For the specialty and subcontracting segment of the construction market, one challenge in the past has been meeting strict deadlines on tight budgets. With IT systems in place, subs and specialty contractors can more effectively meet the needs of the owners and general contractors.

These days, specialty contractors and subs have many new options to offer valued-added services to customers. At the AHR Expo, taking place January 28-30 in Dallas, Texas, a slew of technology announcements are targeted specifically at service and specialty contractors.

Take IT to the Field
Want to improve dispatching? In recent years, the use of advanced GPS and fleet-management solutions has been on the uptick. Yesterday, at the AHR Expo, TomTom Business Solutions, www.tomtom.com, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, announced a partnership with MSI Data, www.msidata.com, Mequon, Wis.

Together the companies will integrate MSI Data’s Service Pro field service management software with TomTom WEBFLEET. For specialty contractors, this will allow for more accurate dispatching based on actual travel time data. With Service Pro, users can then access vehicle location and travel time information.

In general, GPS and fleet-management technology is being used to manage activities in the field, providing a higher level of customer service.

Better Project Management
Being able to effectively manage projects at the office, at the jobsite, and even on the go is a top priority for most construction firms these days. Cloud-based project management technology allows specialty contractors to manage projects online from any device. Being able to integrate that data with backoffice technology—accounting and job costing software, for example—can heighten efficiencies.

Yesterday, Viewpoint Construction Software, www.viewpointcs.com, Portland, Ore., and eSUB, www.esubinc.com, San Diego, Calif., announced a new partnership, with eSUB joining the Viewpoint Development Partner Program. Together, the companies will allow specialty contractors to integrate data and more effectively manage projects from operations management to accounting.

Improving the flow of data across a construction project is one of the first steps toward eliminating inefficiencies in existing business processes and workflows.

Smart HVAC
The use of sensors in buildings—particularly in HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning)—is garnering some attention at the AHR Expo this week. In particular, members of the EnOcean, www.enocean.com, Alliance are introducing new technologies for energy harvesting.

For example, EnOcean introduced a new module series that will enable long-range, wireless communication without a battery. As another example, Mitsubishi Materials, www.mmea.com, Schaumburg, Ill., is introducing a new chip antenna series.

All these sensors and technology available for HVAC systems will allow specialty contractors to offer customers a product that consumes less energy and provides building-automation capabilities.

As technology advances for the office, jobsite, and even in the systems installed within buildings, specialty contractors and subs have an opportunity to use these platforms to distinguish their companies from the competition, providing value-added services through the use of technology.