The days of measuring tape and endless manual calculations could soon be coming to an end. That is the hope of the developers of several new apps, designed to make estimating an easy and seamless process. Many of these apps are still in the development phase but some are currently available on iPad and could revolutionize the way we measure the various dimensions of homes and make estimations.
The apps that are available now do make estimating much easier. The Go Figure app from developer Construction Solver was one of the first to try this innovative idea. Go Figure can calculate both the interior and exterior dimensions of a home from photos taken with the iPad camera and in conjunction with a laser measuring device.
The laser device that is used is called Spike. It was developed by IkeGPS to be used with these apps and communicates its calculations to the iPad via Bluetooth. The Spike laser integrates with the Go Figure app and the touch-screen functions of the iPad to make estimations a much simpler process. Using these, you can count windows, measure the square footage of a wall area, measure the linear feet of trim, or any other number of functions to create an easy and accurate measurement with on-screen graphics.
Inspired by Go Figure, other developers are getting in on the action and creating similar apps that could change the industry completely. One such app was created as a collaboration between Construction Solver and Louisiana-Pacific to make the LP SmartSide Smart Estimator. It is a version of the Go Figure app that pre-populates trim, siding, fascia, shakes and panels from the LP SmartSide wood product line. It is also used in conjunction with the Spike laser and is pretty amazing in action.
The entire process begins with a few photos of the house. To measure, you would take several photos of the house with the iPad camera and the Spike device attached to the back. As of now, there is no clip or adapter that fits for the Spike, so in our example, it was attached using double-sided tape. This is still an effective method, but there is a clip for the iPad case currently in the works that will attach the Spike device and make it a little easier.
The photos can be taken from any distance, as long as they capture the entire area you wish to measure. No matter the distance, the app will maintain a 90 percent accuracy for angles of up to 60 degrees. To measure long elevations, take several photos and use the doors or windows to mark the splits.
Once you have your photos, switch to the Align function of the app. With this, you can create a box with corner handles that can be stretched to match the shape of the elevation. The app will then adjust and scale the image to a straight-on perspective.
Now that you have your data, you can begin using the app to estimate. From the main menu, select “Add Item” then select “Area” and the type of material. The LP Smart Estimator will have preloaded the LP SmartSide product line, but you can customize it to include other materials.
With all your data gathered and the material selected, simply use the touch screen to trace lines over the photos and outline the area you need to calculate. There is a “Count” option to add items such as lights or outlets that need to be taken off the calculations. You can zoom in and out, long press to command open menus, and several other common functions that are used with popular apps. This makes it easy to figure out and use, even on your first try.
The Go Figure app was the first app designed for these functions and is still the industry standard in this new market. The tagline for the app is “The contractor’s mobile office,” and there is much going on behind the scenes that help keep up with estimations.
For example, every new item that you add to the estimate creates an entry on a proposal using specifications you can customize. It also will update a worksheet with a full bill of materials and pricing that can also be customized to your needs. In fact, these aspects can be customized or edited at any time. Once you have your final report, you can print it out on the spot for the client or share it via email. Through these functions, the app literally serves many of the purposes of a mobile office.
Because of the convenience and value created by the Go Figure app, it’s not cheap. There is a subscription fee every month for the app plus the cost of the Spike laser. Spike will only be a one-time cost and can be purchased for $350. The pricing structure of the app is based upon the number of jobs per month, such as:
$75 per month for up to 50 jobs
$100 per month for up to 75 jobs
While this may seem like a high price, it is actually quite affordable for a company that actually completes that number of jobs. If you have done 50 jobs in a month, $75 is almost nothing.
The convenience of this app makes it worth the price for many contractors. Being able to estimate from your mobile device and provide on-the-spot estimates to customers is quite a benefit. It is also very adaptable and can be used for several different jobs at once. It’s also very easy to learn and is more than likely the way of the future. More apps like it are in development, and it may be a good idea to jump in now and be ahead of the curve.