Armed with miniature computing devices and Web technology, construction workers are joining the ranks of the Net savvy. Construction companies are using handheld computers to access the Internet and communicate project details and speed paperwork to all members of the construction team.

For example, in San Francisco, construction firms and city officials are using PalmPilots and a Web-based business application to put themselves six months ahead of schedule on a project to provide citywide transport to the Giants' new ballpark.

They are using a software program called In-Site, created by BidCom, a San Francisco Net solutions company. The program allows 130 geographically dispersed construction team members/city officials to collaborate and communicate with each other in real time over the Internet.

A user logs onto a project Web site containing data on the latest changes to plan sets, scheduling updates, and other information. The program is compatible with the PalmPilot type of handheld devices.

Many of these handheld devices are customized for workers in a particular industry. Vendors are fast developing applications for Windows CE 2.11 and Palm OS; now the preferred platform for handheld devices; with industry-specific templates.

One analyst estimates 5.7 million handheld computers were shipped in 1999, up 47% from last year, and 67% were based on either Palm OS or Windows CE software. In 2003, experts predict these two platforms will make up 92% of a 21 million-unit market. Some of the new devices are ideal for companies and organizations with a lot of workers in the field. Vendors are offering units with beefed up construction, allowing them to withstand a fall from a ladder or other hazards.