The mobile construction app market continues to grow: a look at how Asta Site Progress complements desktop software, and a form management app for SMEs.
Asta Site Progress
Elecosoft’s Asta Powerproject competes in the same project management sector as Oracle’s Primavera and MS Project, but is specifically designed to support construction planners’ work. Primarily a desktop/laptop-based product, it is a powerful scheduling platform, but there is also a cloud service option, allowing users to access Asta Powerproject as a Citrix-based service via Windows PC, Mac, Android and iOS devices – useful for those working on short-term projects or needing access from multiple devices.
However, Asta Powerproject also offers a mobile Site Progress application (available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices, plus web access). This can be used to help users record the progress of tasks and repetitive events against their Asta Powerproject schedules. Recently added features include the ability to export tasks to mobile devices based on resource assignments (ie: per contractor or trade) and review reported progress and approve/review submissions before applying them to the programme. The app is free to install, with use of the service charged according to the number of active jobs exported to a secure cloud storage area.
Update (4 April 2019) – “Rewritten from the ground up, the second generation of Site Progress Mobile includes improved navigation and search, progress reporting via quantity completed, editing and annotating of photos, adding new tasks into plans remotely, and clearer progress import and review tools.
The increasing ubiquity of mobile devices continues to prompt new startups to target the construction market with applications. I was recently alerted, for example, to Trappco.
This Worcestershire, UK-based company, incorporated in 2016, is aiming to help construction businesses digitise existing paper-based processes by capturing and emulating the forms they currently use for inspection check lists, handover sheets and certificates. Founder Richard Hulbert told me that a key differentiator is the use of current document layouts and text content to create templates, so that the PDFs produced by the app immediately resemble existing forms (and could be augmented by associating images taken with the host device’s camera). He said the app also captured authorising signatures in real time, improving auditability.
The app has been deployed on UK building projects in Birmingham and Northampton, having been developed in partnership with Able 3 Ventures, using its AppSheet platform (seemingly similar to the Formotus toolset I’ve seen used by Crossrail – May 2013 post). This provides a simple way for individuals or organisations to develop new mobile applications, using existing spreadsheets, shared in a cloud-based storage environment (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, etc), as a foundation. Able 3’s AppEditor is then used to add features to the application, after which the app can be shared with users. Trappco uses this platform to provide a service to its construction industry customers, with costs starting from £250 (a one-off setup fee covering some consultation and basic user training, document uploads into the app, app customisation, and access to an Admin version of the app), plus monthly subscriptions from £20 per user per month.
As I have previously written (recently in relation to SiteReportPro and BuilderStorm, for example), given the size and fragmentation of the AEC SME market, and its still only-gradual adoption of BIM and other more data-driven processes, there is likely to be a ready market for such tools, at least for a few years.