The consumerization of technology—or the trend for technology to emerge in the consumer world and then proliferate to business—is having deep impacts across the construction industry. Consider the iPad. Prior to the release of the iPad in 2010, the high price of rugged tablets held back many contracting companies from deploying this type of hardware in the field. Fast forward to today and many construction workers have an iPad in their personal life, making the transition to tablets in construction more convenient for some.

These days, many construction companies have some sort of tablet device in place at the jobsite—whether it is for inspectors, project managers, or company executives.

However, as the tablet market continues to heat up, with rugged devices coming down in price and offering key functionality for business, construction companies have a tough choice to make for the future: Stick with consumer devices such as the iPad and Galaxy Tab or upgrade to business-specific devices.

One clear advantage to business-specific devices is the rugged nature of the devices. Panasonic, www.panasonic.com, Secaucus, N.J., for example, has created a rugged handheld tablet that can survive a 6-foot drop.

Last week, the company announced improvements to its Toughbook H2 tablet, which includes an upgraded processor, improved battery life, expanded storage, and enhanced connectivity. These devices include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth standard on the devices, with options for 4G LTE or 3G Gobi and dedicated GPS.

In addition to the rugged exterior of the device and the ability to view in bright sunlight, business-specific devices such as the Toughbook also provide more connected capabilities such as barcode, fingerprint, and contactless SmartCard/RFID (radio-frequency identification) readers.

Even more, many of these rugged devices also offer business-specific functionality and applications for project management, payment, and more.

In the case of the LeafPresenter from Leaf, www.leaf.me, Cambridge, Mass., this tablet is specifically designed for small-and-medium-sized businesses to do mobile ordering and checkout by accepting payments using the processor or next-gen payment such as PayPal, LevelUp, or other mobile wallets.

For the construction industry, specialty contractors or other small construction shops could use this tablet as a means to accept new forms of payment. The device, released last week, makes use of NFC (near-field communication), Europay, Mastercard, Visa, and gift card support standard features.

Additionally, the updated tablet also has a camera that can read 1D and 2D barcodes, a more efficient battery, and a smaller, lighter, and more rugged design. With this release, Leaf also introduced the Leaf Appstore for developers to create apps specifically for small businesses.

Not to be outdone, Motion Computing, www.motioncomputing.com, Austin, Texas, has been providing construction-specific devices with a rugged design and business functionality for years. Early this year, the company also announced a partnership with Esri, www.esri.com, Redlands, Calif., a provider of GIS (geographic information systems), mapping, and spatial analysis technology. With these two companies partnering up, new opportunities could soon be available for GIS and mapping on Motion tablets.

All in all, the construction industry has a range of choices to go mobile at the jobsite. In the world of tablets along, providers are upping their game, offering workers more desired functionality for a job. Time will tell if contractors make the switch from consumer devices to business-specific tablets.