In the March 2012 Issue of Properties Magazine, Brian Rosenfelt, CPA, principal in the Skoda Minotti Technology Partners group was featured in the below article, explaining how mobile technology has revolutionized the real estate and construction industries.
The complete article:
How Mobile Technology Has Revolutionized the Industry
During the five to 10 minutes it will take you to read this column, Apple Inc. will sell about 200 iPad tablet computers, adding to the estimated 30,000 units many industry watchers believe it sells every day. Meanwhile, it has been reported that Apple’s daily iPhone sales now often surpass the world’s birthrate on any given day. As all this occurs, competitors like Samsung, AT&T and Blackberry will sell millions of their own smartphones and tablets to a world obsessed with consuming and sharing information.
In less than five years, the mobile computing revolution, headlined by smartphones and tablets, has fundamentally changed the way so many of us communicate and transact business. The building and real estate industry is no exception.
Technology, as they say, marches on. Not long ago, laptop computers represented a quantum leap in convenience over their desktop brethren. Today, nearly 30 percent of respondents in a recent Business Insider survey said they use an iPad as their primary computer. Additionally, research analytics firm Gartner projects that iPads and other tablets will displace about 10 percent of all personal computer units by 2014.
By now, most of your competitors own either smartphones or tablets – or both. Do you?
If not, consider them options at your peril. Because soon – very soon – they could be business necessities.
Already, mobile computing technologies, particularly on tablets such as the iPad and models that run Google’s Android software, are helping professionals across the AEC spectrum make quick, smart decisions, deliver better service, and maximize time, money and resources. Consider:
Leasing agents: During showings, tablets provide easy access to renderings, plans and location-specific demographics, either through the Internet, or by downloading files to the tablets themselves. Additionally, Word documents, Excel files, PowerPoint presentations and PDF files can be stored on tablets, then easily retrieved and viewed. If you seek information about taxes for a given property, property boundaries, neighborhood demographics…any information that’s available on the Internet is just a click away.
Property managers: Most tablets include photo and video camera capabilities, so property managers can document problems as soon as they see them and issue maintenance requests on the spot. Additionally, tablets and smartphones can be used to control wireless building automation systems, which are becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s commercial structures.
Contractors: Mobile devices like tablets allow quick online access to municipal building codes, CAD drawings, product specs and other relevant information. With a tablet (or a smartphone), you can visit a manufacturer website, for example, to see how the company recommends installing particular products for different applications. Photo and video capabilities also make it easy to document work and site issues. Photos and videos can then be stored on the device or emailed to clients, inspectors or other stakeholders.
Developers: Want to know who owns the shopping center across the street? Looking for a neighborhood demographic profile, tax history or other land records? Mobile devices provide fast access to all this information and more. Additionally, tablets in particular are ideal tools for accessing aerial maps and photography, wherever you may be. Dozens of apps are available and easily downloadable for this purpose.
Building owners: Tablets, and even smartphones, can facilitate video surveillance by allowing authorized users to view their properties in real time through live feeds. Mobile devices also provide access to accounting information in internal databases such as rent rolls and accounts receivable.
Different tablets and smartphones offer distinct features and capabilities. Making a smart investment in mobile technology means choosing the right device for your specific needs. Key considerations include:
Platform: Tablets and smartphones run on different operating platforms such as Apple’s IOS and Google’s Android. Blackberry also utilizes its own platform, Blackberry OS. Take some time up front to understand the basic differences in each platform, especially their multitasking, multimedia and synchronization capabilities.
Apps: Think about the kinds of apps that you want or will need to do your job, then cross-check which apps are available for your given operating platform. Note that Apple offers more than 140,000 dedicated apps for the iPad – thousands more than are currently available for the Android platform.
Connectivity: Will you be somewhere with access to a wireless network? If not, then you’ll need to consider a data plan. Talk to your IT staff or a wireless provider to get more information.
Security and access: Check with your IT staff to make sure that they are 1) equipped to support the device you’re considering, and 2) can provide safe access between the device and your corporate network. Tablets and smartphones carry the same security risks as computers – you’ll need to account for these up front and make sure you have the proper safeguards built in before you access or share sensitive data.
Laptops aren’t obsolete just yet. They still retain advantages over current tablets and smartphones, most notably in terms of storage capability and tasks that require word processing and lengthy typing. But the gap is narrowing, and the productivity gains that mobile devices offer professionals across the AEC spectrum are significant. Those who embrace these will reap the rewards. Those who don’t, won’t.
This industry has always been a challenging and competitive one – perhaps never more so than now. Integrating mobile computing into your operations now can yield bottom-line benefits in the near-term, and position your business for future success in our fast-changing digital world.
Click here to see a digital version of the March 2012 Properties Magazine.