Mobile Moves Construction Forward

May 14, 2013

Much has been discussed about the efficiencies of accessing project information on mobile devices, allowing construction companies to improve collaboration and communication across the project team. However, could the move to mobile also help accelerate trends such as BIM (building information modeling), mobile time tracking, and more?

As the prices of mobile hardware have come down in recent years and more construction-specific applications are developed for devices, the construction industry has more options for taking critical project data to the jobsite. This is enabling processes such as BIM to go farther, reaching to the field, a place where BIM hasn’t traditionally been leveraged in the past.

Large tech providers such as Autodesk, www.autodesk.com, San Rafael, Calif., and Trimble, www.trimble.com, Sunnyvale, Calif., made big announcements in the past year with specific aim at improving BIM at the jobsite. As time has progressed, the companies are coming to market with advanced solutions that aim to move BIM forward, leveraging mobile devices.

Yesterday, Autodesk announced a new version of Autodesk BIM 360 Glue, a cloud-based BIM solution that allows stakeholders to access data for model coordination and clash detection via a desktop, mobile device, and the Web.

With this new announcement, the product has a redesigned user interface, support for larger project models, and improved coordination with Autodesk Revit, Autodesk AutoCAD, and Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D. The new BIM 360 Glue is designed to offer more connected workflows to the project team, “untethering” BIM from the desktop, so to speak.

More so than BIM, other construction technologies have been able to develop further due to the fact mobile devices are more commonly in the hands of project managers at the jobsite. For example, time-tracking technologies are now leveraging GPS functionality on devices and other connected capabilities to make monitoring time and attendance easier in construction.

The opportunity for construction technology these days, thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices, is greater than it has been in the past. Consider this: Even the majority of small and midsized construction firms believe mobile technology is benefiting their businesses.

A survey released by Sage North America, www.sagecre.com, Irvine, Calif., in March, founded 75% of small and midsized construction firms in the United States and Canada have used a mobile device to access work-related information on that device. For this group of contractors, smartphones and laptops are still the two most commonly used devices, with 77% and 72% usage respectively. Surprisingly, tablets trailed behind, with only 26% of small and midsized businesses using these devices in construction.

However, the overall results are clear; the ability to do instant reporting is allowing construction companies to make decisions while on the job, which ultimately cuts down on errors and reduces travel expenses.

As the industry continues to take advantage of mobile technologies, we may also soon see trends such as BIM and time tracking gain more traction in new ways.