant amounts of user instruction data, maintenance scheduling and remote diagnostics data is will be created are perfect for this new world.

This data being created in this first generation of BIM objects is currently targeted at new build contractors, but it has huge potential if it evolves through BIM Level 3 to support consumer services and apps.

To get there, we need manufacturers of property tech and IoT devices to work closer with the industry bodies pushing the development of BIM in the housing industry. We need both industries to work together in the process of creating data formats configured to support consumer apps and services for retro-fit equipment.

This is not futurology – any homeowner with a British Gas Hive, or Google Nest attached to their central heating has already made a leap in this direction. It is now time to bring BIM into the consumer services industry.

It’s likely that the initial areas where BIM and proptech can collaborate will be in areas around data for performance and maintenance. It is likely that there are areas of potential collaboration that are hard to define at this stage.

However, to manage for this in the long term, both industries will need to develop a shared vision for how people will expect to manage their homes in the future and the data they will require to do that. For the BIM industry to play its part in this, may require Level 3 capability to be embedded in the house building industry first.



Is BIM Failing The Housebuilding Sector?

Adoption of BIM for house builders requires a unique approach, says Nigel Walley, Chimni founder in an article first published in

House building is arguably the BIM industry’s most notable failure to date, with only those parts exposed to public sector procurement having made significant progress.

During 2014, I was involved in setting up the BIM4Housing working group. As part of the scoping process, the founding group travelled round the UK holding seminars and workshops with house builders and contractors looking at the issues of adopting BIM.

What became clear from these sessions was that developers and contractors felt that home building was different to many other construction sectors in its exposure to BIM, and there were hurdles to adoption that would need a unique approach.

The first issue raised was lack of scale. The house builders felt that BIM came into its own with projects of significant scale, but benefits were harder to realise for smaller-scale projects. While the UK has a small number of very large house builders, housing is in large part an SME Industry. Outside of the top 10 housing companies, the average size, and number of units built annually, plummets.

A second issue, related to the issue of scale, was standardisation. Our participants felt that BIM’s advantages were greater where the multiple use of standard designs could allow BIM to be part of a broader standardisation and automation process.

While the larger house builders where able to achieve this, it was more common for small and medium-sized home builders to be dealing with fragmented and irregular land banks with a need for greater variations in design layouts. This was also an issue for innovation around offsite and modular construction.

The participants also flagged up the difficulty in ensuring that the final built home conformed exactly to the CAD or BIM models they were based on. House builders spoke about the leeway they have to give to their onsite teams in procurement and final build decisions.

Often the freedom to source materials locally if necessary, or respond to site conditions dynamically mean that the CAD model is treated as a statement of intent rather than a rigid construction guide. The idea that a BIM model would be incorporated into a digitised construction process for these developers was fanciful.

Finally, the lack of a fourth stage for BIM was highlighted as a problem. One of the key benefits of the transition to BIM, and one of the client drivers to architects and contractors investing, is the ability to hand BIM data and models over to owners at the end of the construction stage.

In housing, the benefits of this stage are hard to pin down. In structured, social housing there are FM models emerging that can use BIM output. However, the wider housing culture has yet to address this potential source of benefits. It means that, for housing, there is almost no client pressure towards the adoption of BIM.

Once again a related issue was the slow progress in creating BIM objects for domestic building materials and products. Because of the lack of pressure from owners and FMs, it was felt that the manufacturers aiming their products at the residential market had done the least to create new information models and BIM data for their products.

None of the issues cited were intended as reasons to avoid adopting BIM. The respondents were clear in their broad intentions to evolve, but were facing commercial and operational barriers that currently seemed too high. More seriously, the house builders saw nothing in the BIM revolution that would help them improve productivity. 

This is the reality for the vast majority of small and medium housing developers and the BIM industry needs to address these issues if we are to get the residential industry to catch up with other construction sectors taking a lead in field.

Housing clients need to find a unique approach to digitisation to achieve speedy and frictionless delivery. But we may have to accept that while BIM will be part of this, it may not be core to it as it is in other sectors.

Note: This article first appeared on here.

Chimni Provide CES Proptech Review For Showhouse

Chimni Found Nigel Walley was please to be appointed a temporary roving reporter for Showhouse Magazine as part of his trip to this year's Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas.  The feature was published in the February edition of Showhouse

Nigel Walley @ChimniWalley

Showhouse CoverA trip to the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas has become part of the yearly calendar for anyone working in new technology. But, while it is traditionally full of interesting home tech, it has yet to achieve that must-see status for homebuilders.  This year may change that, as CES 2017 was full of new ‘smart home’ and ‘internet of things’ technologies that appear poised to make the leap into the mainstream and therefore into our homes.

CES is a vast, city-wide event with features on a wide variety of industries, from motoring, health, music and TV.  However there is always a core focus on the way technology affects how we live and this year smart home tech was at the fore.  When we walk round a show like CES, we should be careful not to think the impact of new technology on housebuilding is a new phenomenon.  Tech innovation perpetually affects our industry’s product and there was a time when including a central heating system was seen as a property tech innovation.  But this current wave of smart home tech does seem all consuming. CES 2017 had technology innovation that touched on the usual white goods, security, entertainment and monitoring but this year seems to have gone further into the fabric of our homes with cupboards, windows and walls not escaping.

The explosion of internet connected devices is not in itself new.  The number of power sockets now being requested by homeowners in new units was a first hint that a new wave of tech innovation was hitting our market.  But this was simply about helping homebuyers who wanted to buy clever kit after purchasing a property.  CES 2017 gave the hint of the extent to which new tech will impact, and have to be built into, new homes before purchase.

White goods manufactures have grasped the idea of smart tech as a way of increasing the premium they can charge.  Every device a homebuilder may install in a new build, from washing machines, fridges to hobs had an operating system and an app to manage them. GE demonstrated a suite of smart hobs and cookers that accessed and stored not just recipes but the settings needed to deliver them.   Even cupboards couldn’t escape connectivity. LG demonstrated clothing storage that managed dry-cleaning rotas and offered different storage solutions for different fabrics. The only re-assuring thing we can take away from these demonstrations is that there is still no hint that consumers are expecting this level of connectivity in their appliances (in fact many may still view it with alarm). But this may change.

Better examples of innovation beginning to make sense were the security products, with innovative, software driven door-locks and monitoring systems everywhere.  We have previously seen locks that can be controlled by apps but this year voice control and integration with bigger smart home systems arrived in a big way.  Brinks showed off their ‘Array’ locks that can be voice-controlled via an Amazon Echo, and Yale were demonstrating locks that can integrate with Apple’s HomeKit smart home software. 

Around these systems, voice activation was the big control story with Google’s Home and Amazon Echo dominating a crowded field. Most security products on show could integrate with one of these devices.  The big operating systems companies, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon don’t officially demonstrate at CES, but their products and services were everywhere in the Smart Home areas. Amazon Echo’s ‘Alexa’ voice control had a presence on 700 different stands.

We also saw previously separate items like ‘smart’ lighting, heating, alarms and monitoring now integrated into bigger, cohesive home systems, with an emphasis on various competing ‘hub’ technologies.  Hubs are clever wifi routers that can send messages between connected devices and the apps that control them. By connecting to a router, they also control the link between devices and the outside world. Amazon Echo and Google Home are both hubs and stand-alone solutions like British Gas’ Hive also comes with a hub. These hubs can support a network of clever devices around our homes.

Every consumer electronics manufacturer were showing their own propriety hub solution – often accompanies by a voice controlled like the Lenovo SmartAssistant and LG’s anthropomorphic Hub Robot, both of which compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home.  However, the breakout contender was the Samsung Smartthings hub, which comes with its own brand of smart sockets, light bulbs and sensors.  It also seemed to integrate with various other manufacturer brands and most smart tech products boasted a Smartthings integration. For the homebuilder the difficult question is when to include these technologies in new build homes. Will wall sockets continue to evolve to have hub integration included?

The message from CES this year is that there are still too many competing wifi and connectivity standards to be able to commit to any particular device or network standard yet. But this doesn’t mean homebuilders escape dealing with the implications of homeowners wanting to install this stuff. Homes will increasingly need tech cupboards with distributed power and shelving just to hold and manage the growing number of internet related boxes, routers and splitters we will need to manage this new world. 

Walking round CES the spread of screens into every device and surface was also noticeable.  Most fridges being demonstrated included some form of screen, normally showing an elongated, vertical version of the Windows OS.  Some manufacturers, like Panasonic, – went as far as turning glass fronted fridges into interactive touch screens that helped you interrogate their contents. 

Panasonic Smart DividerBut screens had spread even further.  Panasonic demonstrated glass room dividers and cupboard doors that doubled as PC and TV screens. Seemingly any surface in our homes will, at some point, be able to double as an interactive screens. For all the screen solutions on offer, none of the manufacturers could square the circle that digital technology has a much shorter lifespan than fridges or cupboards. Will people be willing to replace a clothes cupboard or a fridge because iPlayer no longer works on its screen?

Homeowners are currently facings a number of different pressures.  Alongside the drive for ‘eco’ and low-carbon performance, there are the costs and speed pressures leading to modular and off-site construction.  The proptech revolution as witnessed at CES looks initially as though it is pulling in the opposite direction.  Most products on display only offered increased product complexity and cost for homebuilders, with the mitigating factor being the lack of clear consumer demand.  

However, homebuilders can’t bank on this lasting. Amazon Echo sold 5M devices in the US before its UK launch last year and it was the fasting selling piece of consumer electronics in the UK and US over Xmas.  The Smart Home is mainstream whether we build it or not.


This article was written by Chimni for the February edition of Showhouse Magazine.  For more information about the magazine please see their website here:  or email



BIM For Proptech & Smart Home People



If you spend your day looking at property, Smart Home or 'Internet of Things' technology (what we’ll just call ’proptech’ for this blog), you will have found it hard to avoid the acronym BIM on social media and in the trade press.  You may have wondered what it covered, but understood BIM to be an issue for the construction industry and not relevant for the data or property tech community. This post makes the case that the proptech world needs to know and care about BIM and that now is the time to start.


What is this 'BIM' of which you speak….?

At simplest, BIM or ‘Building Information Modelling’ is a 21st century reinvention of the process to create and manage the information produced by construction & manufacturing professionals for decades.  Its ‘re-invention’ was necessary because of the overwhelming and varied demands for the industry to evolve, driven by the wider digital and data revolution.

BIM is an attempt to reimagine not just the file and data formats used in construction, but to create a new digital working environment that can support the kind of business and behaviour revolution that is expected to hit construction.  The best way to understand this, and to see the proptech opportunity, is to look at BIM’s impact within the four typical phases of the design and construction process.  These are normally defined as the concept design phase, the detail design phase, the manufacture & construction phase and finally the operation & maintenance phase when buildings get handed over for occupation and use.

Each of these phases is undergoing its own BIM revolution, learning to use the core BIM models, as well as developing plug-ins & apps suited to the specialised needs of each phase. Each phase holds issues and opportunities that the proptech world need to understand if it is to join in the revolution and make sure its products and services are compatible.


Phase 1 - Concept Design.  

Architects have always tried not to design buildings in 2D but to think creatively in 3D. Unfortunately 3D functionality came late to CAD and its use in design and construction has always been patchy.  BIM was built with 3D as native and it offers a much wider range of 3D functionality as core.  The use of 3D modelling in BIM to realise ideas and concepts is now become a fundamental part of the design process.

Equally, to create 3D visuals for clients was hard and expensive in CAD. But in BIM it’s a capability that is assumed from the start. A new generation of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) plug-ins & apps that can extract data from BIM models are great examples of the extensions designed to keep core BIM files small and efficient. The simple accessability of BIM 3D means that clients, and even planners, can be engaged in the early creative processes like never before.

For property tech people, particularly those looking at AR and VR, this is a gift, as architects are now producing the raw models that could feed into these new formats as standard. It makes the use of VR much easier if someone else has done half the work before you get involved. However the two industries need to standardise approaches to ensure that this data flow is possible. VR models should follow a property’s journey from concept through to ownership and on-sale.  It would be madness to have two 3D cultures working in parallel without engaging. Proptech VR without BIM is unthinkable.


Phase 2 - Detailed Design

Once construction professionals get to the detail design stage, the shift from CAD to BIM becomes even more interesting for proptech innovators. Previously in CAD an architect would specify building components (whether construction materials or more complicated components like central heating systems) by putting an outline of the product on their drawings and describing it in written notes alongside.  

In a previous generation, the big CAD innovation in this area was for manufacturers to produce pre-drawn icons of their products in a CAD-friendly format, for architects to copy into straight into their CAD drawings. This was a laborious process, full of inaccuracy and mistakes which, in design & construction, translates into delays and cost overruns.

BIM has super-charged this idea for the digital age by enabling product manufacturers to produce intelligent 3D drawings and data packs, known as BIM ‘objects’ for their products. Although simple outlines and pre-drawn icons are still used in BIM, the new objects enable a BIM-using professional to drag huge amounts of intelligence into their working BIM models or create links to cloud-hosted data sets.  BIM objects can hold, or link to, supporting information such as operating manuals, performance benchmarks, maintenance schedules, repair instructions and replacement information. This kind of information would have previously been sent out as PDFs after construction.  

Now its being included in BIM models and a market for BIM Objects has grown up (around companies like BIM Store). This means that product and component manufacturers are having to undergo their own digital data revolution. They are now creating file and data formats that anyone developing ‘smart tech’ or ‘internet of things’ devices needs to be aware of and engage with.  At simplest, any new ‘smart’ or ‘IoT’ device needs an accompanying BIM object file if it wants to be included in designs for new buildings. The really ‘smart’ manufacturers of new tech would be working with the BIM community to establish how to do this effectively, and how to ensure their products are included in BIM models from the start.

On top of this, the new capability is also enabling the building design process to include performance design for the first time. Architects can analyse running costs in data models at concept stage and this is where the link with proptech and IoT becomes key.  Many new proptech innovators are working on property management apps that include performance and cost management analysis for finished buildings (the chimni app is one). In a utopian world, the performance data sets they produce would be co-ordinated with BIM performance modelling formats.  Once again, it would be madness for two separate analysis & performance cultures to develop without co-ordination.  The BIM, proptech and IoT industries need to co-ordinate the development of ‘performance-design’ science with ‘post-construction and usage analysis.


Phase 3 - Manufacturing & Construction

From a property tech point of view, the construction phase is potentially the least interesting area. But its important for the proptech world to understand this revolution from the contractors point of view. Previously, a contractor would be given print-outs of drawings, and revisions would be worked through on paper.  Now, the contractor is invited to share the online model as a participant in a process and issues are worked out in 3D.  

Once again, a generation of construction focussed plug-ins and apps are appearing to work with BIM models and data.  A contractor can deliver direct feedback on the professional teams intentions, data models can be updated in response through the process and the potential to remove delays and avoid costly mistakes is huge.

For the construction sector the prize is dramatic productivity improvements.  Proptech and IoT innovators need to consider the needs and interests of the contractor when thinking about the lifecycle of their products, if they want them included, installed and configured correctly as part of the construction process.


Phase 4 - Operation & Maintenance

The operation and maintenance (O&M) phase of a building’s life is potentially the most significant for proptech and IoT innovators as most tech innovation in our world  (if we briefly ignore online estate agents) is focussed on changing how we run buildings. 

Previously, in social or managed housing, where a building was going to be run by a facilities manager (FM), a CAD file would have been treated as an archive resource. The operator would be given print-outs of the construction documents and PDFs of all the maintenance manuals. After that, they were on their own.  The new BIM world treats the BIM model as a potential ‘operating system’ for the building.  Now, the BIM model gets handed over to the FM to use and a new generation of FM software & plug-ins is emerging to help them use it.  The proptech world needs to integrate with this world.

Homebuilding was always a problematic area in this fourth phase.  One of the major reasons was that there were few professionally recognised ‘operators’ outside of the social housing sector to hand information to, once construction was finished.  Buyers of new homes had no way of using CAD data and most of the 26M existing homes in the UK have no CAD file available, even if they could use it.

However, buyers of new homes are increasingly taking ownership of properties built using BIM models full of useful, digital information. Over time the new BIM formats will allow construction & maintenance info to be delivered into consumer friendly apps (this idea is core to future developments  stages of Chimni).  We just have to work out how to unlock it for them. 

Beyond new homes, the retro-fit and refurbishment of existing homes will also benefit because of the BIM Object data now being created by manufacturers of systems like central heating. This data is currently targeted at contractors, but it has huge potential if made available to consumers. We need manufacturers of proptech and IoT devices to participate in the process of creating data formats configured to support consumer apps and services for retro-fit equipment.   This is not futurology - anyone with a British Gas ‘Hive’, or Google ‘Nest’ attached to their central heating has already made a leap in this direction. It is now time to bring our different industries together.



The design and construction world is managing the adoption of new BIM systems and practices very carefully. Supported by the Government, they are making the transition to the first working level of BIM – what the industry is calling BIM Level 2 (where Level 1 is the old CAD standards). However, the industry is already looking forward to the next innovation stage - BIM Level 3 – where web friendly data and apps are integral to the development of BIM based services.  Rather hopefully called iBIM, this is where the two worlds of design & construction and proptech will collide. We might as well start planning for it.

Its likely that the initial areas where BIM and proptech can collaborate will be in areas around data for performance and maintenance.  It is likely that there are areas of potential collaboration that are hard to define at this stage.  However, to manage for this in the long term, both industries will need to develop a shared vision for how people will expect to manage their homes in the future and the data they will require to do that.

 Nigel Walley @ChimniWalley


Chasing Sparrows In Marathi

We hear so many horror stories of fraud, malware and deceit on the internet that it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of the overwhelming global good the internet has delivered. Sometimes this is a huge good, but most often it is the cumulative impact of lots of little ‘moments of goodness’. This Xmas Chimni wants to share a small unimportant story that makes this case.


At the beginning of 2016 , when our first prototype was finished we went through the increasingly difficult process of deciding what to call the new company.  As most start-ups will tell you, in an increasingly globalised world there just aren’t many that words left that you can buy the rights for in all the relevant ways.

Eventually, after much brainstorming and false starts we came up with a word – Chimni – that suits the company and, most importantly, works well in every graphical way we could imagine (its a home management app in case you wondered). We were able to secure the ‘.com’ web address, all the country specific addresses for it, as well as all the relevant international trademarks. The only thing missing was the Twitter name.

We knew that this wasn’t crucial as its possible to do all sorts of things with similar words and phrases on Twitter. But for completeness we wanted to add it to the set. The only problem was that it was taken. Someone based in Bangalore, India had registered it a few years ago. However, while their account was live, it had not been used to tweet for two years. They clearly had no interest in Twitter (at least for this account) so we wondered if we could buy it off them. They only challenge was identifying, then contacting them.

At that point, the @chimni account followed a small number of other Twitter accounts, all local people in Bangalore.  In return it only had a small number of followers. All we knew from the personal description on the Twitter header, was that the owner was female, it gave her first name, and said that she worked in ‘comic books’ in Bangalore, India. We tried direct tweeting to the account and, when that failed, we tried sending a tweet to all the Twitter accounts that she had followed asking for a steer to her identity.

We had no replies, so we set out to find her through other means. We assumed (rightly in the end) that someone who had a Twitter account, worked in publishing and spoke English in India, may have left a trail of other breadcrumbs for us to find around the web.

The first thing I learned from my early Google searches, was that the word we had chosen – Chimni – actually means ‘sparrow’ in the Marathi language spoken in Western India. We were quite charmed by that (particularly given we were chasing down a Twitter ID and as you know, the Twitter icon is a sparrow-like bird).  The downside was that it also turned out to be a reasonably common surname in India. Given this, we therefore guessed (wrongly as it turned out) that ‘Chimni’ must be her surname.  So we began a long (and ultimately fruitless) search for people in Bangalore with that combination of names and the right job description.

When, after many hours of Google searching, it became obvious this was a false trail, we went back to what we had started with – a ‘first name’ and a link to ‘comic books’ in Bangalore. Back at the Google searches we quickly got a hit. We found somebody with the right first name, who was a senior exec at a publisher in Bangalore. The publishing company she worked for publishes, among many other things,  a range of bande dessinee comic books - like an Indian version Tintin or Asterix, but which feature characters from Hindu mythology.

Taking the company name as a steer, we guessed at the lady’s email address and, after a few failures, eventually hit one that didn’t’ bounce back.  Very quickly after, we were rewarded with a return email from the lady herself. She confirmed that yes she was the right person, and that she would be willing to sell the Twitter account. We quickly agreed a fee and here is where the story got complicated.

The lady in question banks with a local Indian bank that didn’t have a corresponding international banking partner in the UK. This meant that to pay her the agreed fee, we had to route the payment through one of the international banks working in India (HSBC, Standard Chartered and Citi etc). To do this, we needed to ask her for an array of personal information to verify the validity of the payment to the authorities on both sides of the transaction. She therefore had to trust a complete stranger, who had contacted her unannounced over the web, with her banking details and other personal info.

Secondly, we had to trust that this lady, a complete stranger to us, would honour her commitment to hand over the log-in details for the Twitter account once the payment was confirmed in her account. But that is what duly happened. After 3 weeks of bureaucratic nightmares transferring the funds (never believe that nonsense that ‘HSBC is the world’s local bank’), the money dropped into her account. She emailed to tell me that she had the money and we held our breath. Almost immediately after she emailed to give us the password and user name of the Twitter account in question. She had sent a final Tweet explaining the situation to the small number of her friends who followed her before sending us the log-in details. We logged on and took over the account. A difficult transaction made possible by trusting a stranger on the internet.

As a final aside, she emailed us to say that she was having her apartment re-decorated this summer, and the fee for the Twitter handle would help pay for that. She said that if we were ever in Bangalore, she would buy us lunch and we agreed that if she was ever in London she should visit the Chimni team and we would do the same. She said that she would probably visit her son here next year as he is studying here.

And that is it! A simple, unimportant story about a transaction between two strangers who, with a certain amount of caution, were able to trust each other and complete a transaction on the web. More importantly we think it was a story about reaching out in friendship over the web between India and the UK. Next year we hopt to add details of a lunch in London or Bangalore to this story!

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year or as they say in Marathi   śubh nātāḷ navīn varṣacyā hārdik śubhecchā!

The Chimni Team

 ps Our contact in Bangalore gave us a nugget of information that energised our international plans - forecast show that 70% of the buildings that will exist in India in 2030 have yet to be built yet! We hope to be there with them.




bg Image
Back to top