Keep taking the tablets… more and more construction-oriented apps are being delivered on mobile devices.
Last month, I wrote about SaaS specialist KyKloud and how it had extended beyond its initial focus on asset management to provide some powerful iPad-based mobile survey functionality. It’s not the only vendor looking at this market. In the past week alone, I have been in contact with two more, both from across the Irish Sea: Dublin, Ireland-based SmartBuilder1 and the more recently launched and Belfast, Northern Ireland-based GoReport. Both have cloud-hosted browser-based interfaces and mobile applications for capturing and managing data in the field and sharing it with team members online.
Peter Daly’s business has just announced an upgrade of its flagship product, mainly used for snagging or defects management, which allows it to be used in facilities management and surveys. For example, the Android-based app (available only direct from SmartBuilder, not on Play Store) can be used to record assets or the completion and acceptance of a series of tasks, which can then be used by other in reactive or preventative maintenance. Photographs, comments, marked-up drawings and now ‘voice to text’ information can all be captured.
The SmartBuilder1 user interface has also been improved to incorporate the ‘voice to text’ capability, an image gallery on the data entry screen, the ability to mark up multiple drawings for each accepted item or defect, and inclusion of audio files.
As a professional mechanical engineer undertaking numerous condition surveys, Conor Moran wanted an application that would neatly combine photographs with notes dictated during a visit to a site or facility and then quickly output a professionally presented report. Conventional tools and note-taking often meant a laborious half-day or more spent writing up a report, but he figured much of the digital manipulation of information could be managed more efficiently online. Smartphones and tablets were quickly identified as the ideal platform to complement a web-based system, and, after two rounds of fund-raising, Conor developed the application to the point he could devote himself full-time to the business, which was officially launched in the UK at a Building magazine-hosted event in November 2012 (article: The future of site reporting).
Its main purpose, Conor says, is to accelerate writing and production of qualitative reports (he sees a distinction between “high-quality report writing” and what he describes as the more quantitative asset management-oriented approach of Kykloud).
Companies can create standard templates (which also function as checklists) for their surveys and reports, and then their employees can use iPad functionality to capture information on-site. The GoReport service includes a voice transcription service which takes the engineer or surveyor’s verbal notes and turns them into text; this can be incorporated alongside manually entered text, photographs and sketches created on the iPad. Formatted reports, complete with covers, contents pages, appendices, and ISO quality checks, can be downloaded in Word or PDF format; tables can be separately exported to Excel, while data remains securely stored and backed-up in the cloud (GoReport uses UK-based servers provided by Rackspace). Early users have reported time savings of up to 70% in compiling reports, and as well as major consulting firms, he sees real opportunities for time-pressed SMEs looking to deliver a faster service to their customers.
While I was drafting this blogpost, I also tweeted an appeal for information about any useful construction apps on Android, and was followed by Milton Keynes, UK-based Business Net Solutions Ltd who offer an Android product called Mobile Scorecard. This provides audit and survey tools for any business whose work involves visiting remote client sites and gathering data, with tools covering hotel inspections, occupational health and safety, warehouse inspections, jobsite safety and electrical safety audits.
… And there’s more…
With other applications such as SnagR (post), Snag List (post), and Dome Consulting‘s iSnag (post), plus integrated complementary offerings from several of the main SaaS construction collaboration vendors (eg: Aconex; post) and on-premise providers (eg: Newforma; post), also out there, this is developing into a very competitive space. And it may not just be about Apple or Android; I met Newforma’s Dan Conery, VP of Construction Solutions, last week in London and he talked about the significant interest customers were showing in Microsoft’s Windows 8 Surface tablets.