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According to the 2015 Construction Technology (CT) Report published by JBKnowledge, most construction professionals consider mobile capabilities "important," but not "very important," when purchasing software.

In partnership with the Construction Financial Management Association, Texas A&M’s Construction Science Department and HCSS Construction Software, JBKnowledge surveyed more than 2,000 construction professionals and found that field data collection and project management solutions are the most likely to have full mobile capabilities, while project scheduling and prequalification are the least likely. The number of builders using an invitation to bid or plan room software that provides mobile capabilities dropped to nearly half of 2014’s numbers.

Between 2013 and 2014, the annual CT Report saw a big shift in the importance of mobile capabilities that did not occur again between 2014 and 2015. One survey participant commented, “It depends on the software. If we expect it to be used in the field, it must have mobile capabilities. If it is for back-office staff, it doesn’t require mobile capabilities.”

Construction Mobile Technology Fig 1Would survey participants’ responses change if asked the importance of mobile for each category of software? If builders’ expectations of their software’s mobile capabilities are not high, it may be because technology providers are setting them too low. In consumer technology today, consumers expect every new technology they adopt to come with a mobile component (most often, an app). The same expectation has not made its way into all business technology, especially not construction.

It’s surprising to see accounting software more likely to offer mobile apps than BIM, invitation to bid and CRM software, but this could be attributed to most accounting software’s integration with project management suites. CRM solutions have a major opportunity to step up offerings in both cloud software and mobile applications and put client relationship details at the fingertips of those charged with managing them.

Construction Mobile Technology Fig 2The report highlighted the top 20 construction mobile apps currently in use by survey participants and they range from augmented reality to time tracking to document management solutions. For the second year in a row, Autodesk® led the pack with three apps in the top 20.

According to the report, device usage has increased since 2014 across the board for laptops, tablets and smartphones. Wearables were added to the 2015 survey and 71.4 percent of those in use are personal wearable devices. More than 80 percent of companies are providing both laptops and smartphones to employees. The number of companies providing tablets has increased by more than 20 percent since 2013.

When it comes to mobile operating systems in use for construction, iOS continues to lead the way and is used on nearly 60 percent of mobile devices, up 15 percent from 2014. Android maintains a market share on roughly 20 percent of builders’ devices and WindowsTM dropped 50 percent in usage from 2014 to 2015.

Where have all the Windows devices gone? Fifteen of the top 20 construction apps listed in the 2015 Construction Technology Report offer both an iOS and Android version of their application, yet nothing for Windows. iOS continues to lead the way because iOS is the preferred consumer operating system and the more easily people can translate their work technology by referencing their personal technology, the better. Despite this, don’t rule out Windows. Devices like the new Surface Pro 4, running Windows 10, are powerful mobile solutions. It easily performs both the features of a tablet and a laptop while providing the ability to run legacy Windows applications like Excel, which many builders in the survey depend on.

As for hardware, construction companies are supplying more devices to employees than ever before, most likely as a way to curb data security threats and transparently bill hardware to projects. The downside is that, according to the builders surveyed, companies are not detailing the policies and procedures employees should follow while using that hardware. One survey participant commented, “My smartphone isn’t secured by my company but I only use it for making phone calls, not active work-related items.”

Because more companies are supplying devices, fewer builders are using personal devices at work in 2015 than 2014. However, more than 30 percent of respondents are using personal devices at work that their companies do not secure and do not have policies in place for data stored on them.

With the interconnectedness of personal and corporate mobile devices, companies should be obsessive about data security both onsite and in the cloud. Relying on mobile technology providers to manage data security is not enough. If data is mobile, it’s at risk. With mobile adoption statistics only expected to increase during the next decade, policies must be a priority for all construction companies in the next year.

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