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Expanding your usage of Internet tools, like intranets, will bring your business new opportunities to work smarter, and in certain cases, generate new revenue streams.Is it something that must be provided for and demanded from software providers?Not necessarily. Software providers can pre-package solutions only within certain parameters. Three parameters that stand out are value, scope and time.The first parameter, the perception of value, means if you can get Internet software for free that is developed for the masses, will a vertical market like the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) industry be willing to pay for AEC focused Internet tools? This is a tough question for software providers to answer as the perception in the AEC market is that Internet software should remain free, no matter what the added value. Large software vendors like are addressing this issue by integrating Internet technologies within their traditional software offerings. As for fully developed solutions that you can purchase off the shelf, they do not exist yet.Internet technologies are not just about software. So software providers that claim total solutions are not telling the entire story. The second, and more important element, of integrating Internet technologies within your business is Cultural. The ease of use and low initial cost of implementation make the cultural shift into the Information Age (aka: Internet-enabled) an easier shift than any previous Information Technology phase we have gone through as an industry. But just because it’s easier, does not mean that it’s without its difficulties. Getting your business to adopt to performing their traditional jobs electronically can be a daunting task. Add into the issues that the majority of AEC work is performed remotely outside the office, and you have a huge challenge.Another parameter is scope. The Internet and its associated technologies are best implemented when you combine business goals (ie: communicating more effectively to the field) with the proper level of technology (ie: an Internet connection to the field). This brings a difficult level of detail to the software vendors. If there is no one way that all businesses perform tasks, than how do you write computer code to handle all possible scenarios? The Internet allows you to quickly and easily perform functions of your job without the need for proprietary software. But it does make sense that certain tasks, like CAD production, become Internet-enabled by your existing software.An additional parameter is time. If Internet technologies change on the average of every 12 weeks, how can an established software vendor react to the changing technologies in a timely manner. Getting AEC-specific Internet products to market is a major hurdle that our existing AEC software manufacturers are struggling with. One solution that is being considered is software distribution over the Internet as a download. The complex issues of traditional software and other software team members will have to be addressed before this means of getting tools to the AEC community can be addressed in earnest.Are there different levels of Internet-enabled that a contractor should look for?There are three distinct levels of Internet-enabled that a contractor can benchmark themselves to.One: Computer-Aided BusinessOur industry began its integration of Information technology by embracing computers to automate manual tasks. We began to use computers to write letters, compose specifications, electronically draft through Computer Assisted Drafting (CAD) and numerous other tasks that we used to do manually. This period of technology expansion has been known as Computer-Aided Business. While a necessary first period of evolution, the Computer-Aided Business model has limitations. During this period, individual’s create digital information available to only themselves on individual computers. This has lead to “Islands of Automation” within our business environment. In the Internet environment, this can be related to a company putting up a Website that acts as an electronic brochure.Two: Computer Integrated BusinessThe next evolutionary step can be called connections. We bring our “Island’s of Automation” together by allowing computers to communicate with each other through computer networks. By connecting our different computer hardware, different software programs, and different locations, we pull together a collective knowledge that we could not have had using traditional methods. We are beginning to see computer integration’s infinite power and value by connecting different locations through the Internet. As we, and the technology, mature through time we ask the technology to perform tasks that can not be accomplished manually. Technology brings with it new ideas and thoughts on how we can perform our tasks more productively and efficiently. As we become more comfortable with technology, we allow it to integrate into our businesses. We begin to utilize the potential of technology beyond traditional methods. This period of growth is known as Computer Integrated Business. No longer are we held captive to traditional manual solutions to problems within our business. We begin to expect that the technology will provide a solution.Three: Information Based BusinessThe final phase is when technology becomes transparent to the business. During this period, it’s no longer a strategic competitive advantage to have the latest and greatest computer hardware and software. It’s expected as a natural fact. The use of technology and information during this phase becomes as transparent and factual as the four walls that define the office. This final goal is known as the Information Based Business. The simplification of hardware, software and connectivity brings to you and your business the true power of information technology in a cost and time effective way. Applied technologies such as Intranets and Extranets are the forerunners of this concept. Web-enabled Construction Documents are an outgrowth of this concept. The implications of “live” specifications and drawings by linking information in your computer, on your network and on the Internet are already being utilized by firms worldwide. Implementation of Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s), Virtual Job Trailer’s and Electronic Plan Rooms are also the results of an Information Based Business.What industry trends will make the use of Internet-like media critical to the majority of the construction profession?The integration and coordination of distributed, digital project information is one of the great challenges to our industry. This has been exacerbated by the growing use of the design/build method of project delivery where timely information is critical to the overall success of the project and its team. The Internet brings a cost-effective and powerful solution to every person on the project team, no matter what level of computer-literacy one may have.Just competition?Competition is always a driver to adoption of concepts into action. Of course, if your main competition has found a competitive advantage by using Internet technologies, you will adopt these technologies yourself. But a more important driver is Internet usage as a requirement by owners and clients.Owner/operator involvement? A remarkable trend that has come to the forefront in the past few years are the announcements from major corporate clients that knowledge of how to use the Internet is now considered a requirement to continue to do business with them.The only team member that will directly benefit from implementing Internet technologies on a project is the owner. The time saved by using these technologies directly affects the overall production of the building. In other words, the quicker the owner can occupy the building, the more aggressively the solution will be implemented. The different ways you can implement Internet technologies within your own business will be the differentiating factor between you and your competition.What are the limitations of the Internet today and how will those be resolved in the near future?Two major limitations are perception of The Internet’s capabilities and bandwidth.Too much hype and not enough AEC business adaptation have hurt the image of the Internet. Having a Website doe not guarantee business growth. Only through a carefully planned strategic Internet/Information Technology plan can a business hope to leverage the power of the Internet. It will not be leveraged by “Brochure-ware” Web sites, but by implementation into the everyday process of each AEC business. This problem is being addressed and led by owner/clients who are requiring these technologies, just to remain doing business with them. It’s remarkable how fast a technology will be adopted and cultural issues go away when a client requires a technology.What are some other ideas regarding the implementation of the Internet?There are 10 powerful emerging trends on our industry that the Internet is having a direct effect:1. Client IT Demands/ Project Extranets2. Value Migration3. Construction Information Management (CIM): Systems Integration4. Powerful Remote Devices5. Paper Is Not Going Away6. Virtual Private Networks7. Architectural Information Systems (IS) as Profit Centers8. IP Addressable Objects9. Franchised AEC Service & Information Centers10. Wireless access
With the arrival of the video on a dslr, the fusion between stills & video and getting closer and closer. New software & workflow techniques will need to be looked at to adapt to this changing and very dynamic media. So will this have a big effect on the end products i.e albums, prints, traditional wall frames etc. Well I think so and the change is happening at a fairly frantic pace.A good example is the advertising billboards on buildings, near flyovers, etc. Traditionally we’ll see 2-3 persons plastering the prints and putting the advertising message up on the board. Not any more, I haven’t seen this for quite a while now, specially in London. These billboards are now being replaced with digital billboards. Initially they may cost a bit, however, cheaper to maintain in the long run as the adverts are changed electronically and the long-winded print process is taken out completely. Another great example are the advertising boards at major Premier League Football grounds. Most are now electronic. So why change. Two simple reasons, they are more eye-catching with transitions and movie-like effects and secondly advertisers get the best bang for their bucks.
So why am I talking about these billboards. I see the same going to happen in the social traditional albums market. Specially the portrait & wedding sector is going to see a huge & probably dramatic change very soon. How soon? Your guess is as good as mine. I’ll take one and I think within 2 years, 3 years at the max, the market place will have completely changed. With the launch of the iPad (which I want one BTW), we’ll be seeing more gadgets like this being released, the quality of them improving and the prices going down.Lets take a closer look as to why I would consider something like an iPad (or something similar) as a replacement for a traditional album. You’ve heard this many times before, you’ve got to keep re-inventing yourself and your business. If you are static and don’t change, your business won’t survive for long. I want to offer my clients something different than others are offering. I want to be able to use my both the stills & video capabilities of my ‘hybrid camera’, add music to it and create an unforgettable multi-media experience for my clients. I think I can do this and give something which is a far more interesting product viewable on a plasma TV, laptop, iPhone, iPad, iwhatever…But what about the cost factor? It’s not too bad actually if you look at it. Currently a wedding album may cost anything between £300-£600 depending on the specifications of it from the lab. So replacing the album with a digital album is not going to be that drastic. The clients will love it, they can use it for uploading their own images / movies as well. Plus (this is a big one), as they’ll use it regularly and not put away like a traditional one after the first few weeks of using them, you can brand the digital device with your branding. Keep your name in front of them at all times.
A lot of the photographers have just got to grips with firstly, transition from film to digital, then learning the new workflow techniques and now we need to learn more video editing stuff. The simple answer is, you’ve got to. Initially I wasn’t keen on video on a dslr when they were first introduced in late 2008. However, I’m getting more and more into it and learning new things. I love switching between stills & video and not having to carry two different pieces of equipment.For environmental portrait photographers like me, this is exactly what I need to re-invent my portrait business and I’m really looking forward to a couple of really exciting next few years.
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