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Virtual inspection is the next wave in construction progress monitoring. It’s an established and critical tool in large-scale commercial construction where 360-degree cameras and 3D visualization software have been used for years. Virtual inspections have demonstrated incredible utility in keeping projects on track and usually deliver the following benefits:

Faster, Cheaper Progress Monitoring
It’s typically cost-prohibitive to send a third party to a job site very often. Most inspections cost anywhere from $120 to $2,000 or more depending on the scope of the project. And, getting someone to the site involves scheduling and it’s a distraction for the project manager or the works. By relying on existing site personnel, it’s possible to get a more frequent update on progress and catch problems before they get out of hand. Many large sites do daily and weekly progress checks.

Full Documentation for Legal, Insurance, and Maintenance Purposes
Virtual inspections create a long-term archive of everything that went into the build. If you have a need to produce documentation for legal and insurance purposes, you now have a high-fidelity record of everything. And if you need to repair or extend a building, you now know what’s behind the walls.

However, Virtual Inspections have historically been the province of commercial job sites for three big reasons:

1. The 360 cameras used are expensive, brittle, and require training for a PM or foreman to operate. They are also easily lost.

2. A person onsite must typically follow a path or overlay the images they are collecting on a 2D or 3D floor plan. This is a time-consuming process that interrupts the PM or foreman’s work and adds labor cost to the inspection. Many cameras only have an 8-foot effective range for taking quality images, so large swaths of the building might not be captured accurately.

3. The data is massive. Many virtual inspection technologies don’t work offline because the files they create take a lot of space to store and time to transmit to the cloud. Because of this, WiFi access points are usually needed at the job site.

A New Iteration for Residential Construction
The next evolution for virtual inspection technology is entirely mobile and takes advantage of the increasingly amazing hardware that’s in almost everyone’s pocket. A few years ago, phones weren’t up to the task for high-fidelity virtual inspections, but now they are:

Camera Resolution: The smartphone companies are in a never-ending race to deliver high-resolution images that when blown up, would be the equivalent of 3 to 4 foot wide prints. With good resolution, it’s easy to get into the fine details of a job site, and catch details that an onsite inspector might miss.

Image Stabilization: Modern phones have sophisticated stabilization technologies for both photos and videos that produce relatively blur-free images

Image Cleanup: The right software can automatically optimize video and photo on the phone to account for poor lighting, out-of-focus areas and more.

Image AI: Phones now have the horsepower to analyze images and video as it’s being captured. This AI can look for problems (like subtle water leaks) that even a trained human eye might miss.

Storage: Modern devices have massive amounts of storage for collecting 100 – 2,000 images and videos of the site without having to worry about running out of space.

Compression and Transmission: Another benefit of phone horsepower is better and smarter compression for optimizing video and image file sizes during virtual inspection. And it’s now much easier to intelligently determine when the best time to send the data to the cloud is, to optimize phone battery life and guaranteed send of critical virtual inspection data.

Sensor Data and AR: Phones are armed with an array of sensors and Augmented Reality (AR) tools to share GPS location, height, altitude, movement speed of the phone and more. All of this can be used to position the phone’s user in 3D space without them having to plot where on the parcel or property an image or video was captured for virtual inspection.

Modern virtual inspection technologies also often incorporate computer vision to assist the remote reviewer in understanding what they are looking at. Computer vision can look for problems as well as identify objects in scenes and even look up their cost.

If you’d like to learn more about Virtual Inspections, reach out to us.

We get a lot of questions from folks outside the industry about what a construction draw is, and how software can aid in the process. Ultimately, folks want to know what we do. Of course we thought about writing our own definition, but with the proper prodding we got a pretty good description out of ChatGPT. 

Check it out:

Construction draw software, also known as construction scheduling software or project management software, is designed to assist in the planning, scheduling, and management of construction projects. It helps construction professionals streamline their workflow, track progress, allocate resources, and communicate effectively with project stakeholders.

Here’s a general overview of how construction draw software works:

1. Project Setup: The software allows users to create a new project by defining its parameters, such as project name, location, start and end dates, and other relevant details. This information serves as the foundation for the construction schedule.

2. Creating Tasks: Construction draw software enables users to break down the project into smaller tasks or activities. Each task represents a specific action that needs to be completed, such as excavation, foundation pouring, framing, plumbing, electrical work, and so on. These tasks are typically organized in a hierarchical structure, with higher-level tasks representing major project phases and lower-level tasks representing specific activities within those phases.

3. Sequencing and Dependencies: Once the tasks are defined, the software allows users to establish the sequence and dependencies between them. This means determining the order in which tasks must be completed and identifying any dependencies or constraints that may exist. For example, pouring the foundation must precede erecting the walls.

4. Assigning Resources: Construction draw software enables users to allocate resources to each task. Resources can include labor, equipment, materials, and subcontractors. By assigning resources, users can estimate project costs, track resource utilization, and ensure that the necessary resources are available when needed.

5. Duration and Scheduling: Based on the task sequence, dependencies, and resource assignments, the software calculates the estimated duration for each task and generates a construction schedule. The schedule outlines the start and end dates for each task, helping users visualize the project timeline.

6. Tracking Progress: As the construction project progresses, users can update the software with actual start and end dates, actual resource usage, and other relevant information. This allows the software to track the project’s progress against the planned schedule, identify any delays or deviations, and provide real-time insights into project performance.

7. Communication and Collaboration: Construction draw software often includes features for communication and collaboration among project stakeholders. It may offer tools for sharing project updates, exchanging documents, generating reports, and facilitating discussions between team members, contractors, and clients.

8. Reporting and Analysis: The software generates various reports and analytics based on the project data entered. These reports can provide insights into project performance, resource utilization, critical path analysis, and other key metrics. They help stakeholders make informed decisions, identify areas for improvement, and ensure the project stays on track.

Overall, construction draw software simplifies the complex process of project management, offering a centralized platform for planning, scheduling, tracking, and collaborating on construction projects. It enhances efficiency, reduces errors, and improves communication, ultimately leading to more successful and timely project completion.

ChatGPT did a pretty good job, but it definitely outlined a somewhat-complicated sounding process. At Sitewire, we’ve made construction draw software very easy to use, and also augmented it with virtual inspection capabilities so that tracking progress is simple. Other vendors in the market offer heavier packages that overlap with loan portfolio management software. They also cater to large construction projects for regulated banks that have multiple branches. 

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