May 15, 2015 │ Jack Gray and Nick Mann
Those of you who follow emerging technology in construction know that the mobile app field is heating up. Many offerings are showing up with a variety of features; however I am not aware of any others that include 4D scheduling. Synchro’s mobile app, code named “Zephyr”, is moving ahead quickly, integrating feedback from our customers and our testing team. “Zephyr” will be fully integrated with the Synchro Pro suite and will bring 4D scheduling and project monitoring to the field. The key methodology that “Zephyr” employs for mobile reporting is to report job status from the field at the task level and more detailed status reporting at the level of Resources. “Zephyr” is designed to take advantage of the range of services available on mobile platforms: fast 3d geometry, navigation, location services, email, voice and text notes, photography and video, weather reports, live connection, and so on. Data reportable from “Zephyr” will be governed by the user’s role and permission in Synchro Pro, and will fully synchronize a focused 4D view of the project between Synchro Pro and “Zephyr” its mobile field extension.
Customer feedback has been critical in moving the design forward. Requests for various navigation (with fingers, gloved hands, or a stylus), access to all data that is status-able in the field, full integration with Pro projects, status notes, photo notes, email routing, and modern mobile UI widgetry, are all high on the priority list. Take a look at our alpha tutorial page to see some of the features that have already been implemented.
A Pro mobile server has been built and tested with “Zephyr”. The mobile server provides a wireless connection point between a Synchro Pro (and therefor a Synchro Pro Workgroup) and “Zephyr”. Initially we will support a checkout/submit process for data sharing with “Zephyr” in the field. As we find stable networks in the field becoming the norm, we will extend the mobile server interaction to live mobile sessions.
Along with mobile apps, there is a lot of excitement in the industry about micro location services, computer vision technology, drones, and point clouds, to help capture job status in the field. As these technologies mature and attain reasonable price and performance, we will incorporate them. We have already integrated micro location services into the “Zephyr Alpha 3” build which has been accomplished through a partnership with Redpoint Positioning, Inc. Redpoint offers real-time location services, currently accurate to 20 cm., through their proprietary WiFi/Bluetooth network. With a Redpoint network installed on your job site, you can walk the site with “Zephyr” and see where you are, inside the model of your project. We are currently able to connect to any nearby Redpoint network simply by typing its IP address into Zephyr’s Setting sheet. We display the entire network’s geometry inside the 3D model. As you walk the site, your position is displayed within the model on your iPad. We plan to use this technology to align Zephyr's view of the site to the actual site, to the degree supported. Stay tuned.
You should be able to try Redpoint in our first Zephyr beta release, coming soon. We are working with Redpoint to develop a way you can test their technology while you are testing “Zephyr”. If the tests go well and we find that it adds real value to the mobile experience in its current form, we will provide the “Zephyr” interface to the Redpoint network in our first release.
If you have not signed up to test Zephyr yet, it is not too late. If you have an iPad and want to test “Zephyr”, and influence its design, send a request to [email protected]. iPad Air1 or Air2, and Mini with a good sized memory are the best. Even older 4G and 3G iPads work, but are slower. Though our testing is on the iPad, we intend to release on other platforms as well.
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