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The Rise of the Construction App


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The Rise of the App

From ultra-thin computers to do-it-all phones and interactive watches—even eyeglasses—the average consumer now has access to a transformative set of handheld, and even wearable, devices designed to keep you both productive and constantly connected with each other—no mouse or keyboard required.

It’s an exciting time for those of us who have dreamed of freeing ourselves from the confines of our work desks, and especially for those who never really had a traditional office space to begin with. These “smart” computing devices, and the apps that they utilize, provide us with direct and immediate access to the websites, documents, and technologies we need, so we can work from anywhere.

The first “true” smartphone to hit the U.S. marketplace is not even 10 years old (Apple’s iPhone was launched in 2007), yet nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults now own a smartphone, according to Pew Research Center.

We can’t talk about apps without also mentioning cloud computing, which is fast becoming a critical component of enterprise software that enables project teams to collaborate while in the  field.

Remotely hosted, cloud-based data storage services allow users to access and share data— documents, spreadsheets, plans, drawings, and photos—and the software programs needed to get your work done. There’s no longer a need to store all of your data on a hard drive on your computer, or to run an in-house file server back at the office. Because the data resides in the “cloud,” and not on your hard drive, you no longer need to be in front of your desktop computer to access it. Apps take you directly to the cloud to easily access and share your data from anywhere, at any time, as long as you have an Internet connection. Many apps also allow you to work offline, and automatically sync your updates when you are back online.

For owners, project managers, general contractors, architects, engineers, and other project team members, this ability to stay connected to stakeholders and each other while on a job site can shave hours from the work schedule. And by not having to chase down contracts, insurance documents, RFIs, change orders, and the most current project plans, teams can keep projects moving forward without leaving their workspace.

The Mobile Revolution

The first “true” smartphone to hit the U.S. marketplace is not even 10 years old (Apple’s iPhone was launched in 2007), yet nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults now own a smartphone, according to Pew Research Center. What’s more, almost half of all smartphone owners surveyed say they simply cannot live without their device. How else are they going to send a message, take and share a picture, catch up on the day’s news, check the weather, and look up directions—all while standing in line at a coffee shop? And let’s not forget, the wireless gadget is still used to make actual phone calls!

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The results of Pew Research’s survey were published in January 2015, and reported that 64% of U.S. adults own a smartphone of some kind. This percentage is up from 58% in early 2014 and 35% in 2011, when the nonpartisan think-tank first began examining smartphone usage. 

Ten years ago, chances are nobody on your project team had a touch-screen cell phone that could connect to the Internet. Four years ago, about three out of every ten of your team members owned a smartphone. Now, that number has doubled to at least six out of every ten team members.

It’s an exciting time for those of us who have dreamed of freeing ourselves from the confines of our work desks, and especially for those who never really had a traditional office space to begin with.

It is not just the smartphone that’s rapidly becoming an essential part of our daily lives. In January 2014, Pew Research also found that nearly one-third of American adults own e-readers, and more than 40% own tablets or iPads. And, according to a recent survey by EMA Contractors, a specialty group of marketing firm Eric Mower + Associates,not only are 68% of contractors using smartphones as part of their work day, but 22% are also using tablets.

Considering Pew Research’s 6-point uptick in smartphone ownership from 2014 to 2015, we can only assume that the number of people using other types of handheld computing devices is also rising. Add in the new products being introduced in today’s marketplace, including smart watches and smart eyewear, and we could have a new surge in device ownership as consumers keep up with the constantly evolving mobile landscape.

Construction Has Always Been Mobile

At first, people used mobile devices mainly for gaming, entertainment, and social networking; and although the three categories still account for the majority of time spent in apps by mobile users (32%, 24%-28%, and 8%, respectively, according to Flurry Analytics), more people are beginning to download work-related apps.

For six years, Flurry Analytics has been tracking overall app usage. In 2014, the mobile analytics  rm reported that more users got “down to business” last year by utilizing apps to help them work and stay organized. The emergence of Microsoft Office 365, which moves the popular productivity software to the cloud and makes it available across mobile platforms, helped boost this emerging trend. According to Flurry, “It makes sense that productivity in the cloud should be mobile-first, powering the ‘anytime, anywhere’ nature of the way we work today.”

In fact, in 2013, research and advisory  rm Forrest Research Inc. declared that working anywhere, anytime is “the new normal.” Additionally, a growing number of companies are also adopting “bring your own device” (BYOD) programs for employees.

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