The emergence of tablets is changing the way business is done at the construction jobsite, giving contractors access to project data through mobile devices. Service contractors have specific needs when it comes to accessing data in the field. For this segment of the construction market, the advent of smartphones, netbooks, and tablets is significantly altering the way work is done in the field.

These days, technology is advancing to the point where service companies can have information at their fingertips on mobile devices, but even more than just that equipment and vehicles can now actually send critical data to the appropriate employee within the organization.

For example, Pedigree Technologies, www.pedigreetechnologies.com, Fargo, N.D., offers M2M (machine-to-machine) technology that provides contractors with key information such as equipment location, condition, runtime, stops and trips, diagnostics, and tank inventory.

At the end of last week, the technology provider announced the release of OneViewPOV, tablet applications for fleet management and field service automation.

This technology gives operations managers a complete view of the enterprise including asset tracking, fleet management, machine health, and inventory management. With OneView FleetPOV, mobile workers can manage driver logs and hours of service to comply with FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admin.) requirements.

For field workers, the technology can also help prioritize projects, jobs, and resources based on realtime data. With JobsPOV, contractors can dispatch and coordinate time and resources based on realtime data, which will shorten the delivery-to-invoice timeline.

Overall, this new release will help connect the mobile workforce in the field to the office—giving service contractors access to key data through tablet applications.

Tablets and mobile devices are changing how business is done in the field—that trend is quite clear these days. Another big trend for service contractors to watch is moving data to the cloud—which basically means the service companies don’t need to host the technology, and instead the data is stored elsewhere and primarily accessible through the Web. The cloud could be a good option for smaller service contractors, in particular, that don’t want to incur additional costs associated with managing overhead and hosting the data internally.

Viewpoint Construction Software, www.viewpointcs.com, Portland, Ore., is one such company that rolled out a cloud computing platform for contractors. Jim Paulson, chief operating officer, Viewpoint Construction Software, says, “In 2011, whether it was cloud versus client server deployment or the most efficient way to implement new software, our customers made it clear that they want a technology partner, not a provider.”

In January of this year, Viewpoint Construction Software also kicked off its Service Management Suite with the launch of Work Order Management. With this software, users can create work orders, schedule work, capture work performed for labor, materials and equipment, and bill. While the product is designed for specialty contractors doing work-order based service calls, it can also be used by other contractors. Additional components to Service Management will be coming soon.

For service contractors, these are two big trends to watch in the year ahead—mobility and the cloud. Both offer options to help move service-contracting businesses forward and create new efficiencies that will ultimately impact the bottomline.