Mobile smart devices have already emerged as an all but ubiquitous hi-tech accoutrement in modern society, with their low cost and ready availability enabling all of us to remain connected to the Internet irrespective of location.
According to Stacy Scopano, Autodesk senior industry strategy manager, construction, the widespread popularity of these mobile smart devices in tandem with digitisation is now having a transformative impact upon the construction industry, by improving what he refers to as "plan vs. performance" conversations that help to ensure the real world outcomes for a project match original design intentions.
"Mobility is creating massive massive benefits, because now they're not just producing plans and hoping that the project will be built, they're first planning and then making adjustments over the course of the project," said Scopano.
"Everyone has had a desktop computer in their office since the nineties, but now everybody in the field doing the work is equipped with these smart devices. They give you the ability to send back signals and indicate when the project is deviating from the plan so that you can course correct it.
"What mobility is allowing us to do is engage in a plan versus performance conversation, enabling us to compare performance to the plan, whether it's a 3D design or a time schedule."
The ability to provide communication on a project from the building site itself is changing the way construction projects are managed. Instead of managers just engaging in the issuance of top down instructions, workers in the field are also providing feedback on projects that permit timely adjustments.
"Up until this decade, you really didn't have those strong feedback loops, and instead needed a strong command and control structure, where workers would fill out forms, put them in excel and email them at the end of the week," said Scopano. "We were driving cars that had no dashboard, when what we needed was a speedometer as opposed to just a speed limit."
The enhanced flexibility created by the widespread deployment of mobile smart devices in the field brings major benefits to construction projects, making them more efficient and economical while also enabling them to better align with original design intentions.
"By course correcting, we can ensure that we hit our goals and objectives, or else step on the gas when that's an option," said Scopano. "Maybe our milestone was too conservative and I can do something with the extra time - that's a credit we've gained that doesn't cost anyone money, because the plan was too slow and we're performing faster than expected.
"If I'm a contractor, it means that I can bring it down to one team instead of using two teams, and I'm way more profitable than I thought I was before I started the project."
Scopano believes other emerging technologies are also feeding into the plan vs. performance conversation, such as drones, 3D printing and modular construction, all of which better enable the real world outcomes of projects to more closely match original design intentions of project backers.
"All of these technologies are providing some means of connecting what we intend to what we actually do," said Scopano. "In reality it's all about performance monitoring.
"When it comes to drones, what's important isn't the helicopter or the camera on board, but the pictures themselves, how often they're updated, and what they can tell me about a project.
"3D printing and modular are also all innovations that help guarantee real performance with surgical accuracy and remove human hands that can deviate from the model - again it's all about a plan vs. performance conversation."
Enabling performance to more closely match original plans brings a slew of quantifiable benefits to construction projects to multiple parties.
"Client satisfaction, efficiency and costs for a projects all gain as a result," said Scopano. "The morale of my team is better because we're hitting check marks as promised, and also translates into a safer work environment because I'm not scrambling around like a chicken to complete four weeks worth of work on two weeks worth of schedule.
"This also has higher order impacts that are easy to connect - it means things to my brand and reputation in the industry, as well as insurance premiums, bonding and getting a financial guarantee to cover my work."