As firms all over the world push to find new ways to compete in 2019, innovation in construction technology is proving to be one of the most important ways to do it. The leading edge seems to move at light speed and it can be hard to keep track of innovations as the next big thing overshadows the impact of tools we’ve only just begun to explore.
As we look forward to another year of development and construction technology innovation, we’ve compiled our list of the most exciting trends in this fast moving field. For firms that actively embrace technology in the quest for improved safety, efficiency and quality, these are the trends to watch.
1. The Internet of Things (IOT)
Embedded sensors on a connected worksite create huge opportunities for collecting and managing important data
As we see a continued rise in adoption of data-driven technology in construction, we will also see innovations in how this technology is utilized to create new efficiencies. Embedded sensors on a connected worksite create huge opportunities for collecting and managing data on safety, material performance, and operational workflow, just to name a few. Smart devices and wearable construction technology, as well as sensors and on-site cameras can be tied in to construction management software and give a much clearer picture of building progress and real-time status reporting.
This integration will affect not only the flow of a project, but also provide vital data that can be examined after handover to become a part of operational management. Sensors that provide information on environmental conditions and structural performance are of particular importance in this area.
2. AI and Machine Learning
As the internet of things continues to pull more information, construction firms will need tools to manage all this data.
As the internet of things continues to pull more and more information, construction firms will need tools to manage all this data. This is where machine Learning is becoming increasingly crucial. Systems that aggregate and organize data from the connected worksite are going to be vital as construction firms become more reliant on real-time information for efficient project management.
AI and machine learning in construction is going to become a linchpin for collating and analyzing multiple streams of data from an integrated digital workflow. Properly trained AI can categorize data faster than a human operator, cutting the time needed to get the clearest picture of issues on a jobsite.
Machine learning is already creating opportunities for new uses of technology, such as the way Smartvid.io aggregates visual information from jobsite cameras and uses artificial intelligence to tag potential hazards and safety violations. This technology is just the tip of the iceberg, and we expect to see more innovative applications of machine learning this year.
3. Predictive Analytics
Predictive analytics combines techniques like data mining, statistics, and modeling to analyze data and make future predictions
Along with machine learning, systems that not only feed information to the head office, but can also look ahead and provide insight into safety concerns, scheduling, or budget outlooks are going to see increased development and innovation. Predictive analytics combines techniques like data mining, statistics, modeling, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to analyze data and make future predictions. The purpose of predictive analytics is to create a new approach to problem solving through the use of data, predicting patterns in our workflow and highlighting innovative solutions. The predictive systems can anticipate problems as well as opportunities and give project managers insight into critical decisions.
We’re still on the cusp of this exciting technology, but we know it’s going to see some amazing developments as construction firms begin to explore its potential.
4. Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality
Virtual reality allows real-time comparison of 3D models to physical spaces
Virtual Reality, no longer the sole province of video games, is another technology that is on the rise and, along with it, Augmented Reality. The tools that bring VR and AR to the worksite are becoming more and more ubiquitous (and also more user-friendly) and as this technology becomes more integrated in the digital workflow, the possibilities that open up seem limitless. Virtual reality in construction allows real-time comparison of 3D models to physical spaces; overlay of location and position data (wireframes) during installation; virtual walkthroughs with project stakeholders… these are just the beginning.
VR and AR tools are already reducing rework and increasing safety. The Daqri helmet, for example, offers users improved situational awareness, calling attention to environmental factors, such as temperature differentials and unsafe conditions. It can also be used to increase the precision of complex installations, and is creating a whole new world of possibilities for collaboration between innovative designers and builders.
5. Autonomous Equipment
Sending a drone to inspect a jobsite saves time and keeps the technician on the ground instead of climbing scaffolds
While VR is enhancing the productivity of humans, automation and robotics is providing a path to greater safety and efficiency, including the use of drones in construction. Sending a drone to inspect a jobsite saves time and keeps the technician on the ground instead of climbing scaffolds and navigating the potential hazards of a working site. One example of this, the Skycatch drone, can generate a 3D model of a site that allows automatic calculation of area, volume of earth to be moved, and other information that once required several human hours to accomplish.
Automated rovers will also be providing jobsite status information, monitoring sites autonomously, guided by AI in the home office and feeding data back to the predictive analytics systems. We’re also seeing automated equipment being developed in the form of driverless earth-movers and dump-trucks in mining and road-building applications.
What drives these construction technology innovations?
We wanted to take a moment and talk about what is driving the adoption of these innovations in the construction industry. It should go without saying that competition is key here. As many firms are finding it difficult to compete on price, we must find ways to reduce costs and inefficiencies. We’re also seeing a kind of “brain drain” as seasoned professionals begin to retire and significant amounts of institutional knowledge is being lost with their departure.
Technology is giving us a way to capture much of that experience and bridge the gap in knowledge, especially as the next generation of “digital natives” brings a new enthusiasm for technology to the workplace.
Finally, connected digital workflows also redefine collaboration, allowing stakeholders and owners up-to-the-minute information on project status and decisions. What we’re seeing is a blending of old and new, as we move into the future as an industry.