Kloudless Blog

Kloudless Unified APIs enable you to code once and integrate many

When it comes to companies that need access to a multitude of files and documents across all available cloud file storage options, few surpass those in the construction business. From initial blueprints and submittals, to RFIs and photos; document creation and transferral is the backbone of the construction industry.

Hanley Wood, an analytics-driven and construction-focused media firm, recently stated that construction has an “intractable productivity problem,” and identifies the sector as the second-least digitized industry in the U.S., behind only agriculture.

In their article, Reinventing construction through a productivity revolution, The McKinsey Global Institute writes that “Other sectors have transformed themselves and their productivity performance. In retail, the mom-and-pop stores of half a century ago have been replaced by large-scale modern retailers with global supply chains and increasingly digitized distribution systems and customer-intelligence gathering. In manufacturing, lean principles coupled with extensive automation have utterly changed industries.”

In contrast, the construction industry fell into the bottom quartile of profit margins across all major industries. While there is more to this decline than simply a lack of embracing technology, the increased automation of processes and integration of outside complimentary services is integral to the success of modern construction. In order to maximize profits, the construction industry must embrace many of the same methods and techniques that have boosted the manufacturing and food-service industries’ profit-margins. This includes, but is by no means limited to, finding a way to deal better with document and file management.

With so many people involved in every step of a construction job from beginning to end, dealing with the overwhelming amount of files and communication across positions and stages of the process can be overwhelming. If a general contractor, sub contractor and owner all use different storage services, simply developing the means to integrate all of them is a massive undertaking. Generally, a large amount of systems are involved in the process of a construction-based application, and that’s where Kloudless can help to improve an end user’s workflow.

Kloudless enables apps like StructionSite and SmartBid to offer general contractors the ability to pull, push, or sync documents and images between that app and any third-party storage. For example, a general contractor using PlanGrid to collaborate in the field, and Egnyte to store files, can access the data from within StructionSite without StructionSite’s engineers having to individually develop each of those integrations.

The most value in this workflow, especially for smaller software developers, is speed to market. Instead of spending valuable time and resources working on integrations for all of the storage platforms a company’s users may need to improve their workflow across the different technology tools they use, a developer can integrate with Kloudless and provide their users with all cloud-based file storage services in the time it would take to integrate a single one. Through our Kloudless File Picker, we can replicate the look and feel of an application’s file structure so users feel right at home when using our File Picker to prompt the selection of files in cloud storage or other construction apps to pull into the app, or folders to push their files to.

That’s why we here at Kloudless are thrilled to announce the rollout of PlanGrid integration in our already powerful Kloudless Storage API. If your application needs to allows its users to access documents in PlanGrid, you can now easily allow the integration of all of our previously available storage API services with their PlanGrid file structure. Through the use of our Kloudless File Picker, you can effortlessly allow access to PlanGrid project data from within your app, in addition to data from Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Egnyte and other cloud storage services.

So what exactly is PlanGrid?

Used on more than 1.5 million construction projects, PlanGrid is cloud-based construction productivity software. PlanGrid’s mobile-first technology gives general contractors, subs, owners and architects access to information in real-time, enables greater collaboration and provides actionable insights. With PlanGrid, any construction team member can manage and update blueprints, specs, photos, RFIs, field reports, punchlists and other information from any device. PlanGrid’s platform is accessible on any device — either mobile with native iOS, Android and Windows apps, desktop or any web browser.

In the 2018 Construction Technology Report, published by JB Knowledge, PlanGrid ranked among the top choices for all mobile-based construction software across a multitude of categories.

In the same report, the top file storage and collaboration software choices among construction applications was also presented, with Kloudless providing access to every major storage service provider in our Unified Storage API.

With such direct data pointing to the popularity of our already offered storage API services, it was imperative for us to provide integration for those in the construction sector with our Kloudless Unified Storage API. This helps them to not only cut down on integration costs, but also be able to provide access and functionality to these providers in one consolidated location.

Our engineers have worked hard over the past months to bring you compatibility with many of the most popular construction project management software tools in our Storage API. Alongside PlanGrid, we are also happy to announce a new construction connector-focused rollout of functionality in Kloudless by integrating with Procore, Bluebeam, and Autodesk A360 and BIM 360.

Building something special

Our talented engineers here at Kloudless built an API framework for our integrations targeted at Object ID management that expedites the incorporation of new services and platforms into our Unified API. The Kloudless API inherently functions as an abstraction layer for multiple third-party APIs, some RESTful and some not, which make dealing with object IDs tricky in some cases. Keeping track of all of these identifiers can be challenging, so Kloudless dealt with this issue in part by including the attribute of id_type on all Kloudless objects. This allows us to easily keep track of all pertinent IDs for a specified route, which can alleviate much of the headache when dealing with endpoints across multiple APIs. By encoding the necessary identifiers into an abstracted ID that Kloudless returns, our engineers were able to solve the problems presented by the issues above. To read more about the challenges that arise with IDs in a unified API, check out this article from Kloudless CTO, Vinod Chandru, here.

Because of this foresight in architecting our unified API framework, Kloudless can speedily grow our offered services in a short period of time, allowing for new integrations and platforms to be added to our already deep library of APIs in a matter of weeks, as opposed to months.

Li-Hsing Chen, one of our engineers in our Taipei office, was tasked with handling the integration of PlanGrid. Under a tight timeline, Li-Hsing worked with PlanGrid’s API to enable advanced features within Kloudless, such as full create, read, upload and delete (“CRUD”) capabilities for PlanGrid Documents, seamless document upload to PlanGrid (with Kloudless handling all of the complexity on the back end), and of course, adding PlanGrid to the Kloudless File Picker.

To provide users with a visual UI-based tool to access their files and documents across cloud-based storage providers, Kloudless provides an open-source JS library called Kloudless File Picker which embeds an iframe into your site with different clickable options for storage integrations. Our File Picker speeds up development time by integrating with our Unified API and giving your users a ready-to-use “out of the box” apparatus to access their service of choice.

Working with a short deadline for the creation of these integrations, Li-Hsing accomplished exceptional work in building out the PlanGrid connectors. To read more about Li-Hsing’s developer journey while building out our PlanGrid connector, read his article, Working with Documents via the PlanGrid API, here. With more features coming in the near future, we are excited to be rolling out full CRUD functionality with files and folders on PlanGrid.

What do you want to build next?

Like stated above, Kloudless is happy to announce that PlanGrid integration is just one piece of our construction connector rollout. We are also glad to report the simultaneous release of support for Procore, Autodesk and Bluebeam Studio as well. These platforms make up four of the most popular software tools for modern construction companies, and as of right now the document and file side are all supported through our Kloudless Unified API, with more metadata to come. We can’t wait to hear all of the ways that our users go about implementing these powerful new tools into their workflow to save them time and money and help them to build a better business flow.

For any additional questions about the Kloudless Storage API or the Kloudless File Picker, feel free to email us at hello@kloudless.com


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