BOSTON, MA — The explosive cellular phone industry has far-reaching effects that go beyond placing or receiving a simple telephone call. The cell phone has become a one-stop source of information, which is vital to construction field workers.

Howard Lerner, regional director of Verizon Wireless, quoted some interesting statistics during his presentation at the recent MCAA Conference.

“There are currently 87 million wireless subscribers in the U.S.,” he said. “The Cellular Telephone Industry Association is predicting that the number will grow to 139 million by 2003.

“By 2005 we think that 25% of our network traffic will be wireless data and not voice. Data is going to be the driving factor for future buildup.”

Wireless trends

Lerner also believes that by 2002, shipments of cell phones and phones with Palm Pilot®-type attachments will exceed shipments of desktop computers.

He sees the convergence of the Internet and wireless technology as a big trend in the communications industry. Trans-actions from the field will continue to increase as technology makes it easier for users to send and receive data.

Lerner noted that B2B business exceeded $3 billion last year while “m-commerce” (that is, mobile commerce) reached $200 million.

“Mobile commerce allows you to buy products and services right in the palm of your hand,” he said. “You can now do a variety of services, such as trading shares of stock, directly from a hand-held phone.”

Lerner added that users can visit his company’s wireless portal ( and customize their own microbrowser “triggers,” including stock quotes, weather, sports updates, and the like.

“In the very near future, we will have high-speed wireless data applications through hand-held phones which can control common appliances in the home, set up the sprinkler system, or program the gas pump to fill your car,” added Lerner.

“For training purposes, you will be able to hook your phone into your PC, download training information, and everyone with a headset jack can plug in and listen to that information.”

The electronic jobsite

“With the emergence of remote access, you can take care of your own business while traveling — instead of asking someone else to take care of your work,” said Tommy Thompson of UnitedSolutions, Inc., provider of Timberline software.

“We are talking about connectivity — the ability to get the job done faster. Theoretically, it will make us more money.”

While the traditional role of e-mail has been to receive and transmit messages, it is now very common to transmit documents by attaching them to an e-mail message — called “e-documentation.”

Thompson talked about the features of mobile computing and how each can give contractors a distinct advantage over their competition. Mobile computing can allow contractors to:

  • Control workflow and materials. “Doing something with information by the middle of the day so it can be transmitted back by 4:00 that day, instead of 4:00 the next day.”

  • Update and receive job information. “Looking at job costs for the next day or crew schedules; e.g., if you have a short crew you will be able to update job costs and profitability on the spot.”

  • Order equipment via the Internet.

  • Stay in contact with the home office.

  • Deploy work crews. “Having the ability to put people on the street and keep track of where they are using global positioning.”

  • Complete reports for daily billing.

Thompson added that project managers overwhelmingly ask one question: “How do you get all of this information on one screen?”

He said that software developers are continually working on ways to bring information into single-view or multiple-view formats that make sense to project managers.

Thompson wrapped up his discussion by saying, “The goal of remote jobsite computing is to move the walls out of the office — turn the jobsite into an extension of your main office.”

Lerner can be reached at and Thompson can be reached at