Tablets have certainly become handy tools for the building market. Apps tailored to provide information, capture data, and communicate with the home office are making it easier for builders to work under tight deadlines.

While the market for construction-related apps continues to grow, the important factor for builders to consider when selecting and using such apps is to choose the ones that can be the most useful out in the field. After all, this is where the true action on a job is happening. Apps that allow data to be captured at the point of creation, or that can supply information on a specific material or workflow process in realtime without the need to go back to the office or make a call to confirm information can be the most useful in the field.

For instance, a company called USP Structural Connectors, www.uspconnectors.com, Burnsville, Minn., recently made a complete catalog of hangers, anchors, and connectors available via an app for the iPad. Called USP Catalog iPad Application, the app could definitely come in handy for builders, as well as engineers or architects who specify hangers and connectors, acting as a handy reference tool out in the field.

The app features full search capabilities, allowing users to browse USP’s entire product line of more than 3,000 framing hangers, structural connectors, and anchoring systems, among other products.’ Along with the ability to identify products, users will be able to find application illustrations, installation instructions, fastening schedules, and even load ratings.’ Full PDF pages can be emailed and printed directly from the app.’

“iPads are as common on jobsites as hammers and nails, and with this USP iPad app, we have put a powerful search tool in the hands of contractors, as well as the engineers and architects who specify hangers and connectors,” says Barry Ashwell, USP Structural Connectors. “The iPad app is just the latest offering in a long list of support that we offer for USP products, ranging from code-compliance literature to extensive CAD libraries, and more.”

The company is part of MiTek, www.mitek.us.com, Chesterfield, Mo., a company that we have seen move more and more into the area of creating digital production tools for the homebuilding market. This is just another extension of putting digital information regarding the materials need to complete a homebuilding project into the hands of the professionals right at the point of action.

We have seen other apps from companies like Vivint, www.vivint.com, Provo, Utah, a residential home-automation systems integrator, that help to increase the productivity of a particular trade. In the case of Vivint, the app is targeted at service technicians who install and fix smart home systems such as security, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), lighting, and small appliances.

Using the app, technicians can manage schedules and inventory, as well as interact with the customer service center remotely. Other functions include a mapping option that provides the best route to get to a job and a tech-locating element that allows technicians to connect with others in the area.

In the age of apps, builders need to pick and choose the ones they use with a purpose. Focusing on those apps that can create some value out in the field can be a strong strategy for success, and one that can make navigating the app landscape more manageable.