The tablet invasion has opened the doors to advances in technology that offer solutions or maybe increase confusion
My first tablet was eight and a half by eleven inches; spiral bound with a wire running up the back; it had around 100 pages of white lined paper with a margin down the left side. There was nothing magical about it other than the fact that my dog ate it on a regular basis.
My current table doesn’t resemble the original in the least.
Tablet computers have invaded our technical world like nothing else including the smart phone because they have the convenience of a smart phone and the functionality of a desktop computer. Mark Holleran, president and chief operating officer, COO of Xplore Technologies http://www.xploretech.com/, says, “Tablet computers take personal computing out of the office and put it where you need it, on the job, anywhere you go.”
If you’ve watched some of the techno-TV-shows like CSI, NCIS, Bones, Hawaii Five O or the like, you‘ve probably noticed the cast members walking around with tablet computers but unlike any you’ve seen… There’s a good possibility that you’re looking at one of Xplore’s several “Industrial Strength” tablets like the “iX104C5 Dual-Mode Sunlight-Readable (DMSR) Tablet the most rugged, powerful and functional tablet in the industry. Designed with and for end users, Xplore’s 5th generation fully-rugged tablet has been engineered, independently MIL-STD tested and proven to operate in the most demanding environments.
MIL-STD-810G, IP67, HazLoc-Certified
7′ (2.13m) operating drop spec, 4′ (1.22 m) to concrete
Submersible & dust tight
Single or dual SSD option with RAID
Best Field Usability:
AllVue™ Xtreme – industry’s best sunlight-readable display
Industry’s highest capacity Li-ION battery
X+Y navigation fingerprint reader
Auto-sensing finger touch and active pen inputs
ighest performing wWAN/wLAN and GPS
Intel® Core™ i7 architecture
Up to 8GB DDR3
mSATA SSD drives
Quick access to SSD, SIM, MicroSD, battery, memory and wireless
In-field upgrades help reduce TCO
Holleran said that Xplore recently filled a very large order for a domestic utility company that will use the tablets to replace field service personnel’s smart phones, laptop computers, GPS units and I can’t remember what else. Think of the pluses… only one unit to worry about and inventory; only one service provider, etc.
Holleran also noted that these devices can connect anywhere thanks to the fact that they not only have 4G cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, they also have satellite capabilities. Truly no more dropped calls date transfers.
“The tablet computer is a replacement for a desktop computer,” Holleran says. “You can do everything with it that you can do on you desktop or laptop and more…”
No, we’re not selling table computers just trying to help keep you informed. Life in a construction environment can be extremely tough on tough equipment. What happens to delicate device when subjected to temperature extremes, violent vibrations, rough handling? It has a short life. Tablets designed for a construction application can make a difference in how you manage your business.
The following two articles were especially prepared for us on what software companies are doing to make this transition to tablet computing not only possible but also advantageous. While one article is more generic in its approach the other looks at the iPad and it role in this market. Let’s face it; computers without software are as useful as software without computers.
How the Internet, Tablets, and Smart Phones are Transforming Business Software
By John Chaney,
President and Co-Founder, Dexter + Chaney
It wasn’t long after the first netbooks and tablets hit the market that people began predicting the imminent death of the personal computer. It turns out this demise was greatly exaggerated. PCs continue to be a significant player in our information driven businesses and in our homes. Sales in 2011 are expected to be the greatest ever, exceeding 2010 by about 4% (1). (1) Source: Gartner, Inc.
Although still growing, the market for traditional desktop and laptop computers is decelerating. Estimates make 2012 the year that sales of tablets and smartphones will outstrip the PC (2). This also makes 2012 the year that will transform software. (2) Source Deloitte Consulting
No Discs Required
It is fair to ask why, just because hardware is changing, software would undergo a fundamental transformation. For example, consider the recent past of the music industry. Moving from albums to cassettes to CDs brought completely new hardware with each change. But music remained music and the business of recording and distributing it continued to operate in pretty much the same fashion throughout.
Now consider the music industry today. Not only is music played on a whole new family of devices; it is purchased and accessed in ways that have brought radical change to the business of music. Online purchasing or streaming of individual songs has become the norm, not the exception. This is the type of fundamental change that the software industry is experiencing.
Starting with the consumer market and moving into business, more and more software is being purchased and/or accessed online. This is in no small part due to the fact that devices such as tablets and smartphones have advanced to the point where using them as replacement devices for computers is becoming possible. But how far this change permeates the world of business software depends on the answer to two questions: Can complex business applications be accessed online, and how well do they translate to a non-PC device?
The Internet as a Utility
A utility is a shared infrastructure that delivers a vital product or service to a large group of people. Obvious examples include electricity, water, and gas. In addition to this definition, utilities share something else in common; they all have large processing or power centers from which their products are distributed.
Two interesting things started happening roughly 10 years ago. First, the amount of information being exchanged over the Internet took off with clear exponential growth (see figure 1). Second, centralized “power stations” for information began inserting themselves in a larger way into the already well-established distribution network that is the Internet; power stations with names such as Google, Amazon, Yahoo, and others. In this way, the Internet moved from being a loose confederation of connected computers and web sites to a real utility delivering information services.
This emergence of the Internet as a utility does not answer the question of how tablets and smartphones will be able to run complex business applications. The answer lies in how the Internet is transforming as it takes on the role of a newly-formed utility. The Internet itself is becoming the platform on which applications are delivered and on which they will run. What until recently has been a repository of information, a vehicle for communication, and a place for electronic commerce is becoming something even more powerful – The Internet is becoming a computing platform.
Applications which relied on the processing power and storage of a user’s computer and a company’s server can now rely on the Internet to provide these resources. In addition to the well known central services mentioned above such as Google, the Internet is becoming host to resource centers which in turn host applications that are as complex and demanding as any run in a traditional client-server configuration in an office environment.
In other words, powerful business applications can now run on less powerful devices such as tablets because the heavy lifting is being done by machinery located in online locations. And users of these web-based applications are relieved of the need to worry about how they are accessed in much the same way as most people are relieved of digging wells and pumping water – they simply turn on the tap.
Business applications may soon approach the accessibility of water from a tap, but two things bear noting: tap water may be inexpensive but it isn’t free, and somewhere out there still exist the wells and reservoirs serving up the water. Nevertheless, the way companies access and pay for software will change, as will the way developers design and deliver their product. The net result for the user promises to be better choice, price, and experience.
One important way in which the Internet differs from traditional utilities is in how smaller providers can tap into the network and make their software available to a broad audience. A company wanting to sell electrical power via the grid would face a set of daunting challenges and need a lot of capital to be an electric utility player. A company wanting to provide an application via the Internet need only develop the software (although this is certainly not trivial for sophisticated programs), then use one of the many secure hosting services to make it available online for purchase and use.
The decision to make a change in business software is a hard one since it usually affects vital processes and tasks for many people at a company. Web-based software will not eliminate all the difficulties, but change will be easier. Users will fell less bound to existing software just because they’ve invested so much in hardware and other costs to make it work for them.
With competitors facing a lower barrier to enter the market, existing vendors will not be able to sit on stale software while collecting annual support fees. They will need to keep up or quickly be replaced by others willing to provide better solutions at a more competitive price.
Cost of ownership of Internet-based software will also be reduced. Gone will be the hassles of installing client software on every user’s machine and server software on an expensive company server. And with the only requirements being Internet connectivity and a web-browser, companies can reduce the cost of computer hardware, lower the frequency of replacement, and no longer worry about maintaining particular versions of operating systems or databases to support their business software.
Software developers who want to play successfully in this new environment face two challenges. First, they must realize that moving their existing product online means more than simply dropping their existing client-server product into a hosting service. This may provide remote access, but does nothing to optimize the software for use by tablets and fails to provide an open environment in which the user can easily move between applications. Vendors must redesign software for use on the Internet if the intent is to provide users with all the benefits of anywhere, anytime, any device computing.
Second, when redesigning for use on the Internet, developers do not have the luxury of specifying particular hardware or software requirements. They must assume that any Internet connected device may be used to serve up their product. As a result, software built to be accessed via web browsers demands an efficient and intuitive interface. Users benefit from this evolution in interface design, experiencing software with intelligent navigation and that is simply easier to use.
Business software has changed dramatically over the past few decades, keeping pace with the increasing capabilities of computing hardware. Today, the entire concept of hardware is transforming, and with it, software. Contractors who adapt to these changes will enjoy the competitive edge that results from having business information available whenever and wherever it is needed.
How The iPad Is Revolutionizing The Construction Industry
By Jim Flynn,
President & CEO, at Maxwell Systems
For most construction companies, it is not uncommon for there to be an internal struggle between the workforce in the field and the team in the back office. They often don’t understand why the other group does things a certain way, why they need specific things at a particular time, or how a process works. And when one’s efforts impact the other’s efforts or needs, workflow can become a train wreck. There can be obstacles to communication and teamwork, as well as redundancies, inefficiencies, and waste of time and money.
At the core of this struggle: the silo mentality that’s ingrained in many construction businesses and a lack of collaborative tools to be utilized for streamlined workflow, shared information, and mechanisms that allow various departments to focus on the construction company’s common goal – to be profitable while making clients happy.
The Power of Mobility
Technology advancements over the past decade have made significant strides to address the communication challenges in organizations. However, it is the innovations in mobile technology that are really helping to bridge the gap between the office and the field. Cell phones increased the communication between the two groups and smartphones took it another step enabling access to email and the Internet anytime and anywhere. But, it is mobile devices, like the iPad, that are really changing the construction business.
Apple has created a device that is easy enough for the computer novice to use but also offers the sophistication needed to provide contractors with instant access to detailed data no matter whether the user is in the office, at the jobsite, or on the road.
Imagine if a project manager could submit change orders, approve invoices, or enter timecards while walking the jobsite using a simple device like an iPad. Or, what if an owner could get instant reports on any project no matter where they were located? There is no longer a need to imagine what a world with instantaneous access to important data would be like.
Maxwell Systems has innovated ProContractorMX as a complete software solution that handles the complexities of the entire project lifecycle. As an all-in-one solution, contractors have end-to-end control and seamless workflow across applications – from takeoff and estimating through job cost accounting and project management, and ultimately for critical reporting and analysis. It’s a single solution that meets the business requirements of every role within a construction organization.
Taking it one step further, the company developed an application, ProContractorMX Mobile Connect, which lets project managers be on the move with convenient access to valuable project data and documents using an iPad, so they have real-time information, whether they are in the office or in the field.
With Mobile Connect, there is no need to have a PC or laptop setup in a job trailer to connect back to the office. Contractors have project information on an iPad, so as a user is out on the site, up on a piece of equipment, in the job trailer, or in the truck on the way to another project, the iPad can wirelessly sync up and access that real-time data as it’s entered into the system.
Instant Access on Bid Day
By providing easy access to critical business data, an iPad can be an extremely valuable tool for any phase of the construction project lifecycle. In the estimating phase it proves especially valuable on bid day, which is a very hectic time for most contractors. Imagine on bid day if the estimator and/or owner had all the data that was used to create the estimate at their fingertips via an iPad versus fumbling through papers to locate details. With instant access to this valuable data, contractors can manipulate numbers on the spot to better negotiate and win jobs.
Easing Project Handoff and Coordination with Accounting
When a job is won, the moment of jubilation is quickly replaced by the myriad of things that need to happen to successfully execute the project and achieve the planned profits. For most contractors, this includes several coordination meetings between the estimating and project management teams passing on the reams of paper that are then consolidated into a job folder or binder.
A complete solution automatically ties the estimate to the project budget for the duration of the project lifecycle, as well as automatically creates job budget and billing schedules, automates purchasing processes based on estimate details, automatically brings drawings from the estimating process over to the projects side so the project manager can quickly and accurately create schedules, check lists, and more. By streamlining these processes with a complete solution and providing access to project data via the iPad, the entire team is more in sync and can better collaborate on each project from beginning to end.
Executing Projects Profitability
At the core of the construction business, the project manager probably benefits the most by having real-time access to data. Things move quickly on a construction site and they need all relevant project data to properly manage projects, track spending and timelines, and forecast accurately.
Most contractors have some type of a project binder where all project-related details are maintained that needs to be continually updated (manually) and is in the possession of a single person at the company throughout the entire project execution.
Now with an end-to-end solution, critical information is easily accessible in a virtual binder by any authorized user. This is of great value to the project manager who’s often on the move, and may make or break a job based on their ability to deal with a myriad of changing project-related details.
Project managers can easily and conveniently access important documents and records, which can include original estimating plans, addendums, project documents, budgets, change order requests, subcontracts, purchase orders, check lists, Work in Progress reports, subcontracts, costs, schedules, contact information, job site photos, equipment details, issues reported, daily field reports, employee details, emails sent and received, document attachments, open receivables and payables to see who owes what, and much more.
By having convenient access via an iPad to information for timely decision-making, the project manager can easily track progress of projects, be more agile in the field, and better account for all aspects of the job from beginning to end.
Equipment management capabilities in an all-in-one solution enable a contractor to monitor equipment utilization and track cost of ownership to bill as costs to projects and manage their equipment as a profit center. With access to details using an iPad, contractors can more easily manage equipment resources, needs, and utilization.
Managing changes is another area where an iPad can come in handy. We all know that changes to a construction project are very common and can significantly impact budgets, resources, and billing and may ultimately require modifications to the project budget, contract price, and delivery schedule. Because of these impacts, changes must be identified and managed very tightly to ensure that they do not adversely affect the ability to make money on the project.
Communication and collaboration is especially critical to effectively manage changes. All players on a project are (or should be) involved in the change management process, due to the potential operational and financial impacts to the company. Via an iPad, any team member can see the status of a requested, approved, or rejected change order; the amount of the order; as well as the dates it was sent, received, and authorized. All-in-one construction management software can bring all team members together to help each profitability handle their specific aspects of the project and changes.
A construction company owner can also benefit from convenient access to real-time, accurate information and reports via an iPad. With a complete solution, owners have intelligent dashboards to look across the company at a glance and find areas that need attention. With the ability to track and measure jobs correctly, problems can be promptly identified and corrected. And, by tracking true project performance, owners can be confident in the company’s performance with better insight into variance items and flexibility to apply methods in order to execute jobs for optimal profit.
An iPad provides a great vehicle to minimize any disconnect between the owner and the estimators, project managers, and back office administrators. It also provides end-to-end visibility on every project, helping them to hone their business strategy, improve control of cash flow, and keep financials in the black with accurate ROI.
Expediting Financial Management
Although the financial team is not as mobile as some of the other team members, the fact that mobile devices enable the rest of the team to access data more quickly helps the financial team do their job more efficiently. They are able to route documents (invoices, purchase orders, etc.) for approval and receive data, like timecards and purchase orders from the field. They also have comprehensive reporting and audit trail capabilities that allow them to manage financials with confidence and flexibility.
Revolutionizing Construction Management
There are numerous steps to accomplish in each phase of a construction project and there are numerous people on the team that are involved to accomplish the required tasks. The complexity of a project is compounded when the team is unable to communicate and collaborate effectively.
By leveraging Maxwell Systems ProContractorMX and its Mobile Connect iPad application, contractors have a single solution for the whole company, timely details for confident decisions, and ability to more proactively execute projects from anywhere and ultimately can better optimize profit and control costs.
The iPad is an extremely intuitive mobile device and combined with an all-in-one construction management solution, it is revolutionizing the way construction projects are managed, helping contractors more efficiently manage projects, minimize risks, stay on schedule, and maximize profitability.
For additional information on the Xplore tablets click here
This article appeared in the February issue of the ACP magazines:
California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder.