Over the past year or so, I’ve talked several times about iPhone applications and collaboration in the architecture, engineering and construction, AEC, space. I have seen prototype stand-alone products developed purely for the iPhone (eg: Smartbuilder – post), but most tools have been developed by existing construction collaboration technology providers and extend their platforms to iPhone users, either via a downloadable application or by enabling mobile web access via a smartphone’s browser – for example (in alphabetical order):
And there are apparently more in the pipeline, including one from Aconex. But, apart from suggestions that the iPhone apps will quickly be extended to support iPad users, I hadn’t heard of any iPad-specific apps. That is, until today, when I came across a link to California-based Construction Connect Inc (a start-up established in 2008 by former electrical contractor Chris Ross).
CCI launched its Software-as-a-Service platform, Build It Live, earlier this year (background) and it appears to replicate most of the functions and repeat most of the potential benefits of existing SaaS products in the market. The associated iPad app, MobilePlanRoom, was launched in June 2010 (release), allowing iPad users to access Build It Live from their tablets.
Build It Live is said to be easy-to-use and affordable (just US$35/month per project), and targeted at smaller construction companies, construction project managers, engineers and architects. As the AEC industry is dominated by small- to medium-sized enterprises, the pricing will be attractive to this SME market, and – as far as the iPad market is concerned – SMEs may also have fewer reservations about this application than larger businesses with substantial, centralised ICT departments.
I have had several interesting conversations about iPhone (and by implication, iPad) applications for construction collaboration. Some of the construction people I talk to think they are doomed to failure as many corporates haven’t accepted iPhones as professional tools within their businesses – preferring to support smartphone platforms such as Blackberry or Windows, or holding out for Android to become a dominant platform. But there are also many iPhone-fans who are keen to get Apple-approved tools to support their day-to-day work (I have also talked previously about Woobius Eye, a beta iPhone app developed by architects for architects and others, for example), and this enthusiasm is extending to AEC iPad users too (sometimes they are seen as such desirable tools that people buy them themselves and use them for work even they are not officially approved). And there is recognition that we can’t always rely on using web-based interfaces, particularly in remote locations or in enclosed spaces, etc where mobile telecommunication is impossible.