Could the cloud soon replace your PC? As the need for information at any given time and any given place continues to accelerate, the idea of one device to manage all of your data doesn’t seem feasible. Still, the idea of all data residing in the virtual cloud could be a scary proposition to some in construction.

But perhaps it’s time to take a leap of faith. Analyst firm Gartner, www.gartner.com, Stamford, Conn., predicts by 2014 the idea of the “personal cloud” will become so prevalent that it will replace the need for a personal computer. This, says Gartner, would force enterprises to rethink the way in which they are delivering applications and services to users.

“Major trends in client computing have shifted the market away from a focus on personal computers to a broader device perspective that includes smartphones, tablets, and other consumer devices,” says Steve Kleynhans, research vice president, Gartner. “Emerging cloud services will become the glue that connects the Web of devices that users choose to access during the different aspects of their daily life.”

It’s all about the data these days. In construction, the idea of generating and sharing content from the field almost necessitates a change in computing, as suggested by Gartner. However, whether that means something as extreme as the cloud replacing the computer is still up for debate.

We have already begun to see the cloud’s impact on construction, with many major technology providers in all areas, from accounting to project management, moving to this delivery model. Philip Dixon, vice president, business development, marketing, Construction Imaging, www.construction-imaging.com, Rocky Mount, N.C., sees a future where a new integrated model of technology for construction relies on, among other things, hybrid technology platforms with private and public cloud applications.

Device makers such as Acer, www.acer.com, San Jose, Calif., are helping prepare for this evolution. However, Sumit Agnihorty, vice president of product marketing, Acer, doesn’t believe the PC will go away altogether. He still believes the PC will be a valuable part of a person’s productivity, but that multiple devices–whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or netbook–will be the overriding strategy.

The importance, he says, will be in the ability for companies like Acer to deliver a platform that allows users to access data across multiple devices at any time, from any place. Acer offers a private cloud that comes preloaded on its tablets and PCs, which straight out of the box provides a service that allows users to take data and manipulate it on a PC and then access it from other devices. This demonstrates a clear focus on the data as opposed to the device.

As with any technology change, a move to the cloud needs to align with the business objectives of a construction company in order to present the most value. Is a personal cloud in the cards for construction? Perhaps. Until then, all that contractors can do is focus on how to best manage the data for their business, the best way they know how.