In the construction industry, accessibility in the field to plans, specifications, schedules, change orders, photos and other relevant data about a project is not only becoming increasingly commonplace but — on some projects — essential. Used across the board, a dedicated online site that enables contractors, engineers, architects, clients and others to view and share all sorts of documents and details from the convenience of their iPads or iPhones can save time, reduce costs for reproduction and distribution of documents, and improve accuracy by ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

OnSite PlanRoom for the iPhone and iPad by UDA Technologies, is a web-based application that provides users with the ability to access all types of already uploaded construction documents from their iPhones or iPads. The solution is designed to synchronize with ConstructionOnline (also from UDA Technologies), where users can easily upload and store plans and construction documents.

Broadening the concept of "a traveling office" quite a bit, OnSite PlanRoom can be used from any iPhone or iPad any place, as long as there is Internet access.

The originating user can share plans, documents and images with anyone by sending share links from within the application. He or she controls who is allowed to edit documents, add to them or comment on them by setting specific access permissions from within ConstructionOnline. Project team members can view existing files in any of several formats, including PDF, Word, Excel, RTF’s and images. The originator of the link can receive notifications of who has uploaded, downloaded, updated or commented on the plans, documents, and images for immediate response or interaction if desired.

Trying the service is free. New users can log in, www.constructiononline.com, and create a free 1 GB ConstructionOnline account and then upload their plans, documents, files, etc. to the account. Once the documents are uploaded, users have instant access by opening their OnSite PlanRoom app on their iPhone or iPad.

OnSite PlanRoom for iPhone and iPad is the latest entry in the OnSite Mobile App family of programs, which also includes OnSite Photo for iPhone and BlackBerry, for capturing and sharing images of jobsite progress, completed projects and fixture choices, and downloading them to a specific project within Construction Online, OnSite Video for iPhone, which enables the user to record videos on the spot and instantly upload them to a specific project within ConstructionOnline, and OnSite Files for iPhone and iPad.

DuraShot camera
If you are taking lots of photos at a jobsite (indoors or outdoors) to share online, a digital camera ruggedized especially for the construction trades will offer piece of mind. The Ryobi Tek4 DuraShot 8MP, www.ryobitools.com, is a waterproof, dustproof, impact resistant professionally featured jobsite digital camera that can take snapshots or videos that will tell the pictorial story from a jobsite. The camera takes clear, well-lit pictures in a wide range of lighting conditions, including in close-to-total darkness.

All the mechanisms of the DuraShot are encased in protective aluminum and rubber housing. The rugged design, overall, enables the camera to withstand a 6-ft. drop and survive immersion into up to three feet of water. The lens itself is covered with washable glass, enabling close-up photos without exposing the lens to the elements and shielding it from bumps. The large soft-touch rubber "function" buttons are widely spaced, making for easy navigation for users with larger hands or those wearing gloves.

The semi-compact DuraShot features a 3x optical zoom and a 2.5-in. high-resolution color LCD display. It is powered by a 4V Lithium-ion battery that can take up to 800 photographs per charge and can be recharged about 2,000 times. (The battery is the same one as those that work in all Ryobi Tek4 cordless tools.) The camera comes with a 1 GB SD card and a USB cable for direct download of photos and video. It also has 64 MB of internal memory, which should suffice for about a dozen photos when the card is full or if you forget to put the card back in.

A quick-key date/time stamp documents each photo for easy reference while a quick-key voice memo recording capability lets users attach audio comments to any photo.

The Ryobi DuraShot offers six scene modes, including landscape, night portrait, night scene and text. Users can take advantage of a self-timer with a two-, five- or 10-second delay). The camera can also be set for time-lapse intervals of five minutes, 15 minutes or one hour.

The user can select ISO settings from automatic all the way up to 800, which is equivalent to a very fast film. The flash is effective up to 15 feet and has settings for on, off, automatic, and red-eye reduction modes.

The DuraShot comes with a short lanyard wrist strap and a heavy-duty soft nylon carrying case with a wide Velcro strap that can be attached to a pants belt for all-day wear.

Though the pictures from this sturdy camera may not rival those achievable from a conventional compact camera (nor will the camera snap as fast), the DuraShot delivers a good balance of convenience, flexibility and affordable cost.

Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at productpad@yahoo.com.