By this point, you probably know that there’s a better way to get crucial documents to project sites than carting over heavy file cabinets to set up in the field office. Using mobile technology in construction projects allows you to communicate and get updates quickly, with minimum hassle involved.
But you can’t just connect any old device to your network without a solid technology plan in place. You need to consider whether you want to have your own devices or implement a bring your own device (BYOD) strategy, understand your cybersecurity stack, make sure all software is compatible, and more.
Read below to discover what it takes to manage mobile technology so you make the most out of the tech you have without opening yourself up to waste or bad actors.
Explore how to handle everything on construction sites, not just mobile technology, with Impact’s on-demand webinar, Industry Insights: Effective Construction Site Management.
What Technology is Being Used?
Mobile technology on construction sites is not just chatting with a contractor on their cell phone — the possibilities of connected construction are much grander and more complex. Before exploring how to manage this tech, let’s review what is actually out there and available to firms right now.
Smartphones. Odds are high that the average person on your crew already has their own smartphone that they carry with them at all times. But even if they don’t, or if you prefer to use company phones, they’re the easiest technology to take on the go, no matter where your team is.
Tablets. When you have to review wide or text-heavy documents, like blueprints or building plans, the wide screen of a tablet makes it easy. It’s harder to use while actually building since it doesn’t fit neatly into a pocket, but it’s a convenient alternative to huge sheets of paper.
On-premise servers. There are an extraordinary number of benefits to storing your files in the cloud. But sometimes, large files like detailed blueprints take a long time to download and display. A select few on-premise servers can speed that up so you can see the documents you need when you need them.
Cloud storage. Sometimes large files take a long time to load when accessed on the cloud. However, cloud storage still has the benefit of allowing access to any document, collaboration with colleagues in other locations, and implementing higher security standards, keeping you compliant with most data security regulations.
UCaaS. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) makes it easy to text, call, video chat, or work on documents in real time with people across the yard or across the world. It’s a step beyond Voiceover Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications, utilizing the full power of the internet rather than mimicking phone systems.
Work apps. Whether they’re custom-built for your business or downloaded from an online store, apps for virtually punching time cards, managing projects and checking off tasks, requesting materials, and beyond take paper-based processes and make them easy and convenient to for staff in the field.
Risks Inherent to Mobile Technology
Mobile devices make communicating, sharing files, and automating processes easier and faster, but they do also open up some vulnerabilities for your company. Knowing the risks is a big part of managing them, so here we’ll discuss what they are.
The more devices you have connected to your network, the more endpoints a bad actor has to attack, especially since mobile devices and Internet of Things (IoT) devices sometimes don’t have security measures built in. If you don’t have additional layers of cybersecurity protecting your environment, your technology could be providing an easy entry for hackers.
This is particularly the case if you set up unsecured wi-fi networks on job sites. Operating through public or non-password protected wi-fi is one of the easiest ways hackers have of getting into another device. That’s why it’s so important to have multiple layers of cybersecurity in place.
Loss or Theft
The portability of devices is one of the great benefits and vulnerabilities of mobile technology in construction. Without a good system for tracking company technology, it’s easy for someone untrustworthy to slip a phone or tablet into their pocket or backpack and never bring it back, costing your organization potentially thousands of dollars.
Unauthorized App Access
This risk breaks down into two components: you don’t want your staff accessing data they don’t need to see, and you don’t want them spending company time on games or personal apps.
The latter is a common occurrence, with most employers across all industries blocking at least some websites on their networks.
The former, however, falls under cybersecurity best practices. If fewer people have access to your company’s most sensitive data, then fewer people can accidentally leak it to hackers. But, especially if you rely on company devices, it can be difficult to stop people from getting into apps or data already loaded onto them.
Cloud Sprawl and Disconnected Systems
“Cloud sprawl” is when you use multiple cloud platforms and services, but they don’t integrate with each other, so your data is just as siloed as it would have been in on-premise servers.
It’s all too easy for mobile technology, in construction or anywhere else, to come with built-in or alternative software, spreading your data around. Or the problem could even be as simple as having some devices from Microsoft, some from Google, and some from Apple, each with incompatible platforms.
So, How Do You Manage Mobile Technology in Construction?
To handle all devices connecting to your network correctly, you need a combination of platforms and policies designed to protect and control the devices themselves and what people do on them.
Much of this is covered with thorough mobile device management (MDM) services, but it is also advisable to implement a bring your own device (BYOD) policy if you don’t intend on handing out company phones and tablets, and ensuring that endpoint protection is a part of your business’ cybersecurity.
Mobile device management software is designed to help employers get more visibility into what is happening with connected devices, no matter where they are, and ensure they have the support they need to function effectively and securely.
When it’s properly implemented on all devices, from a simple cloud-based browser dashboard, businesses can handle:
- Device location tracking, in case of loss or theft
- Software compatibility, to minimize cloud sprawl
- Remote troubleshooting, so issues get fixed quickly
- Access and user rights, so data is only accessible to the people who need it
- User activity, so you know devices aren’t being misused
- Deployment, so staff can be productive as fast as possible
It does take a high level of expertise to install it on all devices and ensure it integrates properly with a business’ existing software. But once it’s in place, it handles a lot of the work that mobile technology requires for you.
A bring your own device (BYOD) policy can save your organization in upfront costs for mobile technology, making it an attractive choice for most SMBs. And it can be effective as well, provided you outline what your policy entails from the very beginning.
A thorough BYOD policy should include the following elements:
- Security for all devices
- Identification for acceptable devices in the workplace
- Rules about acceptable device usage in the workplace
- Clear ownership of company apps and data
- A plan to handle data on employee devices when they leave the company
If these elements seem like they would be difficult to create or enforce, consider forgoing BYOD and purchasing a few company devices for employees to use. It is much simpler to implement a cybersecurity strategy and protect your data on your own tech.
Endpoint protection is just one layer of a modern cybersecurity strategy, but it is of particular importance for construction companies that rely on mobile technology in the field. Human error is the biggest cause of data breaches, so fortifying each device on your network ensures that, no matter who is using it, your company is kept as safe as possible.
Endpoint protection typically includes things like:
- Domain name system (DNS) protection
- Managed detection and response (MDR)
- Persistence detection
With filters, next-gen antivirus, detection of threats that may have slipped through the cracks and are lying in wait, it’s crucial for construction companies that can’t operate solely in a controlled office environment.
Mobile technology in construction can save time, minimize mistakes, allow for easier communication and faster updates, and empower staff with the information they need. The “connected construction” trend is only growing, and organizations that don’t get on board are getting left behind.
But, like any other technology, it does some with some risks and drawbacks. In order to make the most of it, you have to handle your devices, the software on them, and what your employees do with them correctly.
However, by implementing a MDM solution and having a complete cybersecurity strategy in place, you can minimize most of those negatives. Make the most of modern technology and use it to complete projects faster, reduce rework, and lower costs by handling it correctly, and you’re sure to see the benefits.
Go beyond mobile devices and discover the best strategies for managing everything about your construction sites. Impact’s on-demand webinar, Industry Insights: Effective Construction Site Management, goes into more depth on avoiding cloud sprawl, how to quickly access large files, and how to make sure your tech is compliant with local and industry data security regulations.
Get a handle on everything on-site – access the Industry Insights: Effective Construction Site Management webinar now!