NoteVault's Live Coverage from the 2015 AGC IT Forum (Day 2)

by SEAN SPICER, NoteVault

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (CDT) – CLOSING KEY NOTE

Future Trends: How Construction Technology is Re-writing all the Rules – James Benham, CEO,  JB Knowledge and SmartBidNet

To kick off what would be a truly mind blowing closing keynote on emerging technologies, James Benham from JP Knowledge began with the introspective question, “why do we even bother with technology?”

Why do companies spend money on technology when they can’t see a demonstrable ROI?

Construction is one of the oldest professions on earth. The pyramids were built in 30 years, with so many construction-related deaths that entire cemeteries were built to handle the bodies. The Empire State Building was finished in just over a year. The Hoover Dam was completed two years ahead of schedule. An oil pipeline, Big Inch, was built in 350 days.  All of these were done without computers. Why do we bother?

First off, computers allow for greater margins. A $4,000 software platform replaced $150,000 in plan printing and shipping. DPR saved $100 million and five months of labor by bringing technology into a hospital project and allowing builders and designers to identify problems before building even started.

Then there is the issue of greater complexity. Crystal Bridges involved moving a river, building a museum, then putting the river back. The tallest building in the world is a standing wing, impossible without aerodynamic modeling.

The next reason we need technology is safety. The projects mentioned above had astronomical death rates. Today, wearable technologies and software have contributed to the reduction of workplace fatalities from 5.5 to 3.2 per 100,000 workers. Worker quality of life is more than an after thought. By streamlining workflows and reducing or eliminating rework, our teams are not pushed into constant frustration.

Technology also gives us a greater competitive advantage. A great mantra from one of Benham’s clients — “I don’t want to be way ahead, I want to be a year ahead.” Being “way” ahead is expensive, but a year ahead is accessible and gives a tremendous competitive  advantage.

What is Big Data?
Big Data is big volume, big velocity and big variety. In construction, this means identifying material shortages in real time, identifying labor shortages before they occur, reducing RFIs by identifying WHY they happened in the past. Big Data is not a database.

What is Machine Learning?
Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that allows a computer to learn without being programmed.

Mobile devices, apps and connectivity have dramatically improved again. The future is here! Google Fiber gives 16gb data rates. 3-D printers are taking off, and IT will have to manage this. Wearable technologies are here, and IT will have to manage this, as well. Computers can sense you now, with items like leap motions, soft kinetic, structure sensor, and project tango are changing the way we computer. Drone battles are here, but drones are also in our workplaces., and IT will have to manage this! Architects, engineers and construction professionals are working together at hackathons to solve common problems. IT is central to this.

There are more construction apps than ever. Why are there so many apps? Because there is lot of funding to build apps, and that drives innovation.

The Internet of Things has accelerated from geofencing to smart homes, and soon even self driving cars. Imagine the automation ability this will bring to construction. This is the year of Back to the Future 2! The technologies in that movie are becoming real! Big data and machine earning are intersecting. Automated BIM development has happened, and will increasing impact the construction industry.

Research and development is imperative to maintain competitive advantages, yet it is only in companies of over $500M in revenue, or those with over 1,000 employees where you see 50% of companies that have an R&D department.

Do research! But don’t kill it with committees. How often do we spend more time and money to decide if we should buy something than it would cost to simply buy it?

There is an irrational fear of cloud based solutions. Cloud solutions are defended, while on-site solutions are easily compromised by employees or even physical access. Keeping things off the cloud and in one central place puts data in risk of things like CryptoLocker or systems failure.

How are people securing cloud data? 45% correctly are answering training their people! But everyone should carry cyber liability insurance because getting coverage will give you a framework to adhere to that will assure your security.

Forty-two percent of construction companies are using manual processes to manage client relations. There is a huge opportunity to improve business processes by implementing CRM software!

More than 47% of companies do not use BIM. Yet in Europe, BIM models are being required. A new firefighting mask allows firefighters to pull BIM models of the buildings they are in to navigate. BIM saves lives! Software providers are combining BIM and costing, giving cost data right inside the model further increasing margins!

In a light moment, Benham brought up a screenshot of the video game Minecraft and asserted to attendees that “if you are uncomfortable with computer modeling, try this! If you don’t know what this is, find the nearest five-year old and they will teach you how to play!”

In 2015, 97.6% of construction professionals report having smart devices in use in the field. This is an increase from 72% in 2014.

The 4 most experimented with technologies in construction to date are:
1. Drones
2. 3-D scanners
3. 3-D printers
4. Virtual reality

Augmented and Virtual Reality Will Disrupt Construction

Wearables now exist that give visual, sense and tactile interactivity. We can already walk inside of our building models before they are ever built. Augmented reality can be used to pitch projects. Architectural, engineering and construction professionals can find problems where they never would have before.

The DAQRI smart helmet brings all these technologies to the field and adds instructions, manuals, navigation, models and safety right to field workers.
The Microsoft HoloLens is going to change everything. Windows 10 brings phones, tablets and computers onto one device. When the HoloLens launches, we will have a fully functional operating system on our head, giving us augmented reality models anywhere. It brings collaboration to a new level. Teams can work remotely in the same model, as if they were in the same physical space.

Scanning the Built Environment 
Google’s Project Tango takes 250,000 measurements every second. It scans environments in real-time, and is only $500. Matterport is building software for Project Tango that provides real-time point clouds with full color, creating lifelike models in seconds. Structure Sensor is an add on for an iPad that allows 3-D scanning of objects. iBeacons allow for location tracking, environmental measurements and layouts. There is also work from Dr. Mani Golparvar-Fard at University of Illinois allowing 3-D models to be created from photos.

Aerial Drones for 4-D Data Capture
Photometry is allowing consumer-level cameras and phones to create 4-D models. Skycatch is fully autonomous. It changes its own battery, it sets its own way point, and it flies on its own all day providing 4-D scans and images.

3-D Printing
There are houses being printed by 3-D printers. A real bridge in the Netherlands is being 3-D printed today.

In closing, Benham announced how JBKnoweledge is launching JBLabs to accelerate innovation and invention. Benham is REALLY excited about technology, and we have some amazing things in the pipeline. To find out more about James Benham, visit

8:45 – 9:30 a.m. (CDT) – Construction Application Interoperability: Software Integration Demo and COSA / XML Update – Dennis Stejskal, Sage; John Goecke, StratusVue; Benny Baltrosky, eSUB Construction Software; James Benham, JBKnowledge, Inc.

NoteVault was VERY excited to see the Construction Open Standards Alliance (COSA) presentation on interoperability. Following well on the heels of Rob McKinney’s discussion of point solution software that does one thing, like time sheets or punch lists, very well, versus all in one solutions that may lack your favorite features. The COSA presentation was centered around how a robust and open system of interoperability between point solutions allows construction companies to bring their best point solutions together to create a cohesive platform.

Why is data lost when things move from the estimating department to project management department? If all of our software had the same standard way of saving information, no data would be lost, and  there would be much fewer errors. Additionally, efficiencies would be increased since all the data would just move from system to system, reducing the time spent entering redundant data in multiple systems. The open standard and interoperability can also reduce the need for subcontractors to log into multiple redundant systems, as in an ideally integrated world, their software would speak openly with the general contractors.

Available standards via COSA:
– Contractor record
– Plan room
– Time sheets
– Consensus documents
– RFIs

Currently in development are:
– Estimating
– Daily Reports

Demonstrations of interoperability using the COSA standard showed how integrations can be automated, allowing information to move from one platform to others seamlessly.

Interested in adopting COSA Standards? Download them FREE at

8:00 – 8:45 a.m. (CDT)Mobile Apps in Construction – Rob McKinney, ConAppGuru

ConAppGuru, Rob McKinney has devoted his career to researching mobile apps and technology in construction. Before that he was a safety and quality leader. In his research, he has tried, demoed and tested hundreds, if not thousands of apps, gadgets and platforms. At the AGC IT Forum, he demonstrated his knowledge of the industry, leading the first day’s open forum on free and cheap applications and giving a fast packed and wildly informative presentation on mobile technology on day two.

He started a lively discussion of the history of construction technology by beginning with the abacus and moving through levels, time clocks, supercomputers, the texcal calculator, fax machines, brick phones, Blackberries, and the arrival of the iPad, which he accurately described as a game changer for construction technology.

Talking about how rapidly technology is evolving, he identified trendsetters, adopters, and followers as the three types of device users. A rapid survey of the audience found 80 iOS users, 20 Android and a surprising two companies using Windows phones. This led to the surprising revelation in the state of technology in construction, where he explained that some employees don’t even have email.  He also noted the increasing number of companies taking technology into the field with tablets.

The three values of construction software McKinney identified were:

1. Communication between field and office.
2. Collaboration with a real-time connection in the field
3. Ability to increase profits by decreasing rework and extra or redundant labor

His second audience survey revealed how many companies had written technology plans –41 companies did, while 52 did not.

In answering why we use mobile apps, McKinney showed how mobile apps allow supervisors to get out of the office and work directly at the site. He noted the five workflows most affected by construction mobile applications:

1. Safety
2. Photos
3. Plans
4. Daily Reports
5. Punch Lists

He then spoke on the two styles of apps in the marketplace today. The first, point solutions, do one thing best.  The other he referred to as all in one solutions which do many things.  They may not always be the best solutions, but everything is in one place. A quick survey of the crowd found an almost equal mix of companies using all in one applications and point apps.

Rob moved on to discuss the cutting edge, and where we are moving beyond just phones and tablets. While discussing how mobile software is advancing in leaps and bounds, he was interrupted by a buzzing on his Apple watch. Smiling and holding the watch to the microphone, he was greeted with NoteVault’s own AlertMe! feature with a kind compliment from Sean Spicer right from his wrist.  He demonstrated how wearable technologies and software can work together to keep construction supervisors, safety coordinators, and every member of the team informed.

In summary the ConAppGuru once again earned his name by showing technology from ancient times to the future. It’s an exciting time to be in technology.

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.