Technology is having a profound impact on every sector, yet construction has been coined as one of the last massive industries to be disrupted, and is the second least digitalised industry (followed by farming). This provides a great amount of opportunity from genuine transformation.
In order to leverage new technology to tackle the construction industry’s productivity challenges, new and practical applications for technology are being developed at a rapid pace, and here are some key trends to keep your eyes on in 2018:
Cloud and mobile
In construction, using cloud and mobile is extremely useful for creating a real-time collaboration across all stakeholders and running multiple projects simultaneously.
Removing pen and paper means a quicker, integrated approach to data and processes, and enables daily logs, safety observations, inspections, scheduling and much more.
For greater project outcomes, cloud and mobile applications enable stakeholders to access common project data and work together in teams, which is ideal when teams are highly distributed and when project complexity increases.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical devices which allow objects to connect and exchange data. Using sensors and network connectivity, it is used in construction for monitoring, supply replenishment, tool tracking, and servicing and repair.
Big data from the IoT allows an aggregate, trend level view of how it is performing, enabling real time data collection and proactive management. Being able to run fast analytics and leveraging machines to make decisions means that those decisions are communicated back to the devices, which will prompt the devices to take actions.
Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles which are more commonly being used in the construction industry, with the industry predicted to be the biggest user of commercial drones in the coming years.
They are used for onsite surveying, capturing data on large areas of land, and accessing dangerous zones in order to report and findings and complete health and safety inspections.
AR and VR
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are technology that have been on the construction industry’s radar for several years, as they are valuable tools for project teams and end users alike, with clear benefits for project teams in 2018.
VR creates an immersive environment usually with a headset, where the user can step into a project, or their future home, at key stages or even in the completed status, and for recruitment it means prospective candidates can see what a day in the life of a construction worker looks like.
AR adds an augmented element to our real world view, providing a graphic layer which often gives us more information and depth to what we see before us. In construction it can be used to give us statistics on productivity, design information and health and safety warnings.
VR and AR will allow us to better communicate and act on the information collected from the Internet of Things, and to collaborate effectively.
Autonomous vehicles have been a hot topic in and outside of construction, with the promise to revolutionise the way we travel. Getting them onto roads could be further off, yet on a controlled construction site, we may be much closer to seeing sites with autonomous bulldozers, tractors, cranes and excavators.
Autonomy is gaining traction, and some projects in 2018 could well adopt this new technology, which would transform building site environments and help to address a shortage of skilled labour.
With iterations of brick and track laying robots to machines capable of tying rebar, the successful implementation of robotics in construction has the capability of enhancing productivity and efficiency.
Many still think of robotics as a science fiction concept and struggle to see past the entry cost and credibility, but the past 12 months have seen evolving methods which no doubt save time, energy and money, making more and more experts begin to consider it.
Mike Green, Underwriting Manager at Zurich, said: “With developments in technology, we are seeing more and more robots that can move autonomously around a workplace. This introduces a new dimension of risk, as companies will have to anticipate not just how their robots will behave, but also how their employees might react in different situations.”
The potential increased use of robotics in the construction industry will allow for more supervisory roles to be created which could reduce the risk of injury. It does not mean the demise of the human, manual worker, and simply enhances and improves the jobs at hand.
David Lewis, managing director, integra people, warrington