Sales intelligence provider Onvia this week announced that it has expanded its offerings in the construction industry to include hard-to-find information about emerging commercial and residential projects nationwide.

According to Onvia, this new service will eliminate the need for customers to manually search public records for potential projects. The service is geared toward architects, engineers, contractors and suppliers and it will notify them about early-stage projects.

Onvia also offers information about government purchasing activity, but notes that these commercial and residential projects are not highly publicized when they begin.

It sounds like Onvia is going to use an automated system to collect the information for the new service (by scanning permit filings, etc.). But regardless of the company's approach, this could really provide some serious competition for Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, which provides real estate research and analysis for the residential market. It could even give data providers like Reed Construction Data and F.W. Dodge (McGraw-Hill Construction) something to worry about.

One difference is that these companies actually have people in the field conducting the research. But how much of a difference that will make in the long run is in the hands of the customers. If Onvia can present the information in a more efficient manner, which is so crucial in the dissemination of this type of data, the company will most certainly earn a top spot in the marketplace.