Construction worker using a tablet on site.

3 Ways Construction Technology Is Revolutionizing the Industry

10 Apr 2017 by Isabel Ticlo

The IT industry is buzzing with self-driving cars, Virtual Reality (VR), drones and the Internet of Things (IoT). While these new, attractive technologies may seem like consumer luxuries, they have extensive use cases across multiple segments.

In healthcare, doctors record patient information on tablets. In retail, clients enjoy smart-room devices. But what about the construction industry? From paper blueprints to 3–D modeling, the evolution of construction technology has come a long way. Today, companies are implementing wearable devices, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and analytics to improve performance and profitability. Let's take a look at how.

Unmatched mobility and interconnectivity

The need for greater collaboration and coordination between teams with different areas of expertise is crucial for swift project completion. Gone are the days of offices stacked with documents and designs. Mobile devices equipped with cloud applications — such as Office 365, Skype, Cisco WebEx and Citrix GoToMeeting — enable workers in the field to access, save and transfer information in real time. For example, teams can conduct off-site, modular construction and prefabrication that aligns with the needs of on-site construction.

By keeping employees connected, applications and devices improve workflow and eliminate setbacks that might arise due to miscommunication.

In addition to laptops, tablets and smartphones, mobility includes wearable devices that track employees and their health. Even though a team strictly follows safety procedures during the construction process, they’re still working in unpredictable environments. Smartwatches and safety vests monitor movement to increase productivity and reduce risk of injury from known or unknown medical conditions. Plus, with GPS features, supervisors always have clear visibility into where their team is operating in case of an emergency.

Security made simple

While the cloud makes it easier to store and retrieve vast amounts of data around the clock, it can create new security concerns. How do you monitor and restrict access to confidential information or layouts? What happens if client data is left unprotected, vulnerable to identity thieves? Construction security solutions ensure all assets on-site and in the cloud are secure.

Technology makes it easier to document processes and achieve regulation compliance while leveraging cloud-based storage for better backup, recovery and approval time. Training employees in best practices for application use helps ensure the success of your security technology.

When it comes to on-site surveillance, drones and UAVs are a safe and easy way to achieve an overarching view of construction progress. According to Thatcher Associates, drones hugely reduce the time and labor involved in producing accurate land surveys and monitoring for theft and vandalism.

Future-driven efficiency

Technology has immense potential to save the construction industry time and money with platforms such as 3–D Building Information Modeling (BIM), the IoT and big data analytics.

Using detailed, interactive 3–D BIM illustrations before, during and after construction streamlines the planning process. According to iHireConstruction, 3–D modeling accurately portrays the building so designers can pinpoint problem areas beforehand. Similarly, companies can integrate VR to give clients the opportunity to both experience the final product free from site safety hazards and communicate changes upfront. This saves time and resources, increasing efficiency and client satisfaction. In the future, 5–D BIM may come into the picture, incorporating time management, cost, quantities and more.

If you’re using heavy equipment that automatically provides diagnostics on fuel usage, or applying sensors to observe traffic patterns, detect accidents and monitor air quality, you’re leveraging the IoT. Using big data pulled from these tools makes it possible to develop effective action plans — the result being stronger designs, faster builds and longer-lasting structures. Predictive analytics improve business intelligence so you can gather information faster and pivot in real time. For example, knowing the conditions, traffic and weather of a work site beforehand means fewer surprises and hiccups. This increases profit margins, boosts productivity and gives you more time to focus on your quality of service.

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