12 March 2021
The digital landscape is changing at an ever-increasing speed. The question for organisations is no longer if they are going to digitalise their workspace, but when and how are they going to keep up and adapt with ever evolving technologies.
In this article we take a look at ten crucial construction technology trends that are impacting the industry in 2021.
Construction technology is a collective term for types of technology that have a specific use within the construction industry. Examples of this includes smart machinery, automated robots, virtual reality, 5G and IoT. All of which are created and adapted to aid the industry in improving working conditions, boost efficiency, improve health and safety and many other benefits.
[10 – 15 minute read]
A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Today the giants of the digital industry deal in data, the oil of the digital era.
There are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day at our current pace, but that pace is only accelerating as construction technology advances. Over the last two years alone a mind-blowing 90 percent of data in the world was generated!
“The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.”
Big data is a term used to describe extremely large data sets that may be used to uncover hidden trends, patterns in behaviour, unknown correlations to make more informed business decisions and serve as the basis for artificial intelligence and automation systems. It is this big data that helps evolve advancements in construction technology.
This data is being gathered from Internet searches and services, mobile phones, digital photographs, social media and many other forms of digital communication tools – such as text message, Skype and emails.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is intelligence shown by a machine in order to mimic human behaviour and machine learning (ML) is a field of AI, where statistical techniques are used to give a computer the ability to learn from data without being explicitly programmed. Both are fast becoming integral pieces of technology in the construction industry.
Imagine a world whereby you could use computer systems to programme robots, machines, or to automatically calculate and design house building. This technology is already available and being used today, it continues to help advance construction technology with the industry able to benefit from increased efficiencies in cost and speed.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is an already integral piece of construction technology and massively transforming its way of working.
IoT is made up of smart devices and sensors that all share data with each other and can be controlled from a central platform. The implications of this is huge as it means that a new smarter, more efficient and safer way of working is now very possible.
The construction industry is one of the least automated industries that features manual-intensive labour as a primary source of productivity, and it is surprising that robots have yet to play a significant role.
A key obstacle to this is the construction worksite itself because robots require a controlled environment and tasks that are repetitive and non-variable.
However, as we are now seeing construction sites becoming smarter, with the rise of construction technology, so is the way in which robots can be programmed and used. Here are a few examples of how robots and drone technology is already being used on construction sites today:
With the evolution of new construction technology, a strong, reliable backbone for connectivity is required to support greater speeds and bigger data transfers.
5G is the fifth-generation wireless technology for digital cellular networks, boasting faster speeds, better traffic handling and less congestion. To accompany this, Wi-Fi 6, the newest standard of Wi-Fi technology is also improving on its predecessors.
With the huge improvements of cellular solutions, mobile construction site broadband is proving a competitive alternative to the traditional fixed lines and we are seeing more construction sites and developments moving towards this and reaping the benefits of quicker installation times and greater flexibility, whilst still receiving the required level of service.
5G and Wi-Fi 6 will enable users to communicate effectively, share large scale drawings, run resource-heavy applications without compromising speed/performance. Not to mention will provide a reliable and secure communication network on which new and advanced technologies will utilise.
BIM technology is an intelligent 3D modelling tool that supports engineering, architecture and construction professionals to effectively plan, design, modify and manage buildings and their infrastructure. It begins with the creation of models and supports document management, coordination and simulation during the entire lifecycle of a project (plan, design, build, operation and maintenance).
BIM technology enables better collaboration, because each expert can add its expertise area to the same model (architecture, MEP, civil, plant, construction, and structures), enabling review of project evolution and working results in real time.
Expectations are that further development of BIM features and subsequent technology will be the trigger for changes in a construction project design, development, deployment and management.
Compared to 2D drawings – it is a perfect support for clash detection and problem-solving during design, that improves planning and increased efficiency across a construction projects life-cycle. Among all benefits, it also helps to optimise the work and company processes.
VR and AR technologies are recognised as game changer for the construction industry. It is certain that they do not belong to the gaming industry anymore.
Virtual reality (VR) implies a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world, whilst augmented reality (AR) adds digital elements to a live view.
Potentials of VR/AR technologies in conjunction with BIM technology are endless. First step would be to create a building model with BIM technology and then to take a sight-seeing and literally walk through and around it – thanks to the AR/VR features.
3D printing is quickly becoming an indispensable construction technology offering for the construction industry, especially when taking into account its impact to changes in material sourcing. This technology pushes the boundaries beyond the designer’s table by creating a three-dimensional object from a computer-aided design model, building the object up layer by layer.
Prior to the rise in construction technology, the construction industry had been notorious for being one of the least digitalised industries. Only in recent years has the technology that can handle the challenging environments, workflows and complications of such a physical industry evolved and now continues to impact the sector – mobile and cloud technologies being one.
Cloud technology enables the possibility to access, use, modify, exchange, administer and manage data stored in remote servers, by using appropriate software applications. With Internet connection and authorisation, access to these remote resources is supported by Mobile technologies that enable anyone to sign in for Cloud services.
“In 2012, a Sage survey found 16% of contractors felt cloud computing was important to their business. Five years later, Sage ran a similar survey and found that 85% of contractors had already implemented or were planning on implementing cloud solutions.”
These technologies allow data sharing, from the construction sites in real-time to all entities participating in the building construction process or to other entities responsible for contract realisation. For example, review tools necessary for engineers and architects [BB] or project management tools are now available all time, providing better collaboration and information sharing.
Mobile and cloud technologies have significantly contributed to the changes and evolution of the construction sector, by enhancing digital experience and business efficiency, enabling real-time information, providing Integrated Labour Delivery [ES] and improving organisation and productivity.
Blockchain technology impact on the construction industry has become increasingly significant in recent months. This technology was born in 2008, as a result of establishing a digital currency or cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin or Etherium).
Blockchain is digital information stored in transactional public database (block), that is peer-to-peer controlled or verified by network of computers (chain). Compared to standard databases, blockchain does not need central authority, just because all information exchange is happening between end users – peers or nodes, without mediation of a middleman.
Every node in chain contains different types of information like evidence of a bank’s fiscal transaction, contract, ownership certificates and authenticity statement. Blockchain data safety is controlled by each node in chain, responsible for guarding its piece of information by digital signature and allowing prompt and secure information exchange, without any third parties.
Blockchain technology, as the unique trustworthy administrator for all parties involved in the contract realisation, has potential to establish error-free process for contracts generation, administration and monitoring. Smart contract is a kind of the digital protocol deployed in Blockchain network for the purpose of contracted conditions implementation.
In this scenario, every node in a network contains all details about contractual obligations and is familiar with conditions needed to be fulfilled during their realisation. Smart contracts implementation through blockchain technology improves efficiency (after successful inspection – a job done becomes a job paid) and excludes the intermediary parties and their services.
Blockchain technology triggers transparency during the construction process, making it wide open and influence project workflow optimisation. Moreover, it encourages more collaborative working and contributes to timely decision-making with minimising the risk and avoiding disputes.
Bitcoin applicability in the construction technology industry could be a crucial catalyst capable to boost collaboration and transparency in transactions during contract realisation, for example via “pay as you deliver” model. It enables digitally valid evidence of realised contracted obligations that triggers payment.
The rising importance of blockchain technology for the construction industry is confirmed by creation of Construction Blockchain Consortium – as a public research organisation with more than 60 participants exploring the blockchain potentials applicable to construction industry.
Overall, 2021 is set to be an exciting year for construction technology as these services become more readily available and become crucial for working towards a safer, more efficient and smarter working environment.
UK Connect are dedicated to being at the forefront of construction technology. To find out more about how we can help please call 0333 015 5368 or contact us today.
Sources & References:
‘How much data we create‘ by Forbes | ‘The worlds most valuable resource is no longer oil but data‘ by The Economist | ‘Construction robots will change the industry‘ by Robotics online | ‘Benefits of AI‘ by Constructable | ‘Innovating the built environment with digital twins‘ by PBC Today | ‘Blockchain and construction: the how, why and when‘ by BIM Plus | ‘Why is cloud computing critical in the construction industry?‘ by Unearth Labs | ‘How Mobile Technologies Connect the Field Office with Integrated Labor Delivery‘ by eSub | ‘Construction Technology Trends to Watch in 2021‘ by Builder Online | ‘Designing and building better with BIM‘ by Autodesk
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