It’s a rare sunny January day here in Seattle as I write this, so I’m filled with a sense of “anything is possible” as we start into 2013. Of course for those of us who own or manage businesses the trick is to sort through what’s possible and make choices based on what will probably happen. Said differently, we need to look at all the “coulds” and then decide on our “shoulds.”
While I make no claim to prognosticative powers, I think there are a few tech trends and changes coming in 2013 for the construction industry that will make the “should happen” list for many contractors. Here they are—and I’ll set a reminder for the end of the year to re-visit these blue sky predictions and see how close I was to the mark.
1. Cloud computing continues to deflate the WinTel bubble
At its peak, Windows-based software commanded an incredible 95% of the computing market, and held this position for a good number of years. But as fast as the Windows-based PC rose to dominance, it has quickly and quietly fallen to below 50% of the computing market.
Most people attribute this to the availability of new hardware—in particular the tablet and the smart phone. But these devices and their apps are only part of the story. It’s the rise of cloud computing that has given these relatively low-power and low-memory computing terminals the ability to deliver powerful applications and large chunks of information. Look for cloud-based applications to continue to grow in availability and popularity.
2. Documents become as important as data in construction project management
For years, document management meant “going paperless.” It also meant technology that allowed the information on scanned documents to be recognized by software, then parsed, stored, and available for data search. All great things that continue to make contractors more efficient.
However, what is emerging is a new regard for the project document itself. Virtually every significant event in the life of a construction project is accompanied by documentation – from large detailed plans and specs to simple email correspondence. Look for the emergence of software that does more than store these away or turn them into data. Look for software that helps companies share, control, and access these documents. Look for new tools that help project managers control the flow of work by, in part, controlling the sharing, versioning, and tracking of all the documents and communications that define the work.
3. The next big mobile app will be…
…the browser app on your portable device.
The mobile “app” is more than an abbreviation for “application.” It is typically a piece of software designed to do just one thing in a simple and easy way. By the end of this year, I expect that both iOS and Andriod devices will have over a million apps each (my personal jury is still out on the Windows Surface but they have a lot of ground to cover to catch up).
But construction information rarely lives in a vacuum, so stand-alone apps, while useful, won’t become the norm for the industry. As more computing becomes mobile and more software is re-designed for the cloud, look for construction software providers to begin to offer up task-oriented apps that are an integral part of their existing, larger software applications. Users will access their enterprise software via a web browser on a mobile device. This software will offer built-in apps designed specifically for fast and easy use in the field without the headache of worrying how to get that data back into a separate enterprise system. This will be the beginning of a new type of mobility, made possible by confluence of new technologies in networking, hardware, and software.
Predicting the future is fun. But it’s even more fun building it. I’m looking forward to doing my small part in 2013 building better technology for construction. I wish all of you a great year ahead building your projects and your businesses.