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What Will Technology Bring Next?

The explosion of new technologies is having a profound effect on our industry. Tablet computers and air cards provide access to information on a scale never before seen. Recalling my days in the field, I remember we had to depend on paper drawings, usually a huge set broken down into trade packages that occupied considerable space in the jobsite office. While paper drawings are still available and still in use, the availability of tablet computers makes the drawing portable and mobile. This is especially helpful when working out critical details. Also helpful is the ability to have specifications and standards available at the touch of the screen. With the growing capacity of portable storage devices and increased memory, the information that occupied considerable space in the field office can be reduced tremendously.

One of our AWCI members in retirement conducts field inspections for contractors. He has at his fingertips all of the standards he might possibly need on a jobsite visit. Many safety directors can now have tool box talks ready to go anytime they are need. The tablet also allows the filing of accident reports quickly and reliably. From all accounts, access to information knows no limits. With this in mind, what is the next step?

Information Overload?

The Internet is loaded with information—so much information that it is overwhelming. The advantage is that, for the most part, it is information presented with illustrations and/or photographs. As we all know, the construction industry is basically a graphics-oriented industry. We take two dimensional drawings and translate them into three dimensional buildings. I have found on many occasions excellent graphic presentations of technical information that are far easier to understand than the written word presentations on the same subject. In AWCI’s Doing It Right® programs we rely on graphics to make the information clearer and more understandable to the students. In the process of revising ASTM standards, individuals are always encouraged to include graphics to explain a conditions or situation. There is a book, “Building Codes Illustrated,” that is an excellent in that it gets away from the dry and sometimes stilted code language. Suppose we could take these graphics further and include videos in standards? A costly venture, but just imagine the possibilities.

In the Future

The possibilities of may well turn into reality. ASTM has circulated an email attempting to reveal interest from its various committees. I would say that the response from C11 has been positive. Bob Wessel of the Gypsum Association suggested that the first order of business for C11 would be to include a video of the application of a Level 5 finish on gypsum. Just think of it: This would be an excellent way to adjust the expectations of the owners and architects who just assume that a Level 5 will produce the same results as veneer plaster. Of course it is clearly states in the appendix of C840 that this is not the case. But in fact not many people read the appendix until they get into trouble.

Remember that this idea is only in the planning stages and will take a number of years to bring to fruition.

Actually, it is a daunting task. After having been involved in the production of the Steel—Doing It Right® self-study program, I know that when voice-over talent is involved, a lot of hand holding of a technical nature is required. The voice talent is hired for the quality of his or her voice and the ability to speak clearly enough to get the point across; however, many of these talents don’t know the difference between filet as in a steak or fillet as in a type of weld.

ASTM has on staff a video producer who is working on the early stages of the project. I am sure that this individual will be working with the technical committees to determine the best direction to take for production and review of the video inserts. So that tablet computer you carry around to help you document the project with written reports and photographs will take on a new role in the industry in the future.

Just as an afterthought: I wonder what the folks who started ASTM back 1898 would think now about this progression from what started as a group to write quality production standards for steel used in railroad locomotives and rails.

Donald E. Smith, CCS, is AWCI’s director of technical services. Send your questions to [email protected], or call him directly at (703) 538.1611.

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