Technological innovations are ubiquitous today — from consumer apps to complex medical solutions. The construction industry is no stranger to tech advancements either, and they’re shaping the future of the field.
New construction technology, or contech, is bringing major changes to construction management as a whole. It’s revolutionizing the way companies are planning their projects, conducting their daily operations, and supervising work on site. The results are impressive, with higher levels of efficiency, accuracy, and safety. According to McKinsey, adopting digital technology can boost productivity in the sector by 15%.
What are the most influential construction technology trends? Here are the top 10 tech solutions that have transformed the industry in recent years — and will continue to shape it in the years to come.
#1. Digital And Mobile Software Solutions
Construction software is no longer a thing of the future. Most forward-looking construction companies have made the transition to digital solutions, which can improve workflow and increase productivity.
Mobile technology has a particularly powerful impact on the field. It offers possibilities for real-time data collection and updates, communication between your on-site employees and back-office project managers, and overall streamlining of processes. Equipped with a mobile device such as a tablet or a phone, both construction managers and workers have better tools to get their jobs done.
Solutions that offer project management, planning, time tracking, and field reporting, among others, have brought new ways to work that are simply easier. You can tackle administrative tasks with greater ease — from employee cost and budgeting to payroll and making workers’ comp insurance payments.
#2. Camera Technology
As camera technology becomes more and more accessible, companies are realizing just how much this tool can help improve accountability and efficiency. With camera technology, you can benefit from increased jobsite security, work progress monitoring, and field updates.
Camera technology helps construction companies with surveillance, providing real-time theft protection and monitoring of workers on the job. It has advanced significantly from simple surveillance cameras to elaborate monitoring systems connected with artificial intelligence (AI).
Camera technology offers a powerful way to document your construction firm’s projects and keep everyone on track with visual updates. With a powerful tool like CompanyCam, you can take shots of jobsites before and after work, store them according to the project location, and prepare progress reports for clients. The platform allows you to keep all photos in one place, categorized by jobsite, which you can easily share. This can save hours and makes crucial data readily available from any device.
#3. Drones For Inspection And Monitoring
Using drones in the construction field is already a prominent practice. With their help, you can conduct site inspections in a new and safer way. Drones make jobsite monitoring much easier, affordable, and manageable.
Site surveys are faster and more accurate with drones, compared to using aerial imaging or an on-site crew. With a drone, you can gather richer information as well. You can make 3D and topographical models, measure volumes, and obtain high-resolution images of your sites.
Drones can also go places that are riskier for your crew. They can safely inspect buildings of any size and in any location, as well as viaducts, bridges, and various other types of buildings. You can also use drones to monitor on-site safety compliance.
#4. Building Information Modeling
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is one of the most prominent construction technology trends in recent years. It allows you to make digital 3D models of construction projects. It’s similar to CAD but boasts new capabilities that contribute to better design and collaboration across the different construction phases.
With BIM solutions such as Revit and AutoCAD Civil 3D, you can do much more than with traditional 2D paper designs. You can include additional layers of data in your 3D designs, such as construction specifications, pricing, lifecycle predictions, and performance scoring. This makes it a great tool not only for modeling and planning, but also for construction analysis, clash detection, and problem-solving.
BIM helps construction teams work better with real-time updates. Any changes that you make to the model are immediately visible to all stakeholders. All engineers, architects, and subcontractors on the project can operate with the latest data, wherever they are located in the world. You can also view a simulation of the construction schedule for better planning.
#5. Artificial Intelligence
AI is not only reserved for tech giants. It’s already being used in the construction industry to process large amounts of business data and inform future activities. Based on AI, you can identify the best ways to optimize your planning and processes, and to improve productivity as well as safety.
AI can track tools, materials, and equipment. You can embed sensors on objects and in workers’ apparel to track movement and usual routes. With the data from field observations, you can reorganize your jobsite to maximize efficiency.
AI can also contribute to the identification and prevention of errors. Using machine learning algorithms, AI can check the quality of excavation, plumbing, and electrical work with high precision. AI can also show if the installed systems are not compliant with the initial models and planning.
#6. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Virtual reality (VR) simulators are used for training across many different fields — from military operations to commercial pilot training. In construction, VR technology brings immense benefits for safety training. Workers can learn to operate specialized machinery in a safe environment, as well as train to deal with challenging work circumstances. VR like IrisVR’s tool can also be used to explore a BIM or 3D project.
In VR simulations, the whole environment is computer-generated and people can interact with it through special devices. In comparison, augmented reality (AR) superimposes interactive visualizations onto the real-world environment, which enhance the person’s experience. With AR, you can improve on-site safety while you’re at the jobsite. Employees can use AR equipment to check for hazards and ways to avoid them. For example, with Trimble Connect’s HoloLens hard hats, workers can review safety checklists for specific work areas while in their protective gear.
#7. Wearables And Site Sensors
New construction technology based on sensors allows you to provide safer working conditions to your employees. Construction wearables can be placed in the personal protective equipment or clothes of employees. They use GPS tracking, biometrics, environment sensors, and many other new functionalities to prevent accidents and monitor a person’s physical status. Wearables can track slips and falls and all sorts of movements, as well as heart, respiration rates, and temperature.
Site sensors can warn workers about potential hazards and make the jobsite safer. They can track noise levels, dust saturation, temperature, and the presence of volatile substances. Whenever there is a risk in a certain area, the sensors can let workers in the vicinity know.
Robotics has already found a place in construction. Repetitive tasks can be executed by robots, such as bricklaying and tying rebar. Automation saves workers’ time and allows them to focus on more complex tasks. Robotics are also a great way to prevent injuries and fatigue on your construction team, and to address labor shortages.
Robots cannot fully replace the work of specialists, of course. Your employees have to configure the robots, and supervise how they complete their tasks. Still, robots can contribute to faster completion of projects.
Logistics robots such as MULE (Material Unit Lift Enhancer) can be quite useful on your work sites. They can load and unload heavy materials and tools with pinpoint precision. These robots also have to be operated by human workers, but they handle most of the heavy and dangerous work.
#9. Autonomous Equipment
The technology that powers self-driving vehicles has arrived in construction too. Autonomous heavy equipment allows you to get more work done with remote operation, while also providing a high level of precision.
Autonomous heavy machinery is based on diverse technological advancements, such as sensors, drones, GPS and geofencing, and 3D models. The machines use these tools to navigate and operate on worksites with a high level of accuracy. The main tasks these machines can perform include grading and excavation. They work like a Roomba, but on a massive industrial scale.
With autonomous equipment, the heavy work is handled by a machine and not your workers, while your team manages the instructions and operation of the equipment. This leads to cost savings for your company, as well as optimization of the workflow.
#10. Offsite Construction
Modular and prefabricated offsite construction is becoming a common practice today. It’s similar to producing equipment in a factory and then using it on site. Offsite construction is eco-friendly, boosts productivity and maximizes the use of materials. As such, it is gaining traction, as the industry focuses more on green building practices.
Modular construction is one of the typical offsite options. It entails the building of modules that are then transported and installed on the construction site. You can use these modules to assemble larger units with higher efficiency, higher speed, and with fewer resources.
The other common offsite construction is prefabrication, where components such as wall panels, framing, and floor systems are made off site, and then integrated into the projects. 3D printing is often used for prefabricated items. This is faster and more efficient than building them on site.
What are the most prominent construction technology trends in your specific field? Please share your insights in the comments!
Ralitsa is a Contributor at Hourly.
Hourly is a people platform that helps small businesses save time and money by seamlessly connecting the dots between workers’ compensation insurance, time cards and payroll.