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The evolution of tablet and smartphone solutions

The evolution of mobile digital solutions, focuses largely around the development of software and applications for use with tablets and more recently smartphones. As a developer of tablet and smartphone solutions we thought we should share our knowledge of the evolution of our domain with you and reveal Script&Go’s position and journey within it.

This article aims to inform those considering in investing in tablet and smartphone solutions , across all sectors, about the evolution and take up of mobile digital, tablet and smartphone solutions. It aims to reach those in the construction industry embarking on a transformative journey to improve their productivity and to highlight the fact they are not alone but part of a growing trend.

The image and reality of construction workers managing work with mobile devices and software and applications is changing. According to one 2014 technology report, around 72% of construction professionals use smartphones and around 50% of them use tablets on construction sites.

It is these same devices, with their software and apps that promise to improve productivity as industry research continues to show. They enable construction stakeholders to capitalise on all the time-saving and value-adding benefits they offer and importantly, to reduce waste.

A general historical outline of tablet and smartphone development is provided with reference to key turning points in their combined history. It’s important to appreciate the symbiotic role that software and mobile applications have played in the evolution of tablets and smartphones as both computing and photographic devices.

Intuitive features such as the integration of user-friendly handwriting recognition technology and the rise of voice recognition today are also worth noting.

The evolution of smartphone devices, software and mobile applications in construction

The rise of smartphones in construction

The rise of smartphones in construction

The smartphones that we know today have integrated Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) functionality and internet connectivity. They date from just under twenty years ago. PDAs were considered more interesting than tablets, perhaps due to their size, and many of those that had mobile phones carried a separate PDA but steps were being made to integrate their features in smartphones.

  • 1992 : Hand-held mini-tablet touchscreen device or PDAs arrived. A prototype of a smartphone-like device became available.
  • 1994 : A refined smartphone version was marketed
  • 1995 : The term smartphone was coined
  • 1996 : A PDA was released with an integrated operating system and a physical QWERTY keyboard.
  • 1999 : A smartphone with an integrated PDA and internet connectivity first appeared.

Preceding the use of tablets in construction by around a decade, smartphones and associated software started to be used for professional purposes in the field since 1999.

Initially, the uptake of use of smartphones in construction was driven by email and text messaging. Since then the incorporation of cameras, needed for site photography was the first real advance.

Great strides have been taken to improve image resolution but as time has gone on, their use for defect management controls, checks, inspections, auditing, monitoring and so on during the construction phase has also risen. This is coupled with the increasing use of mobile applications specifically serving the sector.

  • 2000: The first camera phone was produced.
  • 2013 : Script&Go developed a smartphone-based BatiScript mobile application for use with BatiScript PC/tablet-based software
  • 2016 : Script&Go acquired the Site Diary application and started to expand it’s range of mobile app features for use with the PC/tablet-based webapp.
  • 2018 : Script&Go Site Diary Cost Calculation Feature integrated and Timesheet Feature integration planned

Smartphone habits are changing. Their uptake is increasing generally with just over 36% of the world’s population projected to use a smartphone this year and increasingly used in the construction field. Industry surveys have revealed that in 2014 50% used more use apps in construction than 2011, in 2014 30% more used mobile apps for field data collection than in 2013.

The evolution of tablet devices and software in construction

The rise of tablets in construction

The rise of tablets in construction

  • 1914 : Tablet computing devices and their associated software dates from the First World War and have their early roots in the education sector, only entering the construction sector seriously at the start of the second decade of the 21st
  • 1968 : A portable tablet-style device was released.

The use of tablets for site inspections is probably the biggest revolution in the sector since the introduction of CAD in the late 1980s. More than anything else, the ability to have instant information regarding progress, quality control, assurance and data conformity that is of interest. Monitoring sites has always been challenging as data and information is scattered throughout different organisations, teams and locations. Using connected devices changes that by rendering information accessible that would normally take months to be compiled.

  • 2000 : Renewed interest in tablets.
  • 2007: Tablets developed as pared down computers rather than a PC replacement arrived and early versions did not have integrated cameras.
  • 2008 : Script&Go tablet technology development commenced.
  • 2011: Tablets became available with cameras.

At this time the construction industry became more interested in tablets for use on site, as a safer, securer and more sustainable way of transporting information than through paper. Like smartphone development, the incorporation of cameras, needed for defect management controls, checks, inspections, auditing, monitoring and so on, has also avoided the need for holding tablets and cameras separately. The development of tablet-based software has also responded further through the development of image-editing and manipulation features for the integration of photos and sketches in reports.

BatiScript - software and mobile applications in construction

BatiScript

  • 2016: Script&Go acquired the Site Diary web application, deployable on tablets (and smartphones) and started to expand it’s range of features.
Site diary -mobile applications in construction

Site diary

Tablet habits are changing. Their use generally has doubled from 2013 to 2017 and continues to increase, particularly for use in the construction field. Industry surveys have revealed that in 2014 50% used more use apps in construction than 2011, in 2014 30% more used mobile apps for field data collection than in 2013.

Rise of pen computing technology and growth of “intelligent” stylus technology for mobile devices.

  • 1914 : The first patent for a system that recognised handwritten characters by analysing handwriting motion.
  • 1956 : The first publicly demonstrated system of handwritingon tablets instead of a keyboard with a modern computer.
  • 1980s : Several companies had commercial tablet products supporting stylus input.

Early PDAs and smartphones had resistive stylus pens which were used to operate a resistive touchscreen. These were followed by capacitive styluses used with capacitive screens.

PDA with Stylus

PDA with Resistive Stylus use

Since around 2012 there has been a move to augment devices with more intuitive, ergonomic tools such as “intelligent” stylus pens. These can be used for clear handwritten input into report text fields, signatures or annotational sketches and feature advanced capabilities such as gestural recognition and pressure sensitivity and allow for greater input precision.

Tablet with Intelligent Stylus use

Tablet with Intelligent Stylus use

Tablet and smartphone solutions have evolved to sustainably change the way we work

Looking at this history it is clear tablets and smartphone solutions are sustainably changing the way we work across multiple business sectors in the way that personal computers did a generation ago, reducing the need for paper.

Using mobile digital solutions improves productivity, fosters collaboration, saves time and minimises potential errors allowing real-time entry, day and night. Wi-fi hotspots can be also be created on project sites and wi-fi used rather than a mobile service to avoid additional data overhead cost.

One or two decades from now you’ll probably wonder how you ever managed to run your business without a tablet and smartphone, that incorporate intuitive technology features, such as handwriting recognition, or even voice recognition, as needed.