Mar 05 2015

Mobile – Solutions for the whole life of a built asset

Augmented Reality displaying houseAs the construction industry has begun to overcome legitimate concerns about workers safely using mobile devices on live construction sites, there has been an increase in the number of mobile solutions available to architecture, engineering, construction and property professionals at the workface in all phases of the life of a built asset.


Mobile friendly software and mobile apps available now

Many AEC workers are accessing a Software-as-a-Service application via a web browser on a tablet (rather than on a laptop or desktop), as leading vendors provide mobile-friendly interfaces for these services. In addition, or sometimes instead, vendors are creating apps that will work even if there is no internet access, as ensuring a reliable internet connection is not always easy on a construction site.

A big growth areas in recent years has been the use of mobile devices for field capture of data and photos for defects, inspections and asset handover management, health and safety inspections, or for site diaries.  Whilst dramatically increasing efficiency and quality of projects, these represent just the crest of the wave of solutions using current and emerging mobile technologies.


What’s just over the crest of the wave? Augmented reality for BIM and asset operation

Assuming you can get a working 3G or 4G signal on your mobile device, how could you push the boundaries a bit? Many smartphones and tablets incorporate GPS capabilities that can capture your precise location, and this can be related to available information.  So, instead of you having to search for relevant documents, drawings, photos, etc., you might use an augmented reality (AR) application to select and ‘see’ how those items relate to the environment around you.

Consumer applications such as Layar use GPS and a device’s inbuilt accelerometers, compass and camera to superimpose information in a ‘layer’ on the user’s view of the surrounding area.  Such tools can help architects and engineers see what is relevant to their current location; for example, a COMIT research project has looked at how AR might be used like X-ray technology to relay information about hidden structures or services.

AR can also be integrated with BIM information.  During the redevelopment of Network Rail’s London Bridge station, for instance, the contractors used AR visualisation on mobile devices to show Network Rail operational teams how the station concourse would be affected by temporary works during different phases of the project.  And for non-construction people unfamiliar with conventional 2D plans or elevations, a 3D photo-realistic view was immediately more understandable, helping them see, for instance, where site hoardings would be situated.

The same technology can also be applied post-construction to help, say, a facility manager quickly discover information about installed equipment or the structure of a building, simply by looking around themselves using a mobile AR application connected to the building’s asset information system.


Near-field communication used on London Crossrail

Other location-based consumer technologies are also being evaluated on London’s Crossrail project. Apple’s low-cost iBeacon low energy Bluetooth devices can be used to ‘push’ messages to the users of some mobile devices.  More commonly associated with sending advertising messages to nearby shoppers in a retail context, Crossrail has been testing how iBeacon location transmissions might be used to set off warnings to users of the location of site hazards like moving machinery or to record when a user has entered, exited, or lingered in a particular zone of the site.

Similarly, the near-field communication (NFC) features increasingly being incorporated into mobile devices could be used to trigger smartphone transactions.  An inexpensive machine-readable NFC tag or sticker (similar to an RFID) could be used to launch an app, send a message, change a phone setting or automate any other interaction programmed into the application.

Such developments underline that the value of a mobile device may not be limited to areas where the user has internet access.  When pre-loaded with relevant information, or simply equipped with relevant software, a smartphone or tablet is just a small, easily portable computer that can prove invaluable on-site.


CONJECT mobile credentials

CONJECT provides conjectMI, a mobile-enabled solution for increasing the speed and accuracy of inspections, defects management and asset handover.

For our other SaaS solutions we are taking a dual approach to leveraging the power of mobile, by. Soon this will include functionality enabling users of our Common Data Environment to download files for offline use, manage process and workflows and respond to interactions like RFI’s all from an easy to use interface on a mobile device.

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About the author

Michelle Mason

Michelle Mason leads the UK and MEAP Marketing team, with far too many years in B2B marketing to mention. A CONJECT newbie, Michelle is eagerly climbing a steep learning curve.

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