Big data, BIM, augmented reality, drones…what else does 2015 hold for construction technology? Ten construction technology experts offer their predictions of what to expect this year.
Sasha Reed, VP Strategic Alliances, Bluebeam Software Inc.
Drone Mania. More firms will outsource or internally develop drone flight programs in order to track site progress. The future of Quadcopters on the jobsite will expand beyond tracking progress to troubleshooting issues and conducting site inspections safely from the ground. They also will expand the construction firm’s BIM capabilities by leveraging model data and schedule information to consistently and dynamically collect site progress photos while creating new model information through photogrammetry.
Data Integration and the Push Toward Software Integration From Some of the Major AEC Technology Companies. Integration of separate technologies to build out end-to-end workflows from design to build to manage will be the focus for most major technology companies. As more data is created and gathered, the industry will be less tolerant of data loss through integration limitations. The major tech players are taking notice of this trend and developing solutions accordingly.
Lauren Hasegawa, Co-Founder, Bridgit
Augmented Reality and Wearables to Make BIM More Accessible. The use of augmented reality technologies, such as Google Glass, has the potential to make BIM more accessible onsite. Using GPS already present in most augmented reality technologies, users could sync location data to a BIM model and see the 3-D virtual view of the construction overlaid on the real-world view of the jobsite. Areas to watch are:
- technologies that make BIM data easier to manipulate for non-BIM experts; and
- new forms of AR displays better suited for the construction industry, such as heads up display (HUD) projection and smart glass that can be installed directly into machinery windshields.
Big Data Is Getting Bigger. The combination of faster mobile computing, an increase in the amount of software being used onsite and the growing Internet of Things (IoT) in construction is leading the way to increased big data opportunities. Faster mobile computing means tasks that previously were not possible on mobile are becoming a reality (e.g., the ability to load a ground-up BIM model in a few seconds from a smartphone or tablet). An increase in use cases for mobile technology in construction is leading to more mobile-first software being developed and used onsite. With IoT, every tool on the jobsite will be “smart,” giving contractors the ability to track who last used a piece of equipment, to when it should be scheduled for maintenance.
The Tech Industry Is Paying Attention to Construction. Anytime Google makes a significant investment in an industry, it is a sign of the innovation to come. In 2014, Flux Metro emerged from Google X (Google’s semi-secret research facility) with $8 million in investment. Targeted to developers, Flux Metro uses machine learning to interpret city building codes and save months of research. This play by Google, coupled with the handful of successful construction-focused startups that emerged in the past year, signify that the industry is on the brink of an innovation explosion.
John Chaney, CEO & Co-Founder, Dexter + Chaney
Cloud computing and mobile data will move decisively past the early adoption stage in the construction industry and into the mainstream. The innovations in 2015 will be driven in large part by the new way these technologies are put to use by contractors. Look for:
- new mobile apps developed by enterprise software developers that integrate seamlessly with their software systems;
- better software tools for managing workflow throughout construction operations, connecting the field to the office and alerting people when the ball is in their court to move work forward; and
- new tools that create and distribute business intelligence in an active, rather than passive, way (i.e., software tools will start providing real-time and predictive information to folks on the job instead of static reports after the work is complete).
Jerker Hellström, CEO, Handheld Group
Larger Displays Even for Rugged Mobile Computers. Screen size is the “$64,000 question” in the rugged computer segment -– a major consideration for all users but it is also linked to the application and how data and information are presented, both in terms of how it is captured and how it is communicated to the end user. Expect a stronger demand for maximum screen real estate in the smallest, lightest possible form.
Higher IP Ratings. Mobile computers across all market segments are increasingly being manufactured, and marketed, as more durable, more rugged and with higher IP ratings (ingress protection against water and dust). The construction industry demands durable devices that can be ”knocked around” a bit. While some devices are advertised as having an IP68 rating, this means nothing unless the manufacturer specifies the submerged time and depth. Expect a continued upward “IP rating creep,” but also an invigorating discussion about the definition and value of IP ratings and the tests carried out on mobile computers.
Increasing Interest in Android. 2015 will be the year when the industry truly embraces Android. The rapid growth of Android consumer phones has standardized the Android user behavior and generated a spillover effect to the industrial sector. There is an increase in industrial software being developed for Android, boosted by the first generation industrial Android devices. Also, Android can take advantage of powerful multicore CPUs in a way Windows Embedded Handheld has not been able to.
James Benham, Public Speaker and President, JBKnowledge
The first wearable devices that are truly usable in the field will be available.
The first virtual reality headsets will hit the market and explode in utilization by real estate developers and business development staff.
The move to mobile first and pure cloud solutions is going to accelerate, with several new construction technology firms entering the market in 2015.
Bob Batcheler, Executive Vice President and Co-founder, Newforma
Dan Conery, Vice President of Construction and Owner Solutions, Newforma
3-D laser scanning will continue to improve pre-construction coordination and the accuracy of the documentation of as-built conditions. When designers and contractors know the precise locations and dimensions of everything in the field, they’ll be better able to prepare for construction, work around obstacles and document outcomes, and facilitate prefabrication of assemblies and modules.
BIM’s impact will expand to have particular influence on prefabrication, enabling contractors and subcontractors to reduce cost and improve quality by building modules in their shops instead of in the field. The field will see more and more installation and less on-the-spot fabrication.
Mobile apps will continue to make individuals more informed and productive (e.g., apps that display drawings on all the different screens used by collaborators will prevent people from working with outdated documents). Apps to capture and manage punch list items will shorten times to closeout, and apps to capture field conditions will streamline the compiling of daily reports while simultaneously improving their quality.
Craig “Tooey” Courtemanche, Founder & CEo, Procore Technologies, Inc.
Moving From Point Solutions to Comprehensive Platforms. Rather than growing large monolithic point solutions, IT departments are gathering moderate point solutions and combining them. They are starting to assemble more powerful solutions by seeking best-in-breed solutions that will integrate with their current systems to provide stronger solutions. This will unlock all the information they previously has siloed in systems for years.
Continued Growth of Problem-Solving Solutions. Companies will continue to adopt solutions that solve their problems. It doesn’t matter if it is high-tech or low-tech, it has to work and provide value. For example, QR codes are simple and low tech, but can provide an immense amount of information to construction teams in the field.
Providing More Value to Key Stakeholders. Many project management software solutions have been adopted in the field to centralize documentation and improve communications. But owners, general contractors, project managers and regional directors are starting to see the true value of construction software. With today’s solutions, management has unrivaled visibility into project health across their entire project portfolio. They can drill down into projects to assess risk and locate potential bottlenecks and delays.
Sam Liu, Vice President of Marketing, Soonr
Construction Professionals Will Have More Devices to Sync. Smartphones, tablets, office PCs and laptops will all be used for work and each needs to have access to the most current files and projects. According to Forrester Research, 53 percent of today’s information workers use three or more devices for work, and IDC reports that 328 million employee-owned smartphones will be on the job by 2017. Without a reliable and secure technology to keep all devices in sync, mobile workers in the construction industry will likely suffer an increased drain on productivity as they search for the files they need. A secure file sync and share solution will eliminate this frustration and help construction firms do business faster.
Mobile Devices Will Get Lost and Put Company Data at Risk. According to an Ernst & Young study, half of lost mobile devices are never recovered. Even more, 35 percent of data breaches are caused by the loss or theft of a corporate asset. With mobile devices being used by construction professionals literally everywhere, it’s likely that loss will happen. To safeguard company data and eliminate the risk of a data breach, use a secure file sharing solution that leverages smart technology to remove (or “wipe”) business content off of the lost device. If the device is found, or when a new device is put into place, the same business content can be easily restored eliminating any work downtime.
File Sizes for Shared Content Will Get Larger. From blueprints and architectural drawings to video and photos, the files construction professionals need to share can be nothing short of huge – and they will only get larger. For many, these large files can impede mobility and the freedom to work whenever and wherever is needed. By selecting a secure file sharing solution that can enable fast and simple sharing of even the largest of files, construction firms can empower mobility like never before.
John Bacus, Director of Sketchup Product Management, Trimble
Increased Collaboration and Use of Constructible Models in Projects of all Sizes. Because affordable, intuitive and interoperable modeling tools bring 3-D modeling within reach of everyone on the project team, the use of constructible models and collaborative construction is on the rise. Expect to see increased adoption as the industry realizes that constructible models substantially improve project performance, lead to greater customer satisfaction and higher profit margins, and reduce risk.
More Connected Platforms Across Construction Life Cycles. Enabling collaboration across and within disciplines is key to driving the industry forward. Fostering this collaboration requires liberating data and developing connected platforms that allow for the use of many BIM tools in the same project. The industry will begin the long process of evolving to adopt a construction life cycle in which stakeholders (architects, engineers, fabricators and general contractors) in any project can integrate data from a range of applications and devices to reduce the barriers between teams and tasks, while allowing them to access, analyze and share project data from anywhere, at any time.