Handheld devices, such as palm pilots, pocket PCs, digital cameras, and smart phones, are making the construction industry more portable by enabling data to be accessed from outside the office. These same devices also can be used to retrieve data from the field, such as punch-list information and images showing site conditions.
Many of these devices feature wireless access so that the data can be transferred back to a central server at the trailer or home office. Of course, contacts and calendars have been around for years, but now these devices have added more power and larger high-resolution screens, which enable them to access even CAD data, full-motion video, and full-color high-resolution catalogs.
In the coming years, a new generation of handhelds, such as measuring devices, barcode scanners, fingerprint scanners, and inventory control devices, will further address the needs of the construction industry.
Hilti offers two interesting handheld devices in its PD 22 and PD 28 laser range meters. The devices are the size of a transistor radio and measure distances of up to 500 feet. Using laser technology, the units produce accurate results of +/- 1/12 inch at speeds up to 0.3 seconds. One person working from a single location can use the device's "Pythagoras" function to quickly measure the height and width of a building.
Basic calculation functions integrated into the tools measure the area of complete facades for scaffolding jobs. Window areas can be measured remotely to provide the figures needed for a façade material estimate and the calculation of volumes and quantities for pouring concrete foundations. With the PD 28, the length and incline of an overhead pipe run can be determined with ease, no matter how high the space, without leaving the floor.
These new devices also prove extremely practical when taking measurements while in motion. In tracking mode, the devices measure distance continuously with excellent accuracy while the operator moves the tool, making it easy to set out given distances from a reference point. This function is effective for tasks, such as marking out the exact spacing for the stanchions of a drywall partition. The range meter emits an audible signal when the point is reached where the next stanchion is to be positioned.
The difference between the PD 22 and PD 28 range meters is the PD 28's data memory function. Each individual value can be assigned a unique project number and measurement code by way of the numerical keypad, a useful feature when the data needs to be used at a later time. The PD 28 offers data storage for up to 1,000 measurements and possesses the capability to transfer data to a standard computer or pocket PC.
Both the PD 22 (suggested contractor price: $480) and PD 28 ($619) are light and durable, making them suitable for most jobsites. The range meters feature a built-in spike for virtually effortless corner measurements. A built-in bubble level provides reliable horizontal measurements. Each PD tool requires two AA batteries, good for 8,000 measurements.
The devices are excellent for the construction trades as well as architects working on restoration and renovation of existing structures. In the future, more of these types of devices can be expected to use wireless technologies to transmit data directly to computers and home offices using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi solutions.
For more information on Hilti laser range meters: www.us.hilti.com .