Historically, the construction industry has tended to lag behind in adopting new tech. Right now, however, the sector seems to be on the verge of rapid digitalization.
Construction companies are adopting a variety of new technologies. Some of this tech is remote — like internet of things (IoT) sensors and autonomous vehicles — that allow companies to monitor job sites continuously. Other advances, like AI and big data, make it possible for organizations to analyze data collected from job sites in real time.
Discover how new technology is transforming the way construction companies approach their work.
Real-Time Analytics and AI
Data has quickly become one of the most valuable resources a business can have. For construction companies, data can provide a massive range of insights. For just about any aspect of the construction process that can be measured, it’s possible to use data to build predictive or analytical models that extract insights and allow for more informed decision-making.
For example, with the right set of sensors, companies can upgrade to a condition-based maintenance plan. The benefits of preventative plans, which rely heavily on scheduled maintenance checks, are well-known. It is possible to maintain equipment too much, however. Overly frequent maintenance can be both expensive — in technician labor and equipment downtime — and cause machines to fail sooner.
With condition-based maintenance, a company tracks and analyzes equipment information to create more efficient schedules. IoT sensors can continually send information on machine performance, like:
- Current and voltage
- Oil particle levels
Some newer applications of AI are even using image recognition technology to quickly scan job sites and evaluate site safety. With the right AI algorithm, a company can regularly look through site images to see if workers are following safety standards — wearing the right safety gear, using equipment correctly and maintaining distance if necessary.
Put together, this data provides an always-available snapshot of machine health. AI analytics can process this information as the system collects it and predict when maintenance will need to happen next. With this system, construction companies can avoid unnecessary costs.
Improved Communication With Site Messaging Apps
Most construction companies rely on a few less-than-ideal methods for on-site communication — like simple two-way radios and uncoordinated text messaging. Construction site messaging apps, which are similar to Slack and other enterprise communication tools, can streamline and centralize communication. These messaging platforms coordinate site communications and bring them together in one place. As a result, they can help simplify dispute resolution, create records of communication and make basic worksite chatter more efficient.
These field messaging apps also create a valuable archive of site communications. If you need to see when a team began work on a certain part of the project, you’ll have chat records that you can rely on. These chat logs also make sending updates to stakeholders much easier. With a messaging app, you’ll have an archive of images and communications from the site that your business can draw on.
This tech also allows companies to loop in off-site personnel and stakeholders into conversations around the project. For construction companies that regularly deal with stakeholders who feel left out of the project or want regular updates on their projects, these tools can be valuable resources. Messaging tools can also help administrative staff and on-the-ground workers better coordinate site workflows. This setup may be valuable for construction companies that struggle to keep on schedule.
New Technology for Streamlined Surveying
New technology is also likely to have a significant impact on the role that surveyors play on the jobsite. Companies can reduce the cost of surveying by up to 90 percent with new grading tech and compaction control.
Other tech may be good news for surveyors who want to cover the most ground in as little time as possible. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), like drones with advanced cameras and image processing tech, may help surveyors quickly survey sites. These drones are especially effective in rough and difficult-to-traverse terrain, which can slow down surveyors doing work on foot.
These drones can also help surveyors with difficult-to-reach sites. In some cases, surveyors may be able to use these drones to perform full or preliminary site surveys without even leaving their office.
Advanced Project Planning With BIM
Building information modeling (BIM) is a process that uses a variety of technology — like 3D modeling software — to more efficiently plan and construct new buildings.
Existing BIM platforms can help construction companies more accurately forecast the costs for a given project. Many can also use architectural data to automatically alert site supervisors to potential clashes — helping ensure that doors and windows have sufficient clearance or that steel beams don’t collide with building plumbing.
Many BIM tools can also generate 3D visualizations of what a completed project will look like in the space it will occupy. These tools can be a valuable resource for companies working with stakeholders who want to know how the project will appear when complete.
Construction companies can also use 3D BIM visualizations together with augmented reality tech, which is becoming increasingly popular among construction companies. Using a smartphone, headset or another smart device, a construction worker can overlay a 3D model directly over the job sites. As a result, construction workers will know exactly how different building elements will fit together from their perspective on the ground.
These representations of building data can also be beneficial during building handover. The company that owns the building after construction can plug this construction data into building maintenance systems following the transfer of building control. This process can improve and simplify building upkeep in the months following construction.
How New Tech Is Transforming Construction Sites
The construction industry has been slow to adopt new tech in the past. Now, the industry is rapidly adopting a variety of new technologies — including AI, autonomous vehicles and augmented reality.
This tech is already having a significant impact on job sites around the country. Workers are using augmented reality in conjunction with BIM to improve project planning and visualization. The internet of things provides massive amounts of new data for construction companies. AI can sift through this information and uncover new insights or build more accurate predictive models.