Improved mobile technology is providing restoration and remediation professionals with important new tools that are changing the way many companies manage files and estimate damages.

In 2011 alone, consumers bought more than 490 million smartphones, according to IDC, a market research firm. Apple’s quarterly financial statements report that about 36.7 million iPads were sold last year. Equally impressive is the soaring popularity of apps. For example, TechCrunch reports consumers downloaded approximately 242 million apps between Dec. 25 and Dec. 31, 2011.

Mobile devices are changing the way we live and work. Now, with a few taps of a finger, we can connect with friends and family, stay current on breaking news, or edit work files during timeouts at a child’s ball game. Leading professionals in the restoration industry are leveraging this technology to improve efficiency and customer service.

Receiving and Organizing Assignments

Over the past several decades, the primary tool for responding to claims assignments has shifted from the telephone (with an answering service) to the fax machine to the pager to the mobile phone and now to the smart phone with an app. With each new advance in technology, insurance repair professionals have significantly improved response times and overall customer service standards.

It’s hard work for restoration professionals to maintain the high level of customer service that is now expected. Mobile technology is making the job easier by sending assignments to estimators on the same devices they use to call, text, email, or even update their Twitter and Facebook accounts. For example, some mobile apps organize an estimator’s assignments and offer access to essential claims details that can be used to contact policyholders or get directions to loss sites.

Traveling to Loss Sites

Thanks to mapping services like those provided by Google and Yahoo, getting directions is much easier than it was 10 or 15 years ago, but it can still be challenging after a major catastrophe has obliterated street signs or reduced entire neighborhoods to rubble. Many apps alleviate these headaches by building on the GPS functionality found in smartphones.

An estimator only needs to tap the property address to plot a course to the loss site. When facing a full slate of field work, an estimator can view nearby assignments on a map and schedule visits accordingly. This helps the estimator quickly determine the most efficient way to visit the sites on the schedule.

Dimensioning and Estimating Losses

Estimators use a variety of techniques to scope losses on site, from hand-written notes to audio recordings to using a ruggedized laptop.

Now, thanks to apps, estimators can now draw fully functional floor plans on their iPhone or iPad. With just a few hand gestures, estimators can sketch rooms, roofs, and other common building features and add wall openings, doors, windows, fences, and decks.

Estimators can document damage using a phone’s built-in camera. This information can be synced with an estimator’s desktop computer or laptop via cloud technology. Local pricing data is downloaded to the app to help estimators calculate repair costs as they use advanced search features to enter the scope of the damages. Once the estimate is complete, the app can generate a PDF report, which the estimator can immediately print or email to the homeowner.

Updating Assignment Statuses

Now more than ever, carriers and policyholders crave real-time updates on their claims. With mobile technology, estimators can update assignments on the spot and submit files. Once an estimator contacts a policyholder, completes an inspection, or files a report, he or she can verify completion in real-time.

Mobile applications are powerful, flexible and on the phone that is already in the estimator’s pocket. Apps allow estimators to receive assignments, sketch a floor plan, compile an estimate, update the status, and print or send the estimate. With mobile technology, estimators can realistically trade everything in their bulging briefcase for an iPad with the right apps.