In today’s on-the-go society, we have the capability of conducting work on smartphones to increase productivity. Beyond making calls, sending texts, and keeping track of our schedules, smartphone apps significantly enhance the user’s experience and enable them to conduct business outside the office proper. Particularly in the AEC industries, smartphone apps have become increasingly popular. These apps are more than mere gadgets; they provide functions similar to those of the tools that are traditionally used in the industry.
Although many contractor phone apps are available for multiple smartphones and smartphone platforms (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Palm, and Windows), not all phone apps are created equal or are available for use on different smartphones. For example, popular apps like gUnit (serves as a handy on-the-go unit converter), goBIM (enables users to view BIM models), iRhino 3D (enables users to view designs in 3D), and HPCalc (an extreme calculator that includes astronomical, atomic, electromagnetic, physicochemical, and universal options, as well as a unit converter) are available only for iPhones. The All-in-One Unit Converter; which converts units of measure, volume, and money, is available for both the iPhone and Android.
Since [BuildingBlok]’s web-based, it’s accessible from anywhere. So whether you’re in the office or out in the field, all the job files and logs are available to you. The communication between architects and subcontractors ends up being so much better because everyone’s looking at the same information.” Andrew DiSabatino III, EDiS Company
The building industry is moving inevitably away from 2D paper drawings and toward 3D virtual modeling. When a new technology offers people a better way of doing something, they will eventually use it, even if it means overcoming old habits and facing a sometimes steep learning curve. The use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) has increased dramatically over the past few years, not just in architecture firms, but industry-wide. Construction firms that were early adopters of BIM now have the hard data to justify their choice: projects are taking less time and costing less money, and demonstrated mastery of state-of-the-art technology is winning these firms more jobs. Read More
Of course, apps are also made specifically for Android, BlackBerry, and other smartphones as well, such as RealCalc, a comprehensive scientific calculator for the Android. Other Android-specific apps include AndCAD and the Civil Engineering Suite. AndCAD lets users draw geometric shapes and create notes in the beginning stages of a design and the Civil Engineering Suite contains several applications that aid in the design and calculation processes.
Michael Richardson, PE at American Structurepoint, Inc., prefers to use his personal iPhone instead of his work-issued Blackberry Curve 8330 “because of its better usability” for apps, although his company’s IT department has “intentionally restricted [the Blackberrys] from downloading non-essential apps” for security reasons. “The Blackberry may be able to do some of these tasks if mine wasn’t restricted, but the larger screen and easier maneuvering makes the iPhone a hands-down favorite,” Richardson says. American Structurepoint’s services include architectural design, environmental design, information technology, and forensic engineering.
In addition to apps that enable him to view and edit documents, spreadsheets, and PDFs, Richardson’s smartphone has a pre-installed Maps app that enables him to use the GPS function to show the layout of a building or surrounding site and locate the “presence of rooftop equipment, location of the site drainage features and nearby streams/ponds, layout of the parking areas, or my general location if I am inside a very large building,” he says. Richardson uses AutoCAD, EagleView, and Genius Scan apps on the job. AutoCAD enables Richardson to quickly access and view drawings on the go; property information, such as photographs, material quantities, and dimensions, can be ordered directly through the EagleView app; and Genius Scan enables Richardson to take photos of drawings. “[Genius Scan’s] best feature is its perspective correction,” Richardson says. “I can later pull up the photo on my computer and the drawing’s images and lines are straight and square.”
As opposed to using multiple apps on the job, Andrew DiSabatino III, LEED AP at EDiS Company, uses one app for his work at EDiS, a family-owned construction management company located in Wilmington, Delaware. Ever since EDiS began using BuildingBlok, it has changed the way the company does business. “It has absolutely taken the place of our other procedures. Having a small- to mid-sized construction company, it helps us keep all of our project managers and all of our procedures very consistent,” DiSabatino says. “Since it’s web-based, it’s accessible from anywhere. So whether you’re in the office or out in the field, all the job files and logs are available to you. The communication between architects and subcontractors ends up being so much better because everyone’s looking at the same information. Everyone’s not tracking their own logs or RFIs – everyone’s working out of the same one.”
“[BuildingBlok] has the ability to track change orders, the ability to do submittals and RFIs and [architect’s supplemental instructions] ASIs. It has a file management tool and a scheduling tool. It’s starting to become our go-to for all different parts of project tracking.” Andrew DiSabatino III, EDiS Company
BuildingBlok is web-based, which enables contractors to create and manage cost accounting reports, create and assign to-do lists, email and edit RFIs, and manage CORs, among many other functions. “The iPhone application that’s associated with it is for field managers so they can track RFIs, take pictures, and have access to the drawing from their phones, but they’re not approving change orders with the phone app,” DiSabatino says. Users can update reports on the iPhone, but “it’s a little tricky on a small screen,” according to DiSabatino. However, that may soon change, as the BuildingBlok app for the iPad is under development, which would increase usability for field managers.
Smartphone apps have come a long way since they first hit the scene. “When we started using BuildingBlok two and a half years ago, it was primarily used for punch lists, and then they added more and more modules,” DiSabatino says. “Now it has the ability to track change orders, the ability to do submittals and RFIs and [architect’s supplemental instructions] ASIs. It has a file management tool and a scheduling tool. It’s starting to become our go-to for all different parts of project tracking.”
New smartphone apps are continuously under development. While iPhone currently provides the most apps for those in the AEC industries, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile are due to release some of the same apps that iPhone provides in the near future. Additionally, these companies are all working independently to develop the next app that will help those in the AEC industries to conduct business on the go. A few are even free. For example, ACCA DuctWheel was released for iPhone and Android users earlier in 2011. ACCA DuctWheel enables contractors to use wheel configuration to accurately measure duct installation and is free to download.
Via | Buildipedia