NoteVault's Live Coverage from the 2015 AGC IT Forum (Day 1)

by SEAN SPICER, NoteVault

3:15 – 4:15 p.m. (CDT) – Drones & Construction: U.A.S., the FAA and YOU – Blake Potts, Rogers O’Brien Construction and Jonathan S. Ziss, Esq., Goldberg Segalla

You can’t read the news without hearing about another incident regarding drones grounding fire and rescue planes, getting shot out of backyards or otherwise being brought into the spotlight. Blake Potts and Jonathan Ziss gave a comprehensive session exploring uses and obstacles for the use of unmanned drones on construction.

Blake got started with drone usage at Rogers O’Brien construction when they needed a tool to document warranty work regarding a leak on a high rise. The drone quickly grew to become an indispensable tool to their business. Sharing pictures of various projects, they demonstrated how they use drones to document their job sites, highlighting the drone’s ability to get up-close imagery from hard to reach places. Blake went one step further, training his supervisors to fly and operate drones to provide their own aerial progress photos, while safety directors began doing daily site videos. The company even went so far as to shoot the Rogers O’Brien promotional video with the drone.

When speaking of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its decision making process regarding Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) regulation, Blake cited the fact that 95 deaths occurred in one year just during climbing for inspection processes. The adoption of drones lets construction teams stay safe on the ground.

Ziss, an attorney with Goldberg Segalla, began by saying “you cannot fly your drone for commercial purposes without the express written approval of the FAA.”  What followed was a good in-depth account of the history of drones and FAA struggles to regulate them. On February 15th of 2015, the FAA released a “notice of proposed rule making” that define aircraft to include drones. The current regulatory environment sets forth the following rules:

  1. To be small, marines must way no more than 55lbs
  2. The max speed is 100mph
  3. Operation must be within direct visual line of sight of the operator and/or visual user
  4. Drones may be operated only during daytime and with three miles of visibility
  5. Operators are required to receive Air Traffic Control (ATC) permission to operate in controlled airspace
  6. Operators are required to possess pilot licenses
  7. Airworthiness certifications not required, but individual UAVs must be licensed and labeled

Looking to the future, Ziss explains his belief that these regulations are deliberately conservative to allow industries, including construction, and retailers (like Amazon and Google) with widely publicized endeavors to give their feedback during the 18-month public comment period.

Surprisingly, NASA is leading a think tank to bring industry together to plan an air traffic control system for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Ziss then explained how to get into compliance with the FAA. Until the rules are finalized, you can apply for an exemption at and search for a 333 exemption. Without the exemption, you must meet the following criteria to get FAA approval:

  • Possess a private pilot incense and third class medical
  • Read and possess the operations manual
  • Valid for a two year duration

Industries where companies have had FAA section 333 exemptions include

  • Agriculture
  • Energy
  • Surveying
  • Visual arts and movies
  • Firefighting
  • Academia
  • News gathering

Even if you do meet FAA regulations, you will still need to know and obey state and local laws to operate a UAV.

Beyond regulation, there are liability exposures including damage to people and property. The potential exposure spans from the drone operator to the property owner.. In the case of litigation, there can be liabilities to include business interruption, drone loss, loss of reputation, crisis management solutions (public relations) and, of course, administrative fines.

With that concludes a great and informative day at the AGC IT Forum. We will be back tomorrow starting at 8am for a promising presentation on Mobile Apps in Construction from Rob McKinney!

1:00 – 2:30 p.m. (CDT) – Affordable Solutions / Open Forum – Rob McKinney, ConAppGuru

Our good friend Rob McKinney, ConAppGuru, ran an informative open forum about free software available that can work as construction software solutions. My favorite moment was when somebody asked about automating closeout documentation, and somebody said NoteVault!  Here are a few highlighted solutions from the presentation.

Trello – Card based project management and to do list.
Wrike – freemium PM software
Freecpm – free collaborative
Waze – crowd sourced traffic and navigation.
Lifesize – on demand collaboration and screen recording software.
IFTTT – simple automation software allowing you to tie multiple softwares together.
LaborChart – field focused team scheduling
Exaktime – simple team based time tracking
8×8 – mobile phone system allowing desk phones to ring down to mobile
Oxblue – Time lapse videos

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. (CDT) – Cyber Security – Mike Zusman, Carve Systems, LLC

Mike Zusman, an ethical hacker and founder of Carve Systems, gave an impressive talk on cyber security. His intro described his gradual movement into computer security and penetration testing as he encountered glitches, hacks, and vulnerabilities through his career.

Zusman’s findings show that security is a people problem. Every organization needs a custom strategy and technology risk management process.

He suggests classifying your technology assets into three classifications:

  1. People – the folks who create, manage, and use applications and infrastructure
  2. Applications – the software that governs our business processes
  3. Infrastructure – the systems that allow our applications to function

Zusman’s most important point is vulnerability scanning is not penetration testing. Vulnerability scanning is an automated way to look for known vulnerabilities.

His recommendations:

  1. Create an information security officer role and perform technology-focused risk assessment annually.
  2. Practice continual risk assessment and have regular security meetings.
  3. Create a data classification policy and identify assets and vendors.
  4. Train users and generate awareness of security.
  5. Manage your vendors and use vendor questionnaires to evaluate their security.
  6. Look into data breech / cyber liability insurance.

Getting into terrifying territory, Zusman brought up the recent Jeep hack, and explained how Internet of Things (IOT) devices can create hundreds of thousands of new ways to break into systems. He explained how a simple IOT device can compromise the entire system is is plugged into.

Zusman’s main takeaway – don’t ignore security!


Internet of Things – Michael Faddis, Vokal

Michael Faddis contributed to the Tech Talks session by explaining how the internet-base of things is impacting construction. By adding the ability the collect data directly to our sites, equipment, and even our teams, we are able to collect more data and discover new ways to use it.

Here are six ways Vokal has leveraged the ideas behind the Internet of Things (IOT) for construction:

  1. Smart equipment
  2. Site management
  3. Energy conservation
  4. Location tracking
  5. Safety and training
  6. Smart buildings

Faddis extolled one major point – make sure you stay goal focused when moving forward on any project involving IOT.  It can be fun to build and play with IOT solutions, however if you don’t focus on who will be using the solution and what their goals are, the solution will be incomplete.

Laser Scanning ROI – Rawle Shaw, Gilbane Construction

Rawle Shaw from Gilbane Construction presented to show how his organization is using the Oculus Rift to let clients get inside laser scanned point clouds.

Laser Scanning – Reality of Reality Capture – Brian Laird, Rick Engineering

Brian Laird, from Rick Engineering gave an impressive presentation.  We learned how laser scanning fits into the building information modelling (BIM) process. His video demonstration of 3-D laser scanning with quarter-inch accuracy was amazing.

In addition to explaining types of scanners and the software to handle them, Laird ran down the six steps used at Rick Engineering to deliver and use laser scans:

  1. Conduct initial field work and surveying to plan the scan.
  2. Create a point cloud and get raw measurements from the laser scanner.
  3. Model and publish a simple point cloud viewer to share with teams or clients.
  4. Turn the point cloud into usable data.
  5. Create a true 3-D model.
  6. Identify conflicts and errors in plans or production through spatial coordination.

While laser scanners and software are becoming both more affordable and more advanced, U.S. Institute of Building Documentation (USIBD) and BIMForum are working to create a standard specification for laser scans. The future looks bright for laser scanning, and we are excited to see how this technology advances.

Back to Darnell’s earlier presentation (see highlights below), Laird points out that he has seen great coordinated systems that would have avoided issues if shared, however the systems were not shared with the field teams.

Avoid Project Collaboration Mistakes – Brent Darnell, Brent Darnell International

Brent Darnell, speaker, author, personal coach, and founder of Brent Darnell International, gave an impressive opening talk on the importance of the human component in finding solutions. In his session, Darnell revealed that communication is key to finding solutions. If your team isn’t working together, solutions never happen. If your teams are not talking to each other, there will be no solutions. In light of the challenges faced when bringing new technology to your projects, it is important to remember that if the “solution” ignores the human element, there will be no solution at all.

About NoteVault
Founded in 2007, NoteVault was created to develop and deploy innovative mobile solutions for construction and infrastructure projects. Using NoteVault's mobile and web-based platform, streamline and centralize jobsite information on a singular platform, enabling companies to overcome common daily reporting constraints traditionally found in construction. Features include daily reporting, safety reporting, system integrations and transcription. 

Based in San Diego, California, Sean Spicer is the director of digital marketing for NoteVault, With degrees from Mt. San Antonio College and UC Berkeley, Sean spent nearly 20 years building established and emerging businesses before joining NoteVault in 2014.