Technology

EU-funded programme searches for construction’s ‘killer app’

3 October 2014 | By Stephen Cousins

An EU-funded competition is challenging construction professionals to come up with the next must-have construction app.

The App Challenge runs until 20 December and was set up to celebrate the end of MobiCloud , a €4.45m project to develop a European corporate “Appstore” designed to make companies’ back-end systems available to mobile workers.

The challenge invites software developers, technology start-ups, professionals, students, groups or individuals to come up with exciting new ideas for how construction can benefit from mobile IT, with the winning entry to be developed and launched as a commercial app.

The challenge will be show-cased at The Crystal Building at London’s Royal Victoria Dock on 30 October, and ideas will be assessed by a panel of construction experts over three consecutive rounds, each one becoming more commercially focused.

Entries progressing to the second and third rounds will get technical help to develop a prototype solution using the MobiCloud platform, some of which will end up being trialled on site by a construction sponsor.

MobiCloud was established to close the technology gap between consumer-facing technology and business systems, which are struggling to keep up with advancements in mobile technology. It exploits existing cloud-based and web-based technologies to create corporate mobile apps, without the complexity and up-front cost normally associated with mobile application development. 

The project received €2.27m of EU funding under the Information and Communication Technologies Policy Support Programme, which is part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP). The rest of the funding came from consortium member companies, which include Costain.

The system enables users to securely connect to a portfolio of corporate services stored in the cloud. It can run on any smartphone or tablet and is considered particularly relevant to construction because it is “context-aware”. This means that depending on the context – such as location, role, skillset, weather, task etc – it can display different services that react in real-time to changes.

The ability to record or access information spontaneously on a mobile device without returning to an office is a major benefit to site engineers. MobiCloud is also designed to exploit construction technologies that generate information which needs to be captured, viewed and shared, such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

Ideas submitted to the challenge during round one can be innovative, crazy, or commercial, and should describe the idea in broad terms, considering aspects such as the nature of the problem it aims to solve, the people affected by it, whether it has a “killer feature” and other issues that need to be addressed to get it to work.

Judging during this round will aim to determine if the idea addresses a real problem, if it can be developed using existing technology, or is likely to have a commercial business case. A submission form is available on the website http://www.mobicloudproject.eu/

During round two, teams will work on the ideas to create more detailed concepts including prototypes and business models with input from construction companies on the judging panel. 

In round three, selected concepts from round two will be built as apps on the MobiCloud platform under close technical assistance from the MobiCloud consortium. The completed apps will then be trialled on site by a sponsoring construction company for a limited period of time.

At the end of the trial, the construction company concerned may commit to running the app commercially. At this point the MobiCloud consortium itself might choose to invest in the app or attract external finance to help the successful teams to develop their ideas further.