Image Courtesy PlanGrid
PlanGrid's app update automatically links all detail references (in purple) in a set of plans to their full-size versions by learning to recognize the shapes of the plans' call-out notations.

PlanGrid—an app for collaborating with project plans, specs and photos on iPads, iPhones or any web browser—is launching an upgrade with a significant new call-out feature.

In the current version, available since March 2012, drawings uploaded as PDFs to the PlanGrid cloud automatically sync to every team member's mobile device in real time. Markups, notes, attachments and updates also sync. With the new release on June 3, all call-out details are automatically cross-linked and updated as well.

"Anytime you upload sheets that have detail call-outs on them, this machine-learning algorithm—a type of artificial intelligence that improves itself over time—recognizes the call-outs," says Ryan Sutton-Gee, CEO and co-founder of PlanGrid, San Francisco. When a plan is uploaded for the first time, the system checks all the references and sub references and offers to link them.

"It gives the users a pop-up box that asks if this link is right or not," says Drew Wesling, senior project manager with Sante Fe Springs, Calif.-based general contractor Matt Construction Corp.(ENR 5/14/12 p. 88). "It's nearly always the right link, too."

After recognizing a call-out, the system hyperlinks it to the full-size version of the reference detail. When the automatic function is turned off, the hyperlinks can be configured manually. An early adopter of PlanGrid, Wesling is now beta-testing the new feature.

"We're on our 22nd phase of a project, and we have numerous plans for every phase," says Wesling. "Traditionally, we got prints from the reprographics, and that is costly and time-consuming. We wanted to automate it, make it easy and make sure everyone was working on the same plan."

Wesling and his team discovered PlanGrid on the Mac App Store, he says. They used the trial version, which is free for up to 50 plan sheets. When the superintendents said they were smitten with the app, Wesling decided it was worth paying for.

"The supers love it—and they aren't tech-savvy at all," says Wesling. He signed up for the "Dozer" level of service, which runs $50 a month per employee and allows for 5,000 sheets of storage. Dozer is the middle option of PlanGrid's tiered pricing structure. The cheapest, "Nailgun," is $20 a month for 550 sheets. The "Crane" option grants unlimited storage for $100 a month.

"I upload my site plans from all my projects into the app and can access them anywhere," says Wesling.

All plans are stored on PlanGrid's cloud server. When a plan is updated in the server, it updates for all users so that everyone is working off the same version.