Technology is forever changing and with each new invention, another is not too far away from making the first obsolete. The construction sector has always struggled to move with these trends, not from a lack of wanting, rather the specifications and safety requirements are so stringent, it has taken technology manufacturers a while to develop suitable machinery.
As so many of these new technologies rely on an internet connection and construction site broadband is one of the first elements that had to be addressed. Companies have now managed to perfect their installation processes and refined procedures to get this implemented within a site in record time.
But what other new technology trends are shaping the construction industry this year? Below is a list of the top ten technology trends to look out for.
Money makes the world go round but can also create barriers. Digital currency is resolving issues with payment within construction.
Payments are stored within blockchain technology awaiting completion of agreed contracts. Upon satisfactory completion of a project, payment is then safely released.
This resolves the arguments of clients refusing payment after completion or the worry of ‘cowboy’ buildings leaving a site unfinished and unsafe, while still retaining payment.
Anybody who uses a smartphone will be familiar with the cloud. This is an external database that stores documents, photos and other information within servers that can be accessed via password from any device.
With cloud technology, large sets of data can be shared instantly and securely and allowing those with access to make edits and suggestions in real-time.
This speeds up processes within construction, organisation and productivity are increased with all team members and project leaders having such instant access to any relevant information, with no risk of paper copies being misplaced.
What was once a novelty piece of technology for hobbyists is now an essential part of construction and manufacturing.
3D printing allows designers to create parts and tools to exact specification, with human error completely removed in the manufacturing process.
As these items are relatively cheap to print, it allows more experimentation with trial and error, without eating into client budgets.
As these items can be printed directly on site, wait times for deliveries are significantly reduced. Delivery vehicles are decreased, meaning fewer carbon emissions and less damage to the environment.
VR & AR
Virtual and augmented reality are no longer just for video games. They can provide a virtual tool for walkthroughs for proposed building design and give clients a real-life experience of the finished product. It also allows teams to collaborate across the globe in the same manner.
Risk assessments can be carried out through this virtual world by adding hazard simulation, meaning site managers can predict dangers without risking their own health. These can even be signed off remotely, eradicating wasted time.
Building Information Modelling is a 3D modelling tool that has its own intelligence that supports the design team, including engineering and architecture.
Models are designed and this technology uses intelligence to create simulations and detect clashes between systems.
Not only does BIM report any clashes early on, but it can also create solutions to these problems.
5G and Wifi 6
Although site broadband has improved immensely in recent years, sometimes it simply isn’t conducive.
Short contracts do not always justify the expense of installing fixed lines or an internet connection may be required immediately whilst awaiting broadband installation.
5G and wifi 6 can provide a fantastic alternative, with a high-speed connection, they allow effective communication and proper connection for internet-based equipment.
Robotics & Drones
Drones are proving essential within construction and now that models are strong and reliable enough to deliver fundamental materials, they are being utilised nationwide.
Not only do these deliveries reduce wait time, but also carbon emissions from delivery vehicles.
Cameras on drones can also provide a quick overview of the site from a perspective that was previously unavailable. Site managers can use these to discover any risks quickly and take appropriate action.
Robots can be programmed to complete repetitive tasks, such as bricklaying, not only does this save costs and alleviate workers from these monotonous tasks, they can also increase speed and accuracy.
The Internet of Things is made up from any smart device or sensors that link and are controlled by a central platform.
This can be anything from cement mixers with sensors to alert when materials need to be topped up, to geo-location wearables that alert workers when they have entered a danger zone.
Vehicles can even use sensors to detect when they are not in use to switch off automatically.
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
AI mimics human behavior and ML does the same but learns from previous experience.
This aids better design by taking weather and location into account. Using historical data, financial planning and project management can be assisted by predicting if costs or timelines will overrun.
AI can also monitor safety hazards using recognition technology to flag if workers are not wearing the correct PPE.
With an unfathomable amount of data being generated every day, especially throughout the construction industry, it can seem like an impossible task to make sense and draw correlations between findings.
Big data can process large amounts of information within a matter of minutes, far quicker than any human brain. Big data can analyse patterns within data of previous projects to create actionable insights and improve the efficiency of the entire project.
2020 may not be the year we were all hoping for, but it is certainly exciting within the construction industry. These technologies are becoming more accessible and more affordable each year, while also being fine-tuned to meet the demands of the construction industry.
As these technologies evolve at such a speed, it will be interesting to see where we stand with the subject in the next decade.