Smartphone is the tradesman’s tool

Smartphone and tradespeopleFor the last few months I’ve been surrounded by tradespeople fixing this and that around our new house. It has struck me again and again how much the advent of the smartphone has changed the way clever tradespeople operate.

This is less about the obvious stuff. Having a phone with email connection and SMS with you all the time ought to have revolutionised the way a tradesperson who’s out of the office operates. In my experience this is less true than might be expected. Getting people to return calls, turn up on time or generally communicate has been a trial. In some ways the mobile revolution has actually made things worse than the old days when there was someone in an office somewhere who you could actually talk to.

No, the real change I’ve noticed has been in using the smartphone as a real tool in their business. A couple of times now, I’ve had plumbers in trying to take a look at rather inaccessible pipes. Their solution was simply to fire up their phone’s camera and use it to take a look. A couple of years ago you’d have needed a specialised tool or the powers of a trained contortionist to achieve the same thing.

The camera has also been useful in other contexts. A roofer took photos of the rust spots on my roof to show me the problem – as there was no way I was getting up there to look for myself. Several people coming to give quotes have photographed the area in question so they can give more accurate quotes. In the same vein a number of people have pulled out their iPads to show me pictures of what they were suggesting (pavers, for example) while standing on the spot.

These things are largely tied to having a camera available to you all the time. But it strikes me that it can’t be long until we start seeing useful add-ons to phones. Imagine if you had one of those laser measuring tapes as a peripheral device so you could enter measurements for a job directly into the phone or tablet.And while I haven’t seen anyone using a phone or tablet for paperwork or quoting, there are certainly a large range of applications on the market aimed at doing just that.

Given the amount of time I’ve wasted over the last months waiting for tradespeople to turn up, the application I’d really like to see would be called “Find my Tradesperson” and it would allow you to see exactly where they are on a map when they are supposed to be meeting you.

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