In the world we live in today, technology is changing at an unprecedented rate.
Think about the development of cellphone technology for a moment. In 2001 we had simple cell phones with no frills. There was no web browsing, no cameras, no wifi, etc.
8 years later in 2009, our cell phones had the upgrade of 5-megapixel cameras with intuitive touch screens, internet browsing, and data connections. This was the age of the iPhone 3GS.
Now come to 2016 and in just 7 years time cell phones have 20-megapixel cameras, connect to devices such as headphones and “smart watches” wirelessly via Bluetooth frequency, and are able to record video in 4K quality among doing hundreds of other things. And we are on the iPhone 7 Plus.
This is just a simple example of just how fast technology has advanced within the telecom industry in under 15 years, and how this same sort of change is beginning to happen in the Construction industry too. Read on to see our predicted trends in building construction technology and how the entire industry could be in store for a dramatic shift in the way they approach internal technology programming in the years to come.
Construction Technology Trends for 2017
Drones/UAVs – The word “Drone” often conjures up thoughts of kids playing in their backyards with a cheap remote controlled helicopter, or visions of a fixed winged, unmanned fighter jet flying through the air looking for its next target. While both of these ideas are somewhat related to what a drone is, neither is related to the impact that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles(UAVs) can have on a project site with construction workers. Drones are steadily emerging as the most effective and safest way to survey a project site for construction management purposes. Drones allow for quick and easy 3D mapping of an area without the potential endangerment of site employees. As the market cost decreases and the adoption of drones among mid-size businesses increases, the emergence of UAVs across the construction industry will only grow larger. And while there are concerns that the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) would inhibit the growth of drone usage, recent legislation has actually made it easier for companies to leverage the aerial power of drones.
Wearables – When you hear the word “wearable”, what do you think of? Fitbit? Apple Watch? You're not wrong! But when we talk about wearables in the Construction industry, we are focused on pieces of technology that allow us to easy track and monitor safety information on the job site. One example is a “Smart Vest” that can not only monitor body temperature and alert for overheating on the worksite but can also track movements of construction workers as well. Another emerging wearable is the “Smart Badge”. If an employee is about to walk into a hazardous zone or walking to a place where they lack certification, their supervisor will be immediately notified and it will be recorded on their electronic safety record automatically. This technology will likely become rapidly adopted as OSHA and similar regulatory organizations become stricter on occupational safety and enforce harsher fines for failures to comply.
Cloud Integration – When we talk about the cloud, we are talking about a place where businesses can freely transfer data among their departments, systems, and personnel without the mistakes, delays, and costs that are incurred with pen and paper or on-premise server based systems. Instead of wasting time on collecting data and creating time intensive spreadsheets, more companies are moving to cloud-based systems where all the data collected is instantly available and allows for easy collaboration between personnel during the construction process. Cloud-based systems also incur very little upkeep versus on-premise based systems and allow for easy integration into other accounting, project management, or business intelligence programs. This is a trend that has been happening for years now but should strongly affect the mid to small size construction organizations as they look to adjust to the changes in construction engineering and building construction technology.
Paperless Environment – As projects are getting bigger, building construction is also getting faster. Paper contracts, work orders, change orders, JSAs, and more are being phased out for mobile forms templates. Why? Mobile forms allow for companies, whether residential or commercial construction, to collect, share, and learn from their data as soon as it's completed on the work site. It also helps to ensure data accuracy by incorporating pre-populated drop-down lists of materials, employee names, and locations. Mobile form platforms like Canvas can even do more than a typical paper report by allowing an employee to capture photos, GPS locations, and even scan barcodes right from their mobile device. This helps save time and streamline the process by cutting out unnecessary steps in the data collection and reporting process.
3D Printing – Trendy in the general public a couple of years ago, 3D printing has now evolved into a tool that is becoming popular in the Construction industry! This technology has steadily advanced from building small plastic models into creating pre-fabricated panels that construct homes. In fact, one Chinese firm was able to build 10 small homes in just 24 hours. All types of parts can be printed from modern 3D printers, including from materials such as concrete, stainless steel, titanium, and more. The future of 3D printing could be huge in the area of pre-fab construction and the future of how structures are assembled because of the potential for reduced project costs, labor time, and safety hazards.
As we all know, the future is truly unknown. The above are predictions, but predictions that have shown momentum to blossom in the upcoming year and beyond. If you have any ideas of what kinds of technology that you think will make a huge impact in the Construction industry next year, leave us a comment!