We had a full house in our conference suite yesterday afternoon for the first #BEApps Seminar and Awards, produced in collaboration with Woobius, the specialist mobile app developer for the construction industry.
The afternoon was introduced by Andrew Scoones, Director of The Building Centre and first up was Lars Teichmann, Associate at Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) on “Why have we got a Mobile App?”. Lars revealed that ZHA had a staggering readership of 220,000,000 from their international press coverage in 2011. Having been the first Architects to develop an iPhone App in 2010, the original magazine style App took too much time to update. Having met Woobius, they decided to develop a new App which was launched at the end of 2011 – the ‘ZApp’.
The App allows users to locate ZHA projects close to them on a map, with full project details. The included interactive tour guides let you drill down and explore details and photography from some of ZHA’s most prestigious projects (although for now, only the Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome is available).
Next, Andrew Hudson Smith of University College London talked “Apps to make Architecture Smart”. Andrew gave one of the most interesting quotes of the afternoon, “We don’t remember all the apps we download – but we do remember those we take off” – so Apps need to be interesting, exciting and interactive.
Augmented Reality (AR) is one way for Apps to be more visually interactive. Using AR, it would soon be possible to overlay information about a building’s carbon footprint, or who the building was designed by. However, it is felt that phones are too small for this right now – but “it’s time will come”. Andrew gave a fascinating example of an App called ‘Mappiness‘, which judges how happy you are based on places you work/live, the buildings you’re in. It even takes photos and measures sound to judge how happy your surroundings are making you.
Apps should “make architecture talk”, Chatitecture, a term coined by Wired in 2011. Everything should be tagged, objects or even rooms could Tweet what they’re being used for, what’s going on inside them – this lead Andrew onto another fascinating example – talesofthings.com. Using this platform, the ‘Shelflife’ App was developed for Oxfam, where selected items were ‘tagged’ with a story of the previous owner – an app would essentially scan a QR code on the item and play a video from the item’s donor. These tagged items were very quickly sold out. Andrew finished with some predictions for the future – 2013 will be the year of ‘Tap’ and will see the rise of AR.
Bob Leung of Woobius was the third speaker to take to the stage with “A Sustainable Alternative to Printed Brochures”. Bob started off by showing some interesting stats regarding the average increased data usage amongst various age groups from 2010 to 2011. In what is considered the “key age group” of 22 – 34, there has been a 118% increase in data usage. Other age groups were 18-24 (147% increase), 45-54 (91% increase), 55 – 64 (126% increase) and 65+ (133% increase).
Bob explained how an App can be a tool to promote your company, with the help of ‘James‘ and gave the audience 10 tips to consider when looking to develop an App. Amongst the Tips, one that stood out for me was ‘Make it more than a website’. Apps are used in a personal space, the user isn’t tied to a desk so an App should be more entertaining and contain media rich content. The content can even be the same as on your website, but it should be presented in a different way. Finally, Bob took us through some examples of successful Apps, firstly Open House, which became the No. 1 Travel App in the UK during the Open House weekend. Make Architects is in the top 250 reference Apps in the UK as is Zaha Hadid, which is also the No. 1 most popular Architecture App.
Neill Pawsey, Programme Director at COMIT Projects Ltd (Construction Opportunities for Mobile IT) focused on the measurable business benefits of mobile devices and apps. Mobile IT provides the missing link to site based staff not linked to traditional construction IT solutions such as project extranet. COMIT work to document existing applications of Mobile IT in construction, to create a better understanding between technology and construction companies and to create a wider awareness of the benefits of Mobile IT in construction.
Neill highlighted some original COMIT projects including monitoring health and safety on site, site diaries and task allocation as well as some more recent projects including Rapid Site Set-up, RFID in the supply chain and Real Time Field Reporting. A variety of smart devices were trialled by Costain during work on M1 Junctions 10 to 13, with operatives testing hardware and software – a report is to be published in April 2012. Neill also touched on Augmented Reality with some interesting examples.
#BEApps Competition Results
We paused half way through the afternoon to announce the results of our Apps competition. In the run up to the event, we teamed up with Woobius in order to crowd source the most popular Apps in the industry and we had an overwhelming response. People were able to nominate in three categories: Best Company App, Best News App and Most Useful Tool/Guide. The results were announced by Ryan Briggs of Woobius and trophies were presented to the lucky winners by yours truly.
The results were:
Best Company App:
1st Place: Make Architects, 2nd Place: AHMM Architects, 3rd Place: Scott Brownrigg Architects
Best News App:
1st Place: Building Design, 2nd Place: Building, 3rd Place: Property Week
Most Useful Tool/Guide:
1st Place: Architect Map, 2nd Place: Open House London, 3rd Place: AutoCAD WS
Fresh from her win in our awards, Anna Winston, Online Editor of Building Design gave us a valuable insight into why BD wanted an App and her experiences along the way. Anna revealed that digital income currently represents more than 30% of BD’s revenue and that publishers are interested in apps for several reasons – mobile is growing, apps get attention and win awards and paying for content on mobile devices is easy and consumers are used to it. Some interesting figures were revealed following a survey of 800 BDOnline readers, which showed that almost 80% of readers predict they would be consuming more content using tablets over the next year.
The BD news app was launched in November 2011 and has had over 5,000 downloads already, with a subscription wall being introduced in February 2012. One lesson learned (which I can echo from experience) is that you can never guarantee approval in the Apple App Store, with several submissions sometimes required. BD have also just partnered with Woobius to developed a new App – the WA100 – an annual rank of the world’s biggest architectural practices.
Last, but by no means least was Chris Ashworth from Competitive Advantage who revealed figures from their latest ‘Construction Media Index’ which identifies the key hard copy and digital media used by different categories of decision maker and market sector. 682 respondents were surveyed including Architects, Interior Designers, Quantity Surveyors and more. General findings are that the growth is largely in digital formats, but traditional is still important. One of the stand-out figures was that of the Architects surveyed, 42% use Twitter for work compared to just 9% in 2011.
The usage of Apps was highest amongst Interior Designers, with 22% using them. 19% of Architects, 16% of Building Services Engineers and just 1% of main Contractors also use Apps whilst no housebuilders, M&E Sub-contractors or Quantity Surveyors responded as using them. Popular Apps used by Architects included BD Online, Make, Zaha Hadid, Arch Daily and CAD Touch.
The day was extremely interesting and we’d like to thank all the speakers involved, as well as our Sponsor, MobiBiz and Supporters COMIT, tCn and CIMCIG. Delegates went away with lots to think about - whether they’re considering developing an App for their business or they already have one but want ideas for developing it as technology moves on. What will the next 12 months have in store for Mobile App development? We look forward to finding out in #BEApps 2013!
Please visit Woobius’ website to give us your feedback on the event, to download all the speakers’ slides and to view all the photos from the day.