The consumerization of technology has led construction workers to carry mobile devices such as the iPad. Combine that with advances in technologies such as the cloud, GPS, and RFID (radio frequency identification) and construction companies now have more options to keep a close eye on lost or stolen equipment and tools.

Given the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, tool-tracking technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate. Take for example ToolWatch, www.toolwatch.com, Englewood, Colo. The company will be rolling out new a cloud-based platform that will help provide a wealth of new options for managing assets.

Don Kafka, president, ToolWatch, says, “We see supervisors carrying around their iPads, and the workers that have their iPhones, and we are looking to create apps dedicated exclusively to those users,” Kafka. “The idea is to target those in the field and provide them real value for managing tools.”

Given the fact smartphones and tablets include technology that leverages location-based data, Kafka doesn’t rule anything out for how these devices could be used—in conjunction with the right apps—in order to better manage tools. He ponders such ideas as perhaps a supervisor knowing which employee has a tool checked out based on the GPS coordinates of his phone.

Looking big picture, he points to RFID as one technology continuing to gain interest for tracking tools. RFID tags give each tool a unique identifier that can be linked back to a database. Each tag contains an antenna and a chip, and through the use of a handheld scanner users are able to tap into information embedded in the chip. Unlike a barcode, which has been used for decades to track tools in construction, the RFID chip adds a bit of intelligence.

As another example, DeWALT, www.dewaltmobilelock.com, Baltimore, Md., offers MOBILELOCK, a wireless anti-theft unit that uses GPS to protect and track anything on a jobsite. The self-contained unit, which is roughly the size of a deck of cards, contains integrated GPS and allows managers to remotely arm or disarm the unit’s alarm or locate the exact coordinates of missing equipment.

With mobile devices, RFID, GPS, and the cloud continuing to advance, construction technology will soon turn equipment and tools into smart assets.