After four years of trying to crack the UK and Irish market with an Android-based construction defects management (aka ‘snagging’ or ‘punchlist’) application, Dublin-based Smartbuilder has launched a new Android application under a new name and website, Plan2Finish, and has also set up shop in the USA.
On Friday it announced the launch of its “App for All” for construction, aimed at mass market adoption by main contractors, trade contractors and consultants to help improve efficiency within the construction industry, and backed up by a “Manifesto for Simple Construction Software” (much of which echoes my own thoughts on simplicity, etc – read Let’s get mobile and social in construction – “mocial”). According to the news release:
Plan2Finish allows users to manage the work of a range of sub-contractors on tablets and can save up to 25% of an engineer’s or construction manager’s time. It also helps reduce re-work which in an industry with thin margins, is a major issue.
Users of Plan2Finish can go in-field, raise defects or tasks on a tablet, add in images, mark-up drawings, record audio memos and then send all of this information, without any report writing, to sub-contractors over the internet. The data is managed on a PC and reports can be subsequently printed out.
Plan2Finish is original in that it is a very easy to use, very easy to acquire and affordable app that is focused on users in SME companies and trade contractors who comprise most of the market.
According to Smartbuilder co-founder and CEO Peter Daly:
Unlike expensive, legacy mobile systems, which need direct sales and training, our app needs no training. We believe that ease of use is a key consideration for users adopting this technology. Also, we believe our app is simpler and easier to use than any similar app in the UK or US markets. …One day, no one in construction will go in-field without their app any more than they would without their hard hat.
SmartBuilder has an office in London and has now set up its US base in Austin, Texas. We are targeting the Texas market as it is a major regional construction market in the US. It has been very resilient in the recent recession and is an ideal entry point into the wider US market for companies from the UK and Ireland.
The product is priced from $29/month ($299/year) for individual users, while team licenses start from $189/month ($1899/year). A free 30-day trial is also available. The app initially works on Android tablets (Samsung recommended) with Android smartphones and iOS based devices to follow.
Competitive mobile market
I have been following Smartbuilder developments since July 2010 when the company was prototyping an iPhone Site Clean-up app, which it later (June 2011) discontinued in favour of a similar app on the Android operating system. It was clearly difficult to launch such applications in the midst of a recession, and in the face of competition from other developers of mobile defect management applications (eg: SnagR – post, Mobile Computing Solutions’ Priority1 – post, SnagList, iSnag, AccedeGlobal) and from providers of construction collaboration platforms who were extending their systems to cover mobile site-based processes (eg: Aconex – post, Docia – post, 4Projects’ 4Mobile – post, Conject’s WAPP6 – post). I have also seen some startups in this sector, and – very recently – heard that construction scheduling software vendor Asta had launched its own Site Progress Mobile app.
Meanwhile, Smartbuilder CEO Peter Daly has diligently courted members of the UK construction industry both directly and through his involvement with construction IT member organisation COMIT. Smartbuilder has been used by several major firms including Arup, Bouygues, Overbury and others and on a range of projects in the London area including the Vauxhall Tower.
Smartbuilder/Plan2Finish is not the first European firm to look at the Texan marketplace as a launchpad into north America. I recall 4Projects establishing an office in Houston in 2008, but I believe most of its US business was subsequently won through a director permanently based in Washington DC. And it launches into a market with several US-developed applications, including FieldLens – launched in March and recently funded to the tune of $8m.
[Disclosure: I am a dissemination partner on the COMIT management team.]