BY KELLY LAPOINTE - Despite popular thought to the contrary, the construction industry is extremely innovative and willing to adopt new technology, say the co-founders of a new application that is designed to improve onsite communication.
“It is an exceptionally innovative industry and they’re really looking for ways to make jobs more efficient and increase communication. They just haven’t found a solution that really met those needs,” said Bridgit co-founder Lauren Hasegawa.
Hasegawa and co-founder Mallorie Brodie think they have found just the solution for the technologically shy industry.
Bridgit, a cloud-based communications platform, tackles the issue of deficiency management on construction sites. Through a smartphone app, photos of deficiencies can be taken and sent directly to the responsible subcontractor. The technology allows for real-time notifications and subcontractors are integrated via email.
Bridgit recently finished in second place in Techvibes.com’s Canadian Startup Awards in the Accelerator Graduate of the Year category. It was the only construction-related technology to be nominated for the awards.
“Being nominated for this award helps send that message along to everyone that the construction industry really is demanding change and they’re ready for change,” said Brodie.
Hasegawa, a civil structural engineer with a focus on concrete restoration, noticed a slow communication process while spending time on construction sites throughout North America.
“There was lots of downtime. I thought if we could apply mobile technology we could probably cut the delay time on site and save contractors a lot of money,” she said.
When they began doing research for their technology, Hasegawa and Brodie did not begin with the idea of deficiency management.
“We started with ‘let’s just fix everything’. But we can’t just digitize the entire industry in one shot. We broke off a piece of that challenge,” said Brodie.
During the research process, the team went to construction sites with the idea of how they could make the day better for those who worked there. The problem of deficiency management kept coming up as a major issue. They job shadowed, attended site meetings and received support from those they visited.
Bridgit was beta-tested with nine general contractors in Canada, many based out of Ontario, and has been tested on close to $500 million worth of projects.
“As a subcontractor, it is sometimes difficult to get up to date information on your deficiency items, and also to confirm that they have been completed. Bridgit simplifies the distribution of items and speeds up information flow between contractors,” said Jane Gowing, president of Gowing Contractor Ltd., which beta tested the product.
The technology has been redesigned since its beta-testing and will be launching in February.
Brodie pointed to a number of studies that show 95 per cent of the software spend in a construction company is in the actual office.
“Whereas the majority of the money is actually spent onsite, there’s not really the software that matches the onsite needs. We really have this vision of developing mobile-first solutions,” she said.
“It’s an ambitious goal of changing the way the software spend is made in construction companies. It’s a huge challenge we have; we think it is important for the industry to continue to innovate and improve efficiency onsite.”