Caught somewhere between architect’s personal smartphones and the workstations firms supply each architect, management may be at odds with staff over the value of tablet computers like the iPad.
Regardless, that isn’t stopping architects from acquiring them.
There Remains a Rift
Whether an iOS or Android device, tablet computers are suppose to be the next big thing in technical design fields like architecture. Yet, if that is true, why are architecture firms themselves not running out and acquiring devices for their own people?
Based on a current open research survey at Architosh, on tablet devices in architecture, 78 percent of participants have said that their firms use or benefit from devices in practice, whether company-supplied or BYOD (bring your own device). Yet, only 56 percent of participants said their firms supplied them a tablet device, while 44 percent said they did not.
The Architosh research survey on Tablets in Architecture is aiming to collect and analyze data and asks participants a range of questions about tablets in practice. Questions include if they have ever provided themselves a tablet computer for daily firm work, of which 67 percent have said they have. That percentage is rather robust and reflects that those taking the survey are interested in knowing more about tablets in architectural workflows and likely engaged in using them.
Early Adopter or Early Majority?
Clearly tablet adoption is still in an “early adopter” phase, maybe “early majority.” Architosh is less interested in determining adoption penetration in the market though another question asks specifically about the percentage of employees in firms who are using tablets for practice.
The very important question of what “type” of tablet devices are being used (e.g.: iOS, Android or Windows) and to rank their dominance within their firms is a key question in the survey. The survey study also links the connection between tablet computers and cloud-based software solutions for the AEC industry.
Useful Enough or Not?
It is clear from the ongoing results that firm management appears to view tablet computers with a bit more trepidation as to their value in architectural workflows than many of their staff architects. This may come down to those who draw versus those who do not.
The iPad from the beginning excited architects and artists who have wanted to use it for sketching. But until the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil, most architects who have engaged in drawing on their iPads, with both finger and stylus, have been longing for something much better. In other words, if you can’t sketch as good as on paper, it isn’t useful enough—for drawing!
The survey asks participants to share what phases of the architectural process they use their tablet computers in. The results are varied and quite interesting. Management in firms is embracing tablet computers more often when the devices create or improve workflows that add tangible value to their firm’s activities.
This sometimes has nothing to do with drawing or sketching but rather data input.
Drawing as Savior
Still, it may be drawing itself that finally pushes firm management to commit to acquiring tablets for all their staffs that want one. The Apple iPad Pro with Apple Pencil has created a flash point of excitement. “OMG…just went and played with the iPad Pro and Pencil…totally getting one!” wrote an architect who is an Architosh regular.
A survey participant wrote, “Until now my only essential mobile device was a camera. iPad or Surface Pro..either way a revolution for mobilizing yourself and your ideas.” Still, others are still waiting, writing in, “I would use a tablet for sketching, but I haven’t found a suitable replacement for pencils and paper yet.”
“Software is not in place yet,” writes another survey participant, “so we don’t use it much except to experiment.”
When It’s a Hazard Not To
And that is where we are at this moment in time with respect to tablets. While Tim Cook’s Apple and Ginni Rometty’s IBM are touting success with the mobilization of iPads in Fortune 500 enterprise companies, the executive decision-makers in architecture firms are largely still waiting for the moment when it becomes a business decision hazard to not deploy tablets.
All this means is there is great opportunity for software companies and entrepreneurs to correctly identify the biggest pain-points and undiscovered opportunities in architectural workflows that tablets can address.