It’s no secret that technology is rapidly changing our lives, especially in the ways we work. Technology has affected every industry and workplace, and construction is no exception. However, construction has historically lagged behind other industries in deploying technology. Overall, compared with the significant changes experienced by other industries through technology, the construction industry has stayed relatively the same—but that’s starting to change.
Virtual & Augmented Reality
There are several technologies becoming more mainstream and cost-effective that make designing and scheduling more efficient. Virtual reality (VR) allows remote teams of architects and contractors to work together in a 3D rendering of the plans. VR can help identify intersecting utilities or misaligned sections—before the procurement process has even begun. VR also can simulate interacting in a workspace before it’s built or even finalized, thereby improving the space’s overall usability. In a nutshell, VR lets people from around the world interact remotely and simultaneously in a shared environment, driving an efficient and collaborative design process.
Augmented reality (AR) enables teams to collaborate in a similar fashion, but it creates a 3D overlay of plans in real life. AR allows the user to interact safely in the actual construction space. Being able to work spatially and communicate live on site during construction can help mitigate problems early, when scheduling can still be adjusted.
Internet of Things
We’ve grown accustomed to computers, smartphones and tablets being connected to the internet, but what if your toolbox alerted you as it moved out of a geofenced safety zone? The internet of things (IoT) connects everyday objects to the internet for data capture and/or reporting. We’re increasingly seeing common items, including equipment and vehicles, connected to the internet, allowing people to interact, control, monitor and collect data in real time. Identifying bottlenecks around resources and tools is simplified in a connected job site—and companies are using the IoT to monitor and service their equipment before it breaks down, manage theft, operate equipment remotely and improve safety.
By using artificial intelligence (AI) in conjunction with drones, teams can survey construction sites and create plans in a fraction of the time it took with old survey and design methods. With AI, users can upload plans into machines with automated controls that help the operator perform tasks in less time. Furthermore, these machines become more efficient over time through reinforcement learning. Fully autonomous vehicles are even starting to be rolled out for simpler tasks, such as an articulated dump truck. However, AI may provide the most benefit during scheduling. AI can improve scheduling by creating simulations that take into account many different factors, giving subcontractors a better idea of when and where their work will happen. It also allows for better allocation of resources, streamlining the whole construction process. The more AI is used in these situations, the more it learns, becoming even more efficient.
Big data is the accumulation of large data sets that are too voluminous and complex for normal data-processing software and techniques. Although this term has been around since the late 1990s, it’s been used more recently in media, company financial reports and services offered by companies. Big data has become increasingly important as companies implement various technologies that are generating exponentially more data than ever before. Collecting data is the first step in the IoT, but that data must be analyzed, modeled and applied to bring the business value.
According to survey results published by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners in its 2018 “Report to the Nations,” participating Certified Fraud Examiners were asked, based on their professional experience, what percentage of revenues they believe a typical organization loses to fraud each year. The median response was that organizations lose 5 percent of their annual revenues to fraud. A 5 percent shift in annual revenue can quickly turn a good year into a bad one. Using tools to analyze emails, enterprise resource planning data, transaction sets and contractor relationships—as well as the relationships among these different data sets—could reveal fraud that would’ve gone undetected in the past. In addition, these tools can help identify outliers and manage potential risk by using pattern analysis on transactions. BKD Big Data & Analytics can assist your organization in these areas. For more information, contact BKD Big Data & Analytics Partner Bryan Callahan.
Technology will continue to change the landscape of the construction industry and provide opportunities to increase efficiency, safety and ultimately profitability. The increasing need to replace infrastructures, a growing global population and U.S. labor shortages are transforming the construction industry.
For more information on implementing technology in your organization, contact Matt or your trusted BKD advisor.