For many of us mobile technology has been firmly assimilated into our everyday lives. If you aren’t currently reading this blog post on a smartphone, tablet or laptop chances are you have a mobile device within arm’s reach. Just think of all the things you can do these days with your mobile device that wasn’t possible ten years ago. You can use your smartphone to program your DVR to start taping the game because while you’re stuck in traffic, change the settings on your thermostat or unlock your front door because your kid forgot their keys again. Mobile technology can book a flight and use your smartphone as a boarding pass, video chat with friends and family on your tablet or locate and get directions and reviews for the closest restaurants when you’re on vacation. The list goes on and on. Because of its very nature it’s no surprise that mobile technology has made its way into the construction industry.
Mobile technologies allows construction professionals to more effectively and efficiently manage projects through better communication and collaboration among all members of the project team which in turn will streamline processes and increase productivity while saving time and money. Gone are the days when a construction project manager has to go in early to the office and check email and review schedules before darting off to meet with a client and then heading to the construction site to check on the day’s progress and then having to rush over to the architect’s office to pick up the latest changes to the plans which have to be dropped back off at the construction site and then returning to the office to process timecards and daily project reports. With today’s mobile devices and available software applications all of those tasks could be handled from a single location whether it’s the construction site, the office or even your home.
There are mobile software applications and cloud computing solutions to manage every aspect of a construction project. Mobile time clocks can be integrated with scheduling and payroll software to ensure that there are enough workers at the jobsite and everyone gets paid without having to deal with a mountain of paperwork. Video conferencing allows key members of the project team to collaborate and communicate wherever they are. There is software available so that changes to plans and specifications can be made, shared and viewed in real time. Mobile video surveillance and radio-frequency identification (RFID) can be used to monitor the construction site and track your construction fleet to reduce theft of materials and heavy equipment. Telematics allows you to track operating hours, fuel consumption, speed, idle times, location, operator behavior and maintenance schedules of your construction equipment. Field management technology is available that can do everything from keeping track of safety meetings to managing checklists and punch lists to documenting situations or problems that arise by taking photos with a tablet or smartphone and uploading it with the daily job reports.
While all this mobile technology hitting the market for the construction industry is great it’s not without some drawbacks. One of the biggest hindrances is integration of mobile software and cloud computing solutions. Your takeoff software isn’t any good if it isn’t compatible with the digital plan files provided by the architect. Another problem the construction industry faces is the fact that implementing mobile solutions can be cost-prohibitive to some mid-size and small construction firms and specialty contractors. I strongly believe that Building Information Technology (BIM) and Augmented Reality are going to be the next big things not just for mobile construction technology but for the construction industry as a whole but in order for that to become a reality in the next few years there are going to have to be affordable solutions for companies of all sizes regardless of whether they are an architectural firm, general contractor, specialty contractor or engineering firm.