The iPad for Construction?

April 09, 2010

It’s no secret that the iPad has been creating an enormous buzz among consumers everywhere, with everyone seemingly wanting to get their hands on the device. With apps for video, gaming, and music, Apple’s iPad is definitely an entertainment tool. But can the device become a productivity tool for industries like construction?

Some software providers seem to think so and have already announced apps designed specifically for the iPad. For example, Vela Systems Inc., www.velasystems.com, Burlington, Mass., a provider of construction applications for tablet PCS, recently unveiled a construction software application designed for use in the field on the iPad. By using the iPad, engineers and superintendents in the field will be able to quickly access project information on the go and carry it with them as they travel from one location to another.

Vela’s application will enable project managers, contractors, owners, and other executives to access numerous types and formats of project data including drawings, submittals, plans, and other construction documents on the iPad’s large touchscreen. Josh Kanner, vice president of marketing and co-founder, Vela Systems Inc., believes the iPad will fall in line with tablet PCs by enabling construction executives to not only read and review construction information, but perform tasks in the field as well.

“The problem in enterprise construction field management is that 90% of the cost of construction happens in the field in the form of labor and materials, yet only 10% of technology dollars are spent in the field,” says Tim Curran, CEO, Vela Systems Inc. “We think that expanding our solutions to the iPad will further help the adoption of mobile field construction software and tools for our customers.”

Those in construction who own an iPhone but haven’t gotten around to picking up an iPad yet, have access to an app that allows them to search through various BIM (building information modeling) models right from their smartphone. The goBIM application, which was independently developed by Ian Keough and is available for download on the iPhone via Apple’s iTunes App Store, should be available for use on the iPad in the very near future—according to Keough.

So what does the emergence of the iPad mean for the construction industry? Is it a passing fad or the start of an innovative new era in project management? We will just have to keep an eye on the space to see what happens next.