How will technology advance in 2018, and how will it affect the construction industry? It’s a great question and one that has no clear answer. The future is hard to predict and we certainly don’t have a crystal ball – but here’s a list of 10 technology trends to watch in the year ahead.
1. BIM Various Dimensions
BIM stands for Building Information Modelling, and although this technology has been around for almost a decade, the construction industry has only begun to take notice.
The US National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee defines BIM as:
“A digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.”
BIM goes well beyond 3D modeling (width, height, and depth), and may also include 4D (time), 5D (cost), 6D (as-built operation), 7D (sustainability), 8D (safety) and beyond. The system is designed to facilitate seamless communication throughout all phases of a construction project and has been shown to reduce construction costs and speed up delivery thanks to the reduction in information loss.
Because of these benefits, the governments of Britain, Finland and Singapore have already mandated the use of BIM for public infrastructure projects….so it could be coming to a project near you.
2. Augmented Reality
Where virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated version, augmented reality has the ability to take the real world and add to it. This means you’ll have the ability to overlay a 3D model of your project over a real view of the construction site or to allow clients to ‘see’ various finishes right at the outset of a build. It’s not mainstream quite yet, but it’s coming.
3. Robotics & Exoskeletons
2018 could mark the arrival of robotics and exoskeletons. Robots can already tie rebar and lay bricks at more than twice the speed of their human co-workers. And exoskeleton arms or vests which can help workers reduce their risk of injury while lifting heavy loads are currently under development.
IoT stands for Internet of Things, which basically refers to any device that can share information over a network without human-to-human or human-to-computer assistance. These days, that can be anything from a car with built-in sensors to a farm animal with a biochip transponder.
While IoT applications are widespread, the technology offers several tangible benefits to the construction industry, including:
- The remote operation of machinery
- Automated just-in-time provisions
- Tracking of tools and equipment
- Automated logging of construction hours
- Automated energy-efficiencies
And of course, IoT plays a crucial role in Augmented Reality and Building Information Modeling (BIM).
Drone technology has advanced far beyond aerial photography and video. These unmanned aerial vehicles will soon be a common site on construction sites as they are more efficient than human surveyors and less expensive than airplanes. They are already being used to collect data, monitor the progress of a project, and carry out safety inspections. Drones can even be adapted to help evaluate a building’s thermal mass by identifying any hot and cold spots.
6. Cloud Computing
The cloud is no longer just for storing and sharing your family photographs. In fact, companies are now the largest users of cloud-based software – which allows users to safely store and share large amounts of data over a secure network maintained by a third party, or cloud provider.
Cloud-based software can be used for everything from project management to payroll and it offers the construction industry several advantages over more traditional methods including:
- Flexibility: If your company is growing quickly, the cloud can keep up. Extra storage, resources, and users can be added (or removed) in an instant.
- Accessibility: All you need to access the cloud is an internet connection (and a password). This means that real-time data can be reviewed by several people in different locations at the same time.
- Lower costs: Cloud-based software solutions eliminate the need for traditional servers and costly start-up fees.
7. Artificial Intelligence
You may have noticed that many emerging technologies involve the gathering and sharing of data. And that could leave us all with a serious case of information overload. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in.
AI systems have the ability to quickly gather, sort, make sense of, and respond to, an enormous amount of information. While the technology is still in its early stages, AI has the capacity to benefit the construction industry for everything from surveying and analyzing structures and materials to assisting with the automation of bricklaying and transportation.
8. Mobile Field Software
While AI may be a few more years away, mobile field technology is already here.
Mobile applications allow workers to communicate and access documents and other information in real time from the convenience of their mobile phone or tablet. No more shuffling through stacks of paperwork, or needing to go back to the office to create a report! And many mobile applications can be integrated into your existing systems for things like supply chain management, payroll, and accounting.
9. Self-Driving Vehicles
With many of the large car manufacturers and tech giants pushing to bring self-driving cars to the roads by 2020, it’s only a matter of time until driverless bulldozers, graders, and excavators start turning up at construction sites.
10. Smart Buildings
There is no single definition of what makes a building ‘smart.’ But buildings of the future will use integrated information technology to seamlessly connect components like lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and even security systems to maximize efficiency, reduce energy consumption, and automatically respond to their environments. And that will change how projects are designed, built, and managed.
So, what does this all mean for 2018?
The construction industry – like all industries – is changing rapidly thanks to advances in technology. Some – like Cloud Computing, Drones, and Mobile Field Technology – already play an important role and their use is expected to grow.
Others – like AI, Self-Driving Vehicles, and Smart Buildings – may take longer to become mainstream.
Eventually, they will all make an impact on the construction industry making our lives easier and our buildings more efficient.