I recently organized a trail ride for my family while on vacation in Oregon. Since several in our party had never been on a horse, our trail guide took care to match each rider with a suitable horse, even sharing the personality of each horse. While the horses traveled at the right pace for our inexperienced riders, it soon became clear that the mental composition of each of our horses was very simple – to follow the leader.
Just as our horses dutifully followed the trail guide, we now see construction companies following the trail of the early leaders in mobility. In many areas, mobility has delivered on its promises of efficiency and return on investment. We are working with ever more construction companies using our PowerTrack software to implement field mobility solutions. Some of the characteristics and trends that we see among the leading construction companies are as follows:
- A Platform for Mobility
Companies want to minimize the number of different enterprise applications that their field people must work with. They demand a flexible application platform that can be used for a variety of field data collection, including labor time capture, equipment and material usage, inventory moves and more. In today’s BYOD environment, they also want this application to run on a variety of OS platforms (Android, iOS, Windows) as well as Web browsers.
- Tracking materials, equipment and tools with barcodes
Using the same mobile platform, we are increasingly implementing barcoding with construction companies to track material, equipment and tool moves. Barcoding is essential for gaining financial control over inventories and reducing lost tools and equipment.
For scan-intensive applications, we recommend a commercial Android device with a dedicated barcode imager. The integrated camera on consumer Android or iPhones is more suitable for occasional barcode reading.
- iPads in Construction
While we work with many customers using iPhones and Android smart phones to host their mobile applications, when it comes to tablets, the iPad is the overwhelming favorite. So much so, that the iPad platform has accounted for much of our product development over the past two years.
Compared to smart phones, the iPad can support additional flexibility in data entry, such as grid style labor entry. It is also a superior platform for displaying reports and other information. Applications such as PowerTrack can leverage iPad’s inherent capabilities including voice translation for daily log notes, GPS, image and signature capture.
Mobility in construction has experienced dynamic change over the past few years. Going forward, Apple and Android will continue to offer new innovations for application providers to leverage. Microsoft is becoming more competitive with their Surface products and the Windows 10 introduction. HTML 5 is becoming a more powerful language for web development. The wireless carriers will be offering more and better services.
Our challenge is to take advantage of the changing technology environment, offer innovative mobility solutions and continue to support construction leaders as they blaze new trails for the industry.