Transforming the way contractors interact
By Andy Verone
The proliferation and adoption of technology across the construction landscape continue apace as builders seek better and smarter ways of working, both on and off the jobsite. Using technology to improve productivity, safety, and quality and to unlock actionable project intelligence is becoming central to the strategies of leading contractors.
Against that background, below are four key trends expected to grow in prominence this year, based in large part on their promise of helping to improve margins, mitigate risks, and hone and sustain a competitive edge.
IoT, AI & ML TO LEAD DATA-DRIVEN REVOLUTION
Over the next year, the construction industry will see more emphasis placed on aggregating and analyzing data. There will be more focus on the practical use of the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML). As these innovations continue to mature, they’ll find specific roles in the construction process and gain greater acceptance as a result.
This evolution will be driven by a growing industry-wide recognition of the benefits of data that can be captured and analyzed through these innovations. Construction businesses at the cutting edge will demand greater transparency and knowledge of the construction process to have more control.
AI is the big game-changer in construction because of the focus on improving productivity in an industry that continues to see competitive pressures. It’s about capturing, analyzing, and sharing data from projects to mitigate risks, manage issues earlier, and continually improve from project to project.
AR & VR TO RESHAPE COLLABORATION
We are already seeing greater customer involvement in production processes through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) where customers are involved in the design of their environment. The use of headsets, cameras, and other sensors will enhance collaboration via virtual or augmented environments for workers both in the field and remotely.
As AR, VR, and multiple communication channels converge to become more tightly connected to construction project controls platforms, discrete business processes will move closer to real-time or sometimes be eliminated. For example, a request for information (RFI) between the field and the back office that today can take days or weeks to resolve, can turn into an AR-driven recorded collaboration session between remote responsible parties. The audio from that collaboration can potentially be converted to text, and then completely searchable. This next-generation collaboration is enabled by converged communication and visualization channels, and will ensure the entire project team is tightly connected to the current project conditions regardless of physical location, reducing the risk of schedule delays or budget changes.
5G FOR CONSTRUCTION AND THE MOVE TOWARDS “NETWORK SLICING“
In many markets, 5G will already be in operation in 2020 and as the technology matures and use cases evolve across industries, a broader understanding of its benefits to the construction industry will come to light. The speed, latency, and scalability of 5G will help construction and engineering businesses in three ways:
- Enhanced mobile broadband providing high speed and capacity
- Mission-critical operations providing low latency and high reliability
- Massive machine-type communications providing high scalability and geographic coverage
5G also brings the capability of “network slicing” which empowers communication service providers to be able to tailor connectivity services to the precise requirements of any given application, user, device, or context.
This has the potential to lead to tiered prioritization for construction processes, such as ensuring 5G capabilities are utilized on those processes requiring the greatest bandwidth, including video or other visuals, as well as those processes of critical importance to the safety and security of a project.
While 5G technology will be in many markets, there will be limited devices that will actually be able to take advantage of it. With that in mind, we can expect to see an explosion of people testing different devices and use cases for 5G next year and beyond.
MOVING TOWARDS A “DIGITAL TWIN”: CONTINUED EVOLUTION OF BIM FROM A DESIGN TO A DATA FUNCTION
For a further successful evolution of the BIM methodology, standards will be fundamental. This methodology is centered around encouraging wider adoption across the project supply chain, which nurtures higher productivity and creativity. That will only happen when it is open to everyone relevant to a project—not controlled by a single entity—and is focused on data, not just design.
As BIM evolves, we’ll see more focus on building out real “digital twins.” Increased emphasis on using cameras, sensors, and other technology to capture data and visualize a construction site model will provide owners and general contractors with a deeper representation of the project site than they’ve ever had before.
The greater uptake of 4D (scheduling data), 5D (cost data), and 6D (project lifecycle information), BIM will provide a much clearer view of a project from multiple perspectives to create proper models to simulate reality before construction. This will help to make the invisible visible by helping mitigate risk, reduce errors, improve quality, increase productivity, and manage budget and cost issues.
In addition, 2020 will see the industry coming together more to solve core problems, breaking down the walls of silence that exist today. Organizations such as buildingSMART International will help to facilitate this.
As the calendar turns to a new decade, expect these trends to continue to reshape the way contractors interact with worksites, share data, and collaborate with other stakeholders and technology partners.
About the author:
Andy Verone is global vice president, industry strategy and innovation, at Oracle Construction and Engineering.
Modern Contractor Solutions, January 2020
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