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Chromebook for the construction industry

Chromebooks for construction: 11 reasons your firm should try them

Construction, Feature, Google Apps, Technology | No Comments

Like all major international sectors, the construction industry must embrace change to survive. Engaging with new technology is essential to ensure design and construction practices are constantly operating at their peak; and yet, the industry has been slow to adapt to the wealth of technological innovations on offer.

With the digital revolution come new opportunities for the industry and individual companies to grow. The Chromebook is a lightweight laptop running a Chrome OS operating system. In particular, the Chromebook will appeal to those who spend the majority of their computing time online, because they have no internal hard drive.

This means that to save your work, you will need access to the internet or an external hard drive. Despite requiring an internet connection to complete several functions, Chromebooks are becoming an increasingly invaluable tool for businesses, particularly in the competitive construction industry. Here are just a few of the key features drawing industry professionals to the Chromebook.

1. Google Apps for Work

Google Apps for Work is fast becoming the go-to software for construction firms upgrading their outdated systems. It’s easy to see why, with the software’s key aims reflecting the current trend for remote collaboration and streamlined communication and a host of Google for Work Apps free with every Chromebook.

With Cloud storage, you can share, discuss and collaborate on documents in real time, with all changes saved automatically. Google Apps’ enables growth through real-time collaborations, but also enhances communication and provides simple but effective search capabilities for all work saved on the Cloud.

Despite claims to the contrary, if you’re still using a Microsoft system and don’t want to make the change, you can use an online version of Microsoft Office through your Chromebook. Not every feature of Office is available in the online version, but it does come complete with Word Online, Excel Online, and PowerPoint Online. Microsoft has even made these apps available in the Chrome Web Store, so those not ready to make the switch can enjoy access to both complimentary of the Chromebook.

Google Apps for the construction industry
2. Adobe Photoshop Online

One of the biggest obstacles when considering a Chromebook is the perceived lack of storage space. People bemoan that there is nowhere on the Chromebook to store their favourite applications, and in a way they’re right. This isn’t necessarily a hindrance, however. Whilst an internet connection is essential, storage space on the laptop is obsolete because all information can be stored on the Google Drive in the cloud.

Because Adobe’s servers, rather than the Chromebook, host the application, most of the processing comes through the cloud. This means not only can it operate faster than on a traditional laptop; it also won’t deplete your Chromebook battery as fast as when used on a traditional hardware.

With this app, the speed with which you create high quality original images just depends on your internet bandwidth and imagination. Because files are stored in the cloud on Google Drive, you can also access them from anywhere in the world. Sadly, for Chromebook users outside North America, they may still have some time to wait before the service becomes available

Chromebooks for the construction industry

3. Value for money

One of the Chromebooks selling points when first released was the price. Whilst other laptops on the market were selling at an average of $500 or more, the Chromebook was being marketed at less than half that. If buying in bulk for an office, you can save even more.

This frees up cash to spend on extra features for the company, like increased office bandwidth and faster servers, which in turn benefit the Chromebook using employees. Even if your company decides to invest in external hard drives for each Chromebook, the savings can be significant but can also still enable the workforce to go mobile when needed.

4. Battery life

Because its applications are based almost entirely in the Cloud, the Chromebook’s servers don’t have to dedicate RAM to running multiple programs at the same time. This gives the Chromebook an impressive battery life (up to 13 hours), which comes in handy when you’re on the go and don’t have time to search out plug sockets.

For those in construction, this allows you to travel between sites without having to close down your system. It’s not all good news, however. Because the Chromebook relies on an internet connection to fulfil most of its duties, using it on-site may be difficult and could require the use of mobile data from an external source.

5. Streamlined functionality

The Chromebook boasts several advantages over OS X and Windows, but one of the most enticing has to be how much faster and smoother it runs Chrome. Because the design specifically aims to run Chrome on Linux, the Chromebook doesn’t come with the usual driver issues and software glitches.

Many designers, particularly those who spend the majority of their time working online, find the Chromebook’s simple, streamlined system perfect for their needs. In the construction industry, this can be a problem for those based at the design end of the spectrum.

Whilst rumours still swirl around a Chromebook version of Autodesk Revit, employees will have to satisfy themselves with using the Chromebook as a communication and marketing tool.

Chromebook for the construction industry

6. Security

Because almost all information entered into a Chromebook is stored in the cloud, losing your Chromebook doesn’t necessarily mean compromising company information. Any file uploaded to the Google Drive can be password protected; ensuring nobody outside the company can gain access. Likewise, a company admin can disable your account if your Chromebook is lost or stolen, essentially rendering the Drive inaccessible to anyone without the relevant details.

Additionally, the Chrome OS comes with built-in virus and malware protection, ensuring your Chromebook stays protected at all times.

7. Work Offline

When the Chromebook was first introduced, it came with some substantial flaws. If you couldn’t get access to the internet, it quickly transformed from invaluable communication tool to oversized paperweight.

Thankfully, Google soon decided to start making some of the apps available offline, with some major third-party apps choosing to follow suit.

The move to enable app installation, thus making them available offline, has helped bolster sales of Chromebooks. People have come to realise that a lack of internet connection doesn’t mean a Chromebook is inoperative. For those in the construction industry, this enables a completely new level of mobility.

8. Sync

Because the Chromebook stores all information on the Drive, you can sync all your apps and passwords with Chrome browsers on other computers. This gives you access to all your files and data no matter where you are, and no matter what device you used previously. Even data created through a mobile device is accessible from the Chromebook, meaning you will never be without your data again.

This also means switching an entire workforce to the Chromebook is immensely simple, freeing firms up to focus on delivering world-class standards in construction.

Chromebook for the construction industry

9. Cloud Storage

When you purchase a Chromebook, you get 100GB of Google Drive storage free for two years. This is a huge amount of space, easily sufficient to meet the needs of most contractors and office workers. That’s comparable to the amount you could expect from a service like Dropbox or OneDrive, with a significant saving thrown in.

The cloud is also safer and more secure than saving to an internal hard drive, which can be lost, stolen or damaged. Because all data is stored on the cloud, it’s accessible from anywhere in the world. This, in turn, eliminates the need for pesky pen drives or external hard drives.

10. Updates

Chromebooks update themselves regularly without all the fuss of a regular update. There’s no need to sit and wait patiently for your device to update and restart, or to worry that your malware protection may be out of date. The Chromebook updates automatically whenever necessary, and doesn’t demand your attention whenever a minor update is available.

11. Mobility

Although the weight of a Chromebook varies from model to model, most are lightweight and can be taken almost anywhere. This feeds into the mobile properties of the system, which encourages sharing, discussing and collaborating on projects on the go. This limits the amount of downtime whilst allowing a greater scope in terms of who the client is and their geographic location.

Chromebooks for the construction industry

So the Chromebook definitely comes with some downsides, particularly the lack of functionality when an internet connection is unavailable. It’s also a solid investment for firms looking to make the leap into the digital. Lightweight, secure and deliberately streamlined to provide the optimum online user experience, Chromebooks can keep an entire firm connected for less. For the construction industry, a change is coming. All you have to decide is if it’s a change you and your firm are ready to make.

The biggest challneges facing the global construction industry

5 technologies changing construction forever

Construction, Feature, Google Apps, Industry, Technology | No Comments

The construction industry is constantly changing. As new technologies replace redundant methods of construction, practices adjust and our perception of the world evolves. The industry’s post-industrial evolution has largely been a fluid progression from one logical step to another. Thanks to the sharing power bestowed by the internet, however, the past twenty years has seen a host of standout technologies changing construction, and the way we construct our world, forever.

Google Apps

As technology develops and international boundaries blur, designers have been quick to take advantage of the newfound possibilities in collaboration. The administrative side has been slower to adapt, to the detriment of the entire industry. Google Apps offers construction firms the opportunity to revolutionise not only the means by which they communicate internally but also the way in which the entire industry operates.

The nature of the software allows for collaboration a scale unthinkable just a few years ago. Because company information is shared on the Google Drive, the process of access, sharing, and editing is streamlined, while the risk of losing information is reduced to a near impossibility. With the Google Cloud storing all information, access to vital data, renders and details are simplified, while the hardware on which it is accessed becomes less relevant. It also makes the transfer of large image files easier, safer and less time-consuming.

With the Google Cloud storing all information, access to vital data, renders and details are simplified, while the hardware on which it is accessed becomes less relevant. It also makes the transfer of large image files easier, safer and less time-consuming.

With Google Apps, file transfers and shared calendars streamline the sharing of information whilst keeping everyone updated in real time. For construction projects, alterations to a design,  materials or staff can be shared and explained via video with Google Hangouts. The result is multiple users to contribute and come to an appropriate solution promptly.
Technologies changing construction
Google Apps is already revolutionising the way the construction industry operates

BIM

Without a doubt, one of the most significant innovations in the construction industry in the past twenty years, BIM, or Building Information Modeling, has changed building design and the construction process forever. BIM software allows designers to generate and manipulate a digital representation of a building, meaning a project can be created and studied before a single brick is laid.

BIM gives designers the opportunity to study the effect of external factors on a building, allowing them to manipulate the design to achieve optimum levels of efficiency. By creating digital models, construction firms now have a fully realised and intricately detailed design from which to work. The technology behind BIM also means designers can prepare buildings to be adapted as technology evolves, ensuring projects stay relevant for as long as possible.

Some leading industry figures have questioned the integrity of information used in BIM, as well as the willingness of some clients to invest. But these are kinks in a relatively new design technology which will inevitably be ironed out as it develops. Today BIM is used on a range of software platforms for a variety of projects across the world. As a constantly developing technology, the potential to factor new considerations into the design process ensures it will continue to play an invaluable role in the future of construction.
Technologies changing construction
A building diagram constructed through BIM software

3D printing

Despite a recent backlash against 3D printing, the technology still holds huge potential for the construction industry, and for society as a whole. 3D printing can be applied to a whole range of construction materials, including sustainable cladding, concrete foundations, insulation and even entire buildings. Projects like the WASProject in Italy have even utilised the technology to create temporary shelters for victims of natural disasters using water, clay and sand.

Luke Henderson, Director of Print 3D in China, a 3D printing start-up based in Shenzhen, explains the shift from traditional materials; “The increase in availability of this technology has allowed smaller companies to try out new ideas without worrying too much about cost,” adding “poorer countries can bootstrap the process of creating architectural models by using consumer grade FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) 3D printers.

3D printing comes with a host of other advantages. By handing the actual process of construction to a printer, there is no longer room for human error. In turn, complex geometrical designs are now no longer the sole preserve of the wealthy. As Hod Lipson explained in ‘Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing, in printing: “Complexity costs the same as simplicity.”

Technologies changing construction
A 3D printer in action/ photo credit: 3D Printer at the Fab Lab via photopin (license)

Prefabricated building materials

Although designers are still sceptical about the true potential of prefabricated design, the reality is this technology has been a major element of construction, existing in some form since the 19th century. The past twenty years, however, have seen the technology evolve to a previously unimaginable scale.

Prefabricated designs have grown in popularity largely because of the proliferation of new technology, allowing designers to create ingenious interlocking designs that can be assembled relatively easily on-site. The approach saves not only time but money, manpower, and natural resources, making buildings safer and more sustainable in the process. Because around 90% of all construction takes place in the factory, the construction requires less time and uses less concrete and water.

The Broad Group construction firm in China utilised the prefabrication method to achieve some of the fastest skyscraper construction times in history. The group first made its name in construction with a six-story building built in just one day at the Shanghai Expo in 2010. The firm went on to construct a 15 story Ark Hotel in just six days before building a 30 story hotel in Hunan Province in just over two weeks.

Each of these projects was filmed and released as time-lapse videos, showing the entire construction process in the space of a few minutes. The end result is not only an incredible piece of meticulous coordination but an indicator of the potential timeframe for the construction of future large-scale projects.Technologies changing construction
A prefabricated facade post assembly/ photo credit: building via photopin (license)

Robotic construction

Whilst robots have been used in constructing materials for well over half a century now, it’s only in the past ten years we have seen the real potential of On-Site Construction Robots (OSCR). When combined with 3D printing technology OSCR’s can massively reduce construction times, cutting costs and enabling the construction of more complex designs. As a result, architects, designers, and construction personnel can begin to explore new aesthetic approaches.

With OSCR’s also capable of reducing the amount of manpower required, some have been reticent to acknowledge the full potential of robots in construction, partly out of fear of eroding the element of human skill. But projects like the proposed Museum of Contemporary Art and Planning Exhibition (MOCAPE) in Shenzhen, by Austrian firm Coop Himmelb(l)au, could prove robots and humans both have their place in the construction process.

In an interview with Dezeen magazine, Coop Himmelb(l)au founder Wolf D Prix argued engaging with these processes was essential to enable the trade to progress, stating: “If you combine 3D printing and assembling by robots, then the building industry has more chances than ever,” adding “The combination of robotic construction and 3D printing is the future of the building industry. It gives the architect more freedom to invent. The ideas that right now are killed, by the argument that it costs too much or it takes too long, will be not killed anymore.”

Prix has identified what each of these innovations are about. Each technology was born of a need to allow ideas to flourish. Just as the needs of the client evolves over time, so too must the technology to meet these needs. By encouraging and engaging with the latest innovations, designers and engineers can continue to build a brighter, more secure future; both for the construction industry and the world they create.

Cloud collaboration for the construction industry

A new era in design culture: Cloud Collaboration for the Construction Industry

Architecture, Collaboration, Construction, Google Apps, Technology | No Comments

Every now and again, technology throws up an innovation capable of reinventing whole industries. Each sector benefits from technological change to a different degree, and some have been faster to take advantage of these breakthroughs than others have. The design industry has benefitted hugely from the advances in Cloud storage, but firms have been slow to realise its potential for streamlining operations.

What is the Cloud?

The Cloud is an innovative technology that stores individual and company information on servers, rather than saving to individual hard drives. By uploading data to a central “cloud” for storage, it’s accessible from anywhere in the world with internet connection. The service provider is responsible for software maintenance, enabling all users to access the same document, meaning everybody is on the same wavelength, an essential element to the collaboration process.

The technology has made the sharing and co-authoring of files easier and safer than ever before, but it’s also inspiring a new era of collaboration, an era where people at opposite ends of the planet can now upload, comment and collaborate on documents together in real-time. By sharing new ideas, concepts and theories in a digital space, processes become more democratic, and designs take on a new dimension.

Create everywhere

As communication technologies continue to develop, employees no longer need to be physically present in the office. Instead, access to reliable internet and a functioning device is all that’s required to hit deadlines and maintain a competitive output. In the construction industry, being on-site no longer means being out-of-reach, and travel-time doesn’t have to mean downtime.

Thankfully, enterprise collaboration is enjoying a newfound interest as firms begin to realise the potential Cloud technology has for the modern business. With increased competition, a growing demand for instant output and the consumerization of IT, firms are beginning to realise that the future of the industry doesn’t lie in the hard drives of yesterday.

By being able to create and contribute everywhere, collaboration no longer has a time limit. Delays in the design process, caused by disparate sleeping times and other engagements, narrow to minimum levels whilst deadlines no longer define when employees can make it into the office.

Cloud collaboration for the construction industry

Unlimited storage

There is no end to inventiveness, so it stands to reason there should be no limit to where you store ideas. Unlike traditional computer hardware, the Cloud comes with the option of unlimited storage. This means designers don’t have to keep deleting as they go, enabling an uninterrupted creative process and nurturing an environment where original thought isn’t limited to the size of a hard drive.

Reduced costs

Whilst reduced expenditure may seem like an insignificant element in collaboration, every aspect of a firm’s functionality has a knock-on effect, particularly outgoing costs. By switching to a Cloud-based storage system, more user-friendly, portable devices can replace out-dated hardware. In turn, this reduces the amount of energy required to power office devices, further lowering costs.

Likewise, replacing the out-dated software suites such as Microsoft Office 365 in favour of a more mobile and innovative solution, such as Google Apps for Work, can save significantly on outgoing charges. This saving extends to enabling a greater mobility, with staff no longer tied to hardware in the office.

Cloud collaboration for the construction industry

Collaborate in real-time, all the time

Great ideas don’t stick to a working schedule. That’s why it’s important you have a means of recording and sharing your ideas, whenever they come to you. In the same way, needlessly convoluted communication system shouldn’t hinder collaboration. It is essential employees can pass information between each other in as efficient a manner possible, and that’s where the Cloud comes in.

Constantly sending documents back and forth between collaborators hinders the process of organic creation. It also increases the risk of losing work by continually creating near-duplicates of documents, meaning the odds of sending the wrong document between staff increases with each new communication. Because slight changes can make all the difference, it’s essential everyone is working from the same document. This can be difficult for designers working on the move, particularly if they’re relying on other people’s devices to meet deadlines.

By saving all work to the Cloud, it is constantly accessible from any device, providing they have an internet connection. Software like Google Apps enables users to collaborate in real-time. The process of editing a spreadsheet, adding dates to a calendar or uploading files to a directory is streamlined. Designers using cloud collaboration continue to share ideas, concepts and designs even when based on the other side of the world.

Cloud collaboration for the construction industry

Never lose work again

There’s not much worse than spending hours working on a document, spreadsheet or slide presentation only to lose it the following day. With local storage based software suites, this can be a result of several things. It could be a result of a hardware malfunction in the device on which the data was stored; it could be a result of losing the data on a pen drive or external storage device; it could even be the result of having to create duplicate copies of the same document, resulting in deletion of the most up-to-date file.

For whatever reason it happens, losing work seriously hampers any kind of collaborative effort. The Cloud protects your data and when used in conjunction with software like Google Docs, saves all work as you go.

The edit history function on Google’s office software also allows employees to go back through and see the edits made to a document. This is vital to the collaboration process. Understanding how a colleague has reached a design concept can make the difference between discarding or implementing an innovative approach.

Still to make the switch?

Firms still working from local servers and operating using local storage may have a number of reasons for not making the jump to cloud collaboration. Concern about switching from traditional technologies is inevitable. The majority of workers are used to communicating and collaborating either in person or via their email. However, this system is now hopelessly outdated for the competitive world of construction and project design.

In response, Google engineered a number of solutions, including integrating email alerts into collaboration software. By combining all the elements of previous design and communication software into one App package, Google has brought the Cloud to a more accessible level, meaning even the most technophobic employees can take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Cloud.

Working remotely with Google Apps

Can working remotely with Google Apps save construction?

Construction, Google Apps, Industry, Technology | No Comments

The world is now a global community. Boundaries hold less significance than ever to the modern businessman. As a result, managers are coming to realise the office no longer needs to constitute a physical space. Coupled with the understanding that being present in a workspace isn’t indicative of productivity, it’s clear the office of the 20th century is an out-dated concept. This is particularly true in the construction industry, where work often requires staff to travel outside of the office. By working remotely with Google Apps, it’s now possible for an office to work from around the world and still function as a cohesive team.

Just as effective communication no longer demands geographical proximity, accessibility is no longer defined by an adjacency to the office. Google Apps is facilitating the transition between the physical and the digital office. The host of apps is designed to enable communication and collaboration at every stage of the construction process.

The remote revolution is gaining traction amongst the more tech-savvy firms as employers begin to see the potential boost this technology can bring. Before we get too caught up in the excitement of our very own armchair office, however, it’s vital we consider the implications of this transition to the global construction industry now.

Productivity

Studies have found working remotely can dramatically increase productivity. Most homes now enjoy internet access, allowing employees to work on the same project from different locations, even different countries. Because the Google Cloud can share a single file with multiple employees, providing real-time feedback and creating documents to a strict deadline is possible even if no two colleagues are in the same room.

There is still debate as to whether employees working remotely with Google Apps encounter more distractions than in the office, with the multiple conveniences of the home competing against office chit chat and unnecessary meetings. Enabling your staff to work remotely, however, has been found to improve engagement, satisfaction, and productivity by as much as 36%.

A major pitfall for some employees working from home is the lack of regimented schedule, which can quickly lead to de-motivation and poor organisation. Workplaces have countered this with a remote-work schedule, whereby workers have to check in at set times to update on their progress. Working remotely with Google apps can further streamline the process, allowing instant updates to be sent to a selected admin at designated times. In this way, employees can enjoy the freedom of working from home while managers track their progress from another location.

Working remotely with Google Apps
With the right schedule, working at home can increase productivity and drive new ideas

Accountability

A significant barrier for employers allowing remote work is the lack of accountability. With employers unable to see their employees working, it can be difficult to verify that work is being completed efficiently and to the required specifications. Even with traditional software suites, verifying exactly when work has been completed, and by whom, can be difficult and time-consuming.

Google Apps logs what time an employee accesses a file and how long they’ve been working on it for. All edits to documents, spreadsheets and presentations are registered and logged, allowing selected Admin to review each individual’s input and attribute any changes to the correct employee.

Working from an external location can result in a more receptive and engaged workforce, but it can also encourage work out of hours. According to Inc Magazine, remote workers are almost twice as likely to work more than 40 hours a week.

Mobility

Travelling is an integral feature of the construction industry, but it places a strain on even the most motivated of employees. That’s why it’s essential staff can continue to operate whilst on the move, either between offices, projects or client meetings. Working remotely with Google Apps offers a range of solutions to keep you in constant contact on the road and at home.

Google Hangouts provides instant messaging and video conference calls. This guarantees streamlined communication between staff, whilst working remotely with Google Apps enables on-the-go collaboration no matter where you are in the world. As well as fuelling productivity, this ensures staff are available to provide input on new developments, whether from their own living room, a local cafe or a hotel on the other side of the world.
Working remotely with Google Apps
With mobile technology developing rapidly, industry professionals can work from anywhere in the world

Accessibility

Enabling employees to access information held on their work device can be time-consuming, inefficient and can even pose a security risk. Information shared via pen drives runs the risk of being lost, while emailing information back and forth increases security risks and adds time to every communication process. One of the biggest advantages afforded by using Google Apps is constant accessibility.

Because all data is stored on Google’s secure Cloud platform, employees can access their files from anywhere in the world providing they have a device and internet connection. Mobility, accessibility, and verifiable access make remote-working not only possible but simple, efficient and safe. This gives employees more time to focus on increasing the firm’s competitive advantage, exceed client expectations and further develop internal functionality.

Attracting the right staff

Working remotely with Google Apps also supports flexi-working for working parents and those who wish to travel outside congested peak commuting times. Incentives like these can help retain and attract highly skilled individuals to your business. In the UK, employees with children under six can now request remote working options from their employer.

Unfortunately, the promise of working a 9-5 job from home can attract the wrong kind of applicants. It’s vital potential employees understand remote working does not mean days spent flicking through the TV channels whilst idly typing up tenders. The onus is on employers to ensure schedules are adhered to, but Google for the construction industry can help. With a range of solutions to ensure employees can create an individual, albeit work-suitable, timetable, employers can easily keep track of schedules and monitor progress through the Apps Share and Edit features.

Working remotely with Google Apps
Remote-working hours can attract young, innovative talent wary of being tied to an office

Interaction

Inevitably, employees working from home find themselves engaging less in face-to-face business interactions. Working remotely can be an isolating task, and that’s why many choose to alternate between office days and working from home or on the go. This enables employees to maintain communication and share ideas even when they’re outside the office, facilitating the creative process at every stage.

Remote work doesn’t require an employee to work from home alone, however. Social spaces like cafes and libraries, providing they have Wifi, can allow a worker to engage with other people while continuing to work in a relaxed environment.

Technology support

Whilst remote-work does have a range of advantages, a lack of access to technology can complicate the process of working from home and hinder effective working practices. Without a dedicated tech expert on hand, any remote-IT issues could derail an entire working day or more, costing the business time and, ultimately, money. Thankfully, because all data created in Google Apps is stored in the Cloud and is autosaved with every new edit, information loss is minimised and can be accessed simply by finding another device with internet connection.
Working remotely with Google Apps
Working remotely can be a challenge for the less tech-savvy, but Google Apps enables access from multiple devices

Costs

The outgoing company costs are a major consideration to any construction firm. This includes hardware and workspace, both of which are impacted by the number of staff required in the office. By reducing the number of staff in the office and the hardware required to cater to these staff, construction firms can streamline entire processes. Using Google Apps has the added advantage of reducing the amount of duplicate copies of material, further consolidating data and reducing search times for specific documents.

Companies that have chosen to invest in cloud technologies have even witnessed business growth increasing up to 25%. In the modern construction firm, remote-work can free up time, money and resources to pursue new projects and enable current developments to be completed to the highest standard.