10 June 2020 5 min read

The Future of Construction. Tools that Digitize the Industry

 

The digital transformation is a process and construction is just getting started. Let’s take a look at what awaits the industry in the future!

Digitalisation - the word so often used in press, most of us think we “know it all”. But the thing is, with every passing year, “new” technologies become obsolete and are replaced with even “newer” ones instead. This is a sign of progress, and it is vital for an industries’ development. When it comes to the construction industry - its relation with innovative technologies leaves a lot to be desired. For a few years now, it has held the not-so-honorable place on the podium of the least digitized industries. Why?

Usually with changes comes fear. People are afraid to implement new solutions thinking that “smart” technologies will eventually replace the need for human employment. Other times the issue is even more simple - it's a case of money. Thankfully, as an answer for the latter, we do have initiatives like the Digital Europe Programme: a proposed €9.2 Billion of funding for 2021-2027 in support of the digital transformation of the EU's society and economy.

The construction industry still needs to fight off the resentment to digitisation, but we are on a good path already. With the coronavirus outbreak and its effects on the construction industry we have come to learn that new technologies and software like, for instance, construction ERP solutions, are the reason the industry was able to function and survive during this crisis.

With this fresh view and a more favorable attitude towards digital technologies, let's take a look at a few tools that digitise the construction industry! Over the course of the coming weeks we will release articles that will bring those tools closer to you. Each one is unique and each one has enormous potential to digitise the construction industry!

Exoskeletons

The global exoskeleton market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 48.4% from 2019 to reach $11.4 billion by 2027. It is one of the most desired technologies, especially among site workers, as it protects a person's joints and muscles from injury, boosting their capabilities at the same time. It’s purpose is to reinforce the performance of the worker improving productivity, quality, and what’s most important - safety at the construction site. With the current demand for skilled workers within the UK due to labor shortage, exoskeletons are highly valued as a support resource for existing workers. The model can be tailored to your workers needs (type of work) f.ex.: stationary or mobile exoskeletons, driven by pneumatic, hydraulic or electric actuation, and powered by fuel cells, batteries, or mains power. Even though there are pros and cons of implementing exosuits in a construction company, their impact on the industry is growing rapidly.

To understand more about this technology we met with Karl Zelik and Matt Marino from HEROWEAR who shared their knowledge and passion by explaining to us how exoskeletons are changing the construction industry.
You will be able to read more about this engaging interview soon! Stay tuned!

Drones

This term is quite vague and usually refers to ‘robotic vehicles’ or more specifically ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ (UAV). They come in all shapes and sizes, and have been put to use in a variety of industries, construction included. The ability to operate them fully remotely makes them particularly useful at tasks dangerous for human workers. That’s one of the few reasons why drones became so popular and their use in the construction industry is so multifarious. They are used for:

Construction inspections
Structural defects can oftentimes go undetected as all the required tests are carried out with false positive results - making those defects difficult to spot. Drones can perform inspections through the use of 3D mapping. From building surveys that require having the visibility of roofs up high to maintenance inspections of various structures - drones are covering it all with a minimal risk and high efficiency.

Health and safety on site
Manual inspections and maintenance are time consuming and complicated to conduct, and sometimes carry a high risk. Controlling safety procedures is essential for every construction project. Using UAVs allows you to monitor sites, and have a real-time completely remote view of them 24/7.

Project progress reports
Constant updates on the progress of works are essential for project management. Reports that usually require a lot of manual work; like photographing the site, and comparing the state with project objectives can be done with a drone flight recording, visualising the project's progress, saving you time and money.

Virtual Reality
Whether it’s to minimize on site risk, or commercial purposes, drones are also used to provide a virtual ‘walk through’ of the projects. Using it’s camera footage enhanced with VR technology you can get an exclusive site experience without leaving the office.

Drones are a great example of how technology and the digital transformation are already changing the construction industry. In its report on drones, Skies without limits, PwC predicts that the industry will contribute an extra £42 billion to the UK by 2030. But utilizing drone technology can come as a double-edged sword, as the risks are also high. We will discuss more on how drones are supporting the construction industry in our upcoming article. Follow this series not to miss it!

Robotic swarms and humanoid workers

Inspired by a behavior discovered in termites, researchers at Harvard created small construction robots with one purpose - for it to work together as a swarm, and conduct construction tasks. Swarm-bots are still a novelty in the construction industry but the idea is simple: to use a large amount of robots to build a project according to a plan, without central guidance. Robotic swarms work just like termites - building massive structures without a single command central but in harmony with all of the other surrounding robots. What holds them from smashing into each other? Swarms have built-in sensors to detect the other robots, and follow a set of rules to avoid collisions and work as a whole.

Regardless of being a product of cutting edge innovative technology, swarms are said to be simple to use, low-cost, and extremely effective. Their potential ends with where your imagination reaches its limits. Swarm-bots could turn sites with conditions too dangerous for humans into opportunities. Construction technology advances like swarms are paving the way to the future of the industry.

Talking about futuristic technologies - we can’t not mention humanoid workers. Robots support all of the industries in many ways from 3D printing and assembly lines to simple home chores (like intelligent hoovers). However Construction sites require a very specific set of skills. Construction jobs are not static, the workers move around a lot, and need to be flexible. Will we be able to ever replace the human body required for the precise and demanding manual tasks? It turns out that the future might be around the corner - there’s already a prototype! More on it - in the upcoming article!

The future that already has arrived

The digital transformation in construction brings endless opportunities and offers a way to support humans in the areas where our capabilities are limited. Following recent innovations and being up to date with the trends makes you more likely to use those technologies to your advantage.

The construction industry already learned how important digitalisation is, and how next-generation online and cloud based software is indispensable when it comes to business continuity. The recent crisis would take a much greater tool on construction companies if we hadn’t had online-cloud based solutions already waiting at our disposal allowing many companies to work remotely and continue to operate in times of a global crisis. The lesson we should all take from this is that technology is here to support us and it is our duty to use it’s advantages as much as possible.

Let’s take a closer look at the future of construction and the tools that will digitise the industry! Follow us during this series to learn more about what the digital revolution has to offer. If not to invest in it now - at least to get inspired and gain insight into the construction industry’s future!

Stay tuned!

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