Top 10 Construction Technology Trends
We look at 10 important tools aimed at increasing efficiencies, reducing costs and improving time-management in the construction sector.
10 | Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence (AI) is an aggregative term for describing when a machine mimics human cognitive functions, like problem-solving, pattern recognition, and learning. Machine learningis a subset of AI. Machine learning is a field of artificial intelligence that uses statistical techniques to give computer systems the ability to “learn” from data, without being explicitly programmed. A machine becomes better at understanding and providing insights as it is exposed to more data.
McKinsey expects the spread of AI in the construction sector to be modest in the immediate future (McKinsey, 2018). Nonetheless, a shift is coming. Stakeholders can no longer afford to see AI as pertinent only to other industries. Engineering and construction will need to catch up with AI methods and applications. That is the only way to contend with incoming market competitors and to remain relevant.
9 | Virtual Reality (VR)
It’s impossible for you or your clients to truly imagine a site from a set of drawings. With Virtual Reality (VR) the design, plan and implementation of the built environment could never be simpler and creates a truly immersive experience. More importantly, for those constructing, it can allow an assessment of the design to identify potential challenges and areas of concern which can aid in planning the project’s schedule.
8 | Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) delivers the experience of being inside the building. This form of remote site access offers the benefits of improved safety by allowing workers to visualise the site and gives customers the chance to collaborate on the creation of a space before fully committing to a design and build. Companies like Scope AR are collaborating with Caterpillar to provide an AR-based live support video calling platform built specifically for the unique remote assistance needs of industries using heavy machinery.
7 | Blockchain
More than just a platform for cryptocurrencies, Blockchain offers the ability to speed up interactions and reduce operational costs while providing a secure and trusted transaction history. Solutions like Brickschain can create a new data fluent reality. “Project owners and teams have been reliant on excel spreadsheets and old school media to handover a project,” says CEO Bassem Hamdy. “Integrations through the blockchain enable connectivity between multiple key stakeholders in the construction supply chain. Without this technology, the built worlds will continue to lose 95% of its data on handover. By capturing these lost data resources, we gain efficiencies in asset performance and ROI for our clients, not available before.”
6 | Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is at the heart of a smart revolution transforming construction. BIM is becoming standard on high-end projects such as infrastructure. The benefits of connecting workflows across a project, such as the M4 Smart Motorway Programme undertaken by Balfour Beatty, allows multiple stakeholders from design, construction and engineering teams to coordinate and realise new efficiencies. With more of these projects requiring BIM Level 2 capability, it’s vital that construction companies of all sizes embrace an approach that consolidates data across a project into a single dashboard providing actionable insights.
5 | Drones
Drones are used to monitor more efficiently the progress against the project programme and provide greater project certainty. Able to map sites 400 times faster than manual methods, drones collect data in large volumes and are often integrated with BIM systems to create highly accurate visual representations of project sites. According to
a report by PwC, they could save the UK construction industry alone $4.65bn by 2030, with the drone economy employing more than 600,000. In the future, they will be able to harness machine learning to provide a microscopic level of detailed monitoring.
4 | Internet of Things
The connection of devices via the internet is gathering pace. A recent report by Gartner estimates there will be more than 26 billion connected devices by 2020. For construction it all starts with sites achieving connectivity, linking back to the main office. Arguing the business case for the Internet of Things, PwC highlights the benefits: “By enabling construction machinery, equipment and structures to communicate with a central data platform, critical performance parameters will be highlighted, allowing accurate and proactive adjustments to be made in real-time. Up-front management like this will significantly reduce programme risk and project inefficiencies, improving forecasting for future projects.”
3 | Robotics
The use of construction robots is set to rise. Autonomous vehicles are increasing safety and efficiency with round the clock working. Robotic arms have been used in manufacturing assembly lines for years and now that technology is being adapted to be more portable or used for a range of labour-intensive tasks on construction sites – such as moving materials, building masonry walls and 3D printing structures. SAM, short for Semi-Automated Mason, is among the first commercially available bricklaying robots designed and engineered by Construction Robotics. The SAM100 can work collaboratively with on-site masonry construction and lower the health and safety impact on the workforce.
2 | 3D Printing
3D printing can cut project costs, environmental impact and provide a solution to the shortage of skilled workers. On larger projects, MEP (Mechanical, Engineering & Plumbing) specialists like Newtecnic are using the technology to create complex façades by combining up to 50 machines and processes into a single output to provide a superior technical solution which can deliver both ease of fabrication and construction, allied to long-term durability. The ability to iterate the design and improve it from a manufacturing standpoint, negates the need for a big scale workshop using instead a machine linked to the design itself. Machines like the Concreative Concrete 3D features the world’s largest 6-Axis arm 3D Printer, capable of creating elements up to 4.5m in height and up to 6m in length in one shot.
1 | Wearable Tech
Smart glasses, clothing, sensors and other wearable tech can both improve safety and boost efficiency. With Microsoft HoloLens, the wearer can pin their digital content – such as apps, information, and multi-dimensional videos – in the physical space around them, enabling interaction via holograms blended into the real world. A head-worn augmented reality computer offers an alternative to working from paper blueprints or digital screen-based models. Other innovations include intelligent caps that detect worker fatigue and miniature gyroscopes which sense trips, falls and accidents.