The development of digital technologies is so quick that it’s no longer a question of if they will enter a particular industry, but rather when. From manufacturing and transportation to finance and telecommunication, everything is experiencing rapid digitalization. And the construction industry is certainly no exception.
In fact, we can hardly think of an industry that can benefit from robotics and AI as much as construction. Clearly, experts in the field believe the same, and they’ve already integrated many modern technologies into their day-to-day operations. Let’s take a look at some of the technology-related trends in construction and see how they affect this industry as a whole.
Building Information Modeling is not exactly a new concept, but it’s only starting to see widespread use. In simple terms, it is a 3D modeling tool that allows engineers, architects, and construction professionals to design a building, manage it, and maintain it throughout its entire lifecycle. Aside from spatial relationships and measurements, BIM software also contains information about materials, costs, and sustainability.
You might already be familiar with some programs that support BIM. AutoCAD and its various iterations (AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD Civil 3D) have been around for a while now. Though CAD software isn’t the same as BIM, it provides drawings and models necessary for BIM to function properly. Then, BIM adds context and relevant information to these drawings.
But the best thing about BIM is its ability to integrate with other digital technologies. For instance, BIM and AI make a fantastic team. All you need to do is feed the software a basic set of rules and leave it alone. It will perform all the necessary tasks on its own and even figure out what further actions need to be taken.
The AI and BIM integrations are sure to become even more popular in the future. After all, it encourages construction professionals to focus on more important aspects of the project rather than dealing with minor things.
Considering how much manual labor there is in the construction industry, it’s almost surprising that robots aren’t used to a greater extent. Unfortunately, construction sites may be part of the reason — they don’t provide a controlled environment robots today still need. But as our technology becomes smarter and AI starts taking over, we expect they will play a far greater role.
Still, even today, robots and drones play important parts in the construction industry. For instance, drones can deliver materials to the site, reducing the need for transport vehicles. What’s more, their cameras can be used for monitoring the area and spotting potential danger zones. Also, construction managers can take a look without having to go to the site.
Robots are also quite useful, especially for repetitive tasks or demolition. Bricklaying, for example, doesn’t require much thinking, but it is a time-consuming job. A robot could do it quickly and more precisely, allowing workers to take on more important jobs. Demolition robots are typically slower as they work but far cheaper and safer.
The Internet of Things is one of the trends that’s only starting to take hold now that smart devices have become widespread. In short, it’s a network of smart devices and sensors that share data with each other and seamlessly work together. Although still a brand new concept, it’s already showing a lot of promise for the construction industry.
For example, IoT will encourage the development of smart machinery that won’t only expertly perform repetitive tasks but also maintain itself. It will use its sensors to spot when a machine is missing materials or needs repairs. Then, it will easily order more of what it needs or alert someone to help with the damage.
Aside from that, IoT could also increase construction site safety, reduce waste, and improve general working conditions. Thanks to its geo-locators, analyzing software, and various kinds of data, it will alert us to dangers and issues we would overlook ourselves. Not just that, but when integrated with AI, it will resolve these problems on its own, without our input. And that will let us deal with other, more pressing tasks.
The most valuable resource nowadays isn’t oil or any other material possession, but rather data. Without data, advanced technology such as IoT and AI can’t realize its full potential. That’s why big data has been gaining more importance over the last few years.
And what exactly is big data? Well, it’s a term that refers to large data sets that can be used to discover trends, behavioral patterns, and various correlations. Then, these discoveries can inform our decisions or feed AI systems and help them perform well.
When it comes to construction specifically, big data can help us determine the optimal time to start a project, as well as its various phases. It can also improve efficiency and cut costs by informing us how to best use our fuel and machinery. Ultimately, the more data we have, the better decisions we’ll make.
Our industries are already experiencing rapid changes thanks to digital technologies, and for the most part, they are positive. In construction, much like everywhere else, AI, robotics, and other technological advances can make the work far easier. They take care of tedious, repetitive tasks that waste time and open up our schedules for more creative tasks. We should stop resisting the future — it’s already here, so let’s make the most of it.
Jim Stephen is an Account Executive for Construction Solutions at Microsol Resources based in New York. He is focused on delivering the Autodesk Construction Cloud portfolio to help general contractors, subcontractors, and construction management firms across the U.S. help refine their workflows, reduce risks, and maximize their profit margins. He has over five years of experience delivering software solutions to international and award-winning architecture, engineering and construction firms. He is an avid reader, a lifelong learner, and is passionate about the built environments.