Despite the varying duties and responsibilities of architects, engineers, and construction (AEC) professionals, those in commercial building and construction generally work together toward the central goal of quality and efficiency in their projects.
In 2020, AEC professionals will continue to see the major role technology plays in not only assisting in day-to-day tasks but also helping to promote collaboration between all project stakeholders. This year will see a balance of disruptive, high-tech innovation combined with sophisticated technology to help streamline everyday processes.
Cloud-Based and Mobile Technology:
The reality is that mobile technology is present in nearly every industry, with more than 5 billion people using smartphones every day. Because of the ubiquitous nature of mobile technology, AEC professionals are expected to have access to the internet at all times – whether it’s through their phone, tablet, or other mobile devices.
This has fundamentally changed the way AEC professionals communicate with one another. Instead of waiting to get to an office to submit change orders, RFIs, submittals, and other important documents, cloud-based mobile technology has made it possible to prepare, file, and instantly share critical documentation with members of both internal and external teams.
For example, all AEC professionals know the importance of managing a submittal workflow. Let’s say an architect approves a submittal for roofing materials that end up not meeting the requirements of the spec. The document clearly defined this material as one that was not to be used, as the manufacturer had set warranty exclusions in place. The material immediately begins to corrode, and the architect’s error results in ultimate product failure.
With a cloud-based solution that captures metadata, submittal workflow errors like this can be easily tracked – or even better, completely avoided. Not only does this technology allow partners to communicate more efficiently, it makes it easier to identify the source of a problem and reduce litigation time, should it arise.
Drones are a rising trend across all industries because of their ability to capture information passively. Through the use of drones, those involved on a construction project can capture an aerial view of a site, which allows this technology to be used during many phases of a construction project, including developing plans, tracking progress, and monitoring issues.
Although not as prevalent as cloud-based technology, drones are now entering the construction industry at a steady pace. As more professionals realize the benefits of this technology, the number of active users is projected to increase to over 25 percent in 2020.
We are starting to see more and more companies integrate drones into everyday tasks. For example, Terra Drone India has recently partnered with Geo-Plus – a software company tailored to land and infrastructure professionals – to serve India’s AEC sector. Both companies will join forces to provide the industry with a new variety of services, including a data-driven approach to Building Information Meeting (BIM).
AI was developed to mimic human cognitive functions, including problem-solving, pattern recognition, and learning. One of the most promising uses of AI in AEC industries is the fact that it makes it easier to identify safety violations on a project.
Scaled Robotics – a construction robotics company – recently developed a robot used to monitor construction sites and produce 3D progress maps in a matter of minutes. By autonomously searching around these sites, the robot uses a 360-degree camera to produce reports that can detect the slightest changes during a project – including if a beam is just a centimeter off.
As AI becomes more prevalent on construction sites, the abilities of this technology will continue to increase with time.
In Japan, the construction industry is using AI to make up for the lack of workforce strength the country is currently experiencing. Construction company Shimizu Corp spent over $37 million on robots and AI technology over the past three years, integrating machines that can handle transporting building materials, welding steel, installing ceilings and more.
Beyond the use of robotics, AI also has massive potential for data mining and predictive analytics. The amount of data that comes through via any given project is so great that it’s almost immeasurable. Most workers in these industries just don’t have the time to analyze it all. Using machine learning, a subset of AI, the burden of data mining is no longer placed on the worker, but rather on the technology. Algorithms can flag any insightful patterns in seconds, bypassing a job that would likely take hours for a human.
In order for AEC professionals to effectively gear up for a successful 2020, it is important to keep a watchful eye on technology trends and start identifying which solutions can serve as a natural complement to their current business practices. Increased collaboration, advanced data collection, passive image capture, and predictive analytics will all affect the way workers approach each project this year.
Although it can be difficult to adjust to new technology, 2020 is the year to embrace it for a more seamless process down the line.