IPad’s on the Construction Site

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I have been watching with interest an ongoing conversation with a group of construction professionals about the utility of the new iPad device for the construction site. It’s safe to say that of the 120 or so posts so far the reviews are all over the map. The hawkers of technology and software that can run on the iPad are extolling the virtues. The onsite personnel like Superintendants seem to think it belongs 6 inches deep in their next concrete pour. The majority are in the middle recognizing that there are some benefits but that it will be some time yet before it is a commonplace tool.

The applications talked about provide access to project documents, RFI’s, shop drawings, change orders, punch lists and any number of other pieces of information and forms that are used onsite. Other than its physical size and undeniably cool interface what is the difference between this device and a laptop (ruggedized or otherwise). Not much. A laptop is slightly more difficult to pack around, but really who has a laptop on their person at all times when on the site?

If you are considering using online technology to improve access to information on site the device is a secondary consideration. There are several key factors to consider before picking a device:

  • Does the software application you intend to use actually make your process better? Is it faster; more reliable than paper; does it automate routine but important activities; does it create an audit trail or some other form of log that can help reduce or eliminate claims? Why are you going digital in the first place?
  • If you are using it to access documents online, will it actually work? Are the documents properly prepared for the internet or are the file sizes so large that they will take forever to download? Would it be better to carry them on the hard drive of your laptop or on a DVD instead? Does the technology help ensure only the latest versions of documents are available? Are they organized well enough that you can easily find what you need?
  • Is it likely that your onsite personnel will carry a mobile device with them and find it easier to work with and use than paper? If it is a schedule, punch list, change order or other document can it practically be viewed on a small device?