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By Barry Frangipane, Viewpoint mobile product manager

Everyone has smartphones and tablets on the jobsite. But are you using the cameras on these devices as a competitive advantage?

Most contractors are taking photographs on the job. But the experienced ones are using software which documents not only when the pictures were taken, but uses the GPS capabilities of the device to store the exact location as well. And the best contractors can pull up drawings on their tablet and see pins dropped automatically on the plans, showing where the pictures were taken. This type of progressive visual documentation can be invaluable not only to the owner, but to the contractor as well. During later phases of construction, say after the sheetrock has been installed, these photos allow the crews to know the exact location of systems no longer visible.

Contractors who use a systematic approach to photos and videos can also save money during litigation by proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the existence of undocumented utilities.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But pictures can also be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Providing images of the job attached to the progress billing you submit to the owners gives them the assurance that the project is advancing according to plan. Providing this level of information can also help to make you a preferred vendor for future jobs.

That camera on your smartphone can be used for safety as well. For example, smart builders now photograph the process of putting a crane in place and tying it down. If a worker gets hurt, contemporaneous documentations of the conditions surrounding the incident can help to avoid litigation.

Many contractors in the know also use drones for photographs and videos of the site. Drones can take pictures and video from locations and angles previously inaccessible, cost prohibitive, or too dangerous to reach. These small flying machines can deliver high quality close-up images of the exterior of skyscrapers, help check for cracks in bridge pilings, and provide a birds-eye view of job progress on the site.

Drones can be pre-programmed to fly routes automatically at scheduled intervals, and can even change their own batteries. Experienced users can even fly them inside the building, shooting video that can be merged with their BIM data.

Technology is changing the way we do business. We can be afraid of it, avoid it or embrace it, giving us an edge over our competition. Use these tools to provide proof of job progress, avoid safety claims, reduce litigation, and provide the owner with a complete visual story of the project.

So, get the picture. Focus on developing a strategy to improve your image with photographs and videos.