ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 155 - 04/20/2012

Survey Suggests That Handheld Computers Are Proving Their Worth for Real-Time Field Reporting at Construction Sites

By Steve Rizer


Most participants responding to a recent Fiatech survey believe that smart devices either are “valuable” or “very valuable” in construction applications. For each of the six major construction categories -- design and specifications, project controls, quality, safety, material management, and project delivery, at least 60 percent of respondents, representing various construction classifications, indicated that the use of smart devices is beneficial. More than 250 professionals took the survey, which was administered to Fiatech member companies to identify the need for using smart devices during various construction activities.


“From the survey results, it can be concluded that the majority of respondents agree that real-time field reporting can benefit construction activities,” according to Fiatech, which released the survey results in a report entitled “Real Time Field Reporting Using Smart Devices.” “Also, there is not much variation in the number of positive responses per activity to conclude that one particular activity will benefit more from smart devices than another.”


Also, most respondents agreed that use of smart devices for distribution of design drawings and specifications will benefit the most. In addition, there was general agreement across all the construction trades that smart devices will add value to the practice of identifying and editing document deficiencies with pictures and sketches.


“In today’s computerized world, information is available through computers located at job sites; the information and the medium required for field reporting, however, should be available in the field to assist superintendents, field engineers, foremen, and others in making decisions that are accurate, immediate, and effective," according to the report. "Accurate and timely information is vital in completing construction projects successfully. For craft foremen to access data in the field is often difficult, however, because computer information frequently is restricted to site offices. This lapse can make information unavailable, inaccurate, or outdated, leading to an overall decline in productivity. Indirect costs may increase due to schedule delays; direct costs may increase because of rework. Tools that provide reliable and timely project information to the field and transmit up-to-date project information from the field are needed. Handheld computers could potentially fulfill these needs.”


Although most respondents believe that smart devices can provide significant assistance during construction projects, many survey participants indicated that the technology has room for improvement. Respondents recommended the following changes to make the technology more suitable for on-site activities:

  • Devices should not have too many exposed ports, which are more susceptible to dust, dirt, and water.
  • Devices should be equipped with a front-facing and a back-facing camera.
  • Devices must have GPS and an RFID reader for material tracking.
  • Batteries need to last 5-6 hours and come equipped with car chargers and other modes of recharging.
  • Site email accounts/calendars should be synced to a PDA so that they can be read from a site.
  • Email address memory would eliminate re-entering email addresses manually numerous times.
  • Screen visibility should not decrease in sunlight or when observed from different angles.

The survey is part of a larger Fiatech project called “Real-Time Field Reporting,” which was launched in 2010 in conjunction with Zachry Construction Corp., COMIT (Construction Opportunities for Mobile IT) Projects Ltd., and Bentley Systems. Researchers aim to determine the feasibility and potential benefits of using mobile devices for communicating information in real time at a construction jobsite. Doing this involves testing and analyzing the usefulness of such devices as iPads, Android tablets, smart phones, Golden i, and others in the real-world construction environment.

Phase II of the smart devices research will incorporate the recent advances in the smart devices technology. Many of the devices are being provided in the study at no charge by Fiatech members and sponsors. The second phase also will place more emphasis on the business process improvements made by the use of smart devices in conjunction with software.


Fiatech officials did not immediately provide responses to Construction Project Controls and BIM Report's questions seeking additional information.


The report can be accessed at




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