Technology is fast-changing the world we live in and construction is by no means immune to that. Recent advancements have seen many tech innovations that started out as novelties or gimmicks quickly find their way to practical applications.
Here we look at six areas to watch
This, of course, includes things like smartwatches that put the myriad of apps already used by the industry into the arms of professionals and operatives alike. Such devices have also been trained in monitoring the location of persons on site, taking roll calls and in checking the body temperature and heart rate of those operating plant and machinery.
Wearable tech also extends to new devices like DAQRI’s Smart Helmet, bringing augmented reality (AR) into the field.
Robotics in Construction
The successful application of robotics in construction has the potential to greatly enhance efficiency and safety in many instances. Whilst the demolition trades have been using a robotic kit for some time, recent trials have seen the technology move into bricklaying, track-laying and product manufacturing.
There is also increasing interest in the automated plant; unmanned machinery that can work around the clock, taking its lead from GPS coordinates, survey data and digital design information. Robotics has the potential to be extremely disruptive, challenging the fundamentals of site labor needs and pushing new levels of quality assurance.
Internet of Things
The challenge for this area remains the entry-cost and a serious recognition of its applications; many still see the concept as science fiction. The broad category of the internet of things includes smart houses that allow us remotely control temperature and optimize energy performance.
The arguably greater prize is “big data”; the ability to hone and perfect the built environment that we construct and operate by having an aggregate, trend-level view of how it is performing.
Such data can be obtained from building management systems or sensor nodes integrated within built assets. This area is closely linked to what many understand as “BIM Level 3” through the exact definition and parameters of that term are still under development.
Use of Virtual Reality
The use of virtual reality (VR) is exploding in the construction sector, quickly moving from being a gimmick into a valuable tool for project teams and end users alike. VR creates an immersive environment in a headset or cardboard viewer, or even an enveloping 360 pop-up tents or room.
Its key applications to date include health and safety training and stakeholder engagement. Stepping back from the fully immersive experience, augmented reality or AR applies a graphics layer to our real-world view.
It is thought this could lead to overlays of data for site personnel, bringing them everything they need from construction-issue information and specifications to stats on productivity and health and safety warnings.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
The rise of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) often referred to as a drone has been well documented in the construction industry. Again what perhaps felt like gimmick-technology in the first instance has steadily matured into practical applications.
UAVs have been used for health and safety inspections, progress reporting and most-prominently in site surveying; capturing accurate data on large areas in just a few minutes and accessing potentially hazardous zones with ease, keeping surveyors themselves save.
3D Print Physical Objects
The ability to 3D print physical objects is impacting construction at both ends of the scale. Accurate digital design information allows 3D printing to be used for everything from rapid prototyping, component manufacture and scale modeling, to full-scale printing of excavator cabs and the concrete printing of entire structures.