The rapid proliferation of mobile devices at the jobsite is impacting how the construction industry does business. In particular, service contractors have some unique considerations when it comes to deploying mobile devices and construction software in the field. Will consumer tablet devices and smartphones be a good fit for service construction in the future?

In the past many service contractors may have used rugged tablets, PCs, or even the pen-and-paper approach for taking notes and performing inspections and other tasks while on the job. However, with the explosion of smartphones and tablets, some service businesses have began to make the switch to consumer-type devices.

Many of the analyst firms predict lower-priced tablets and mobile phones are here to stay. Gartner, www.gartner.com, Stamford, Conn., forecasts mobile devices are on pace to grow 9% in 2013 compared to 2012. In contrast, the firm says the PC market of notebooks and desk-based units is expected to decline 7.6% in 2013, and indicates this is not a temporary trend, but rather a long-term change in user behavior. While this is especially true on the consumer side, construction businesses may soon need to make a switch, if they haven’t already.

Does a decline in PCs mean service contractors will soon need to switch to consumer tablets and smartphones for business? Each organization has unique needs to evaluate, but more and more construction software providers are coming to market with solutions—on multiple different platforms and devices—to meet the needs of the mobile workforce.

As one example, MSI Data, www.msidata.com, Milwaukee, Wis., announced a new mobile application for Android, iOS, and Windows devices. VEIL automates field data collection, including safety inspections, checklists, punchlists, audits, assessments, surveys, observations, and other types of inspections.

Here is what’s included: an inspection builder to create mobile inspection templates; the ability to perform inspections with photo and signature capture; historical inspection data for managers; scheduling of field workers; time-sensitive alerts; a stakeholder portal; and the capability to integrate data with backoffice ERP (enterprise-resource planning), CRM (customer-relationship management), and accounting systems.

An offering such as this will enable service businesses to move data to iPhone, iPads, and other devices running an Android or Windows, opening the door to easily move to lower-priced, consumer-type devices. MSI Data isn’t the only company offering service tech on a variety of mobile devices.

As another recent case, WennSoft, www.wennsoft.com, New Berlin, Wis., also announced its release 3 of WennSoft Evolution, which includes integration with Microsoft Dynamics AX. For field technicians, the software can run on iOS, Windows, Android, or a combination of the devices and includes ‘store and forward’ capabilities.

Yet another example comes from FieldConnect, www.fieldconnect.com, Irvine, Calif., offering mobile technician solutions designed for companies running Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate. Version 4.0 of the tech includes a work-order lookup tool, extended payroll features, the ability to see calendars, and enter worksite notes. The tech can also run on iPads and Android and Windows tablets, laptops, and smartphones.

Service contractors have options. If your business is looking to make the move to iOS, Windows, or Android at the jobsite—or if you are considering a BYOD (bring your own device) strategy—the software providers serving the service segment of the construction market are offering mobile applications that can run on a variety of different devices.