Construction-related technology companies continue to push the envelope, developing exciting new tools and solutions that seem poised to disrupt the global construction industry.
Unfortunately, the process of introducing new innovations into the field of construction management (CM) moves at a slower pace than some futurists might hope for, though not without good reason. While many new technologies have become commonplace on the jobsite, many more are still waiting for widespread adoption.
Due to the high-risk nature of building work, a highly-regulated environment, and the sheer size and complexity of some projects, CM professionals don’t always have the freedom to try every new, potentially unproven technology. As excited as they are to incorporate new tools, there’s always something even more innovative right around the corner.
The result is that many of these exciting new technologies take a long time to work their way into the day-to-day operations of construction teams, if they get adopted at all. While that might be discouraging news for some construction tech startups, it’s a massive opportunity for CM professionals.
Let’s take a look at 3 promising technologies that could help spur innovation in construction management.
Geofencing is not a new concept. In fact, its origins go all the way back to the development of GPS technology. In essence, a geofence is a virtual perimeter drawn around a real-world location. When a GPS-enabled person or object crosses a geofence perimeter, that action can be used to trigger an action within a piece of software.
Geofencing has a wide variety of use cases for the construction industry. Equipment tracking is one of the most popular, and one of the most necessary. According to the National Equipment Register, thefts from construction sites account for around $400 million in losses annually in the United States alone. In the UK, 90% of construction professionals say theft impacts their work, and 20% say it happens weekly. Only about 21% of stolen equipment is ever recovered.
By equipping vehicles and other construction equipment with GPS and creating a geofence around a construction site, construction management teams can receive alerts on their mobile devices as soon as equipment leaves the perimeter, thereby limiting theft. In addition, they can keep employees from mistakenly taking the wrong equipment off of the site.
Geofencing solutions can also be used for time tracking, enabling employees to automatically clock in as soon as they step foot on the construction site.
Safety is another use case. By geofencing off-limits areas, workers can receive automated alerts whenever they cross into unsafe territory.
When it comes to innovation in construction management, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, have a lot to offer.
UAV technology has been around for a while, but the laws regulating industrial use were slow to evolve. In the last few years, it’s finally become possible to use drones in and around construction sites, and forward-thinking construction management professionals are already reaping the benefits.
By equipping drones with professional camera equipment and taking to the skies, construction teams can gain a whole new angle on their projects. UAV footage can be used to complete surveys, scope out potential hazards, and even inspect for potential water leaks.
One of the best uses for drones on construction sites is visual documentation. Many construction management professionals already take advantage of photographic documentation to limit liability, reduce delays, and improve knowledge transfer. Multivista uses drones to supplement this documentation.
Unlike human photographers, drones can capture birds-eye views of a building during every stage of the construction project. They can also be used to photograph extremely high-up areas that may be dangerous for workers to access.
In Multivista’s drone photography service, the images are then mapped to their location on the project plans and made available in a secure cloud-based platform for easy access. CM professionals can then use these photographs to respond to change orders, complete observations, and more.
Compared to virtual reality (VR), its flashier sibling, augmented reality (AR) doesn’t get a whole lot of attention. Essentially, augmented reality involves overlaying digital information onto the real environment, usually with the help of glasses or a helmet.
Google glass, the most notable major augmented reality effort, was considered a failure, and as a result many businesses lost their zeal for the technology. However, AR has found new life in industrial settings. In warehouses, for example, it’s being used to stock and pull items more efficiently.
Augmented reality has a few amazing uses on construction sites, and though this technology is still in its early stages, the results are promising.
For example, by overlaying BIM data directly on top of the real built environment, some companies hope to shorten project turnaround and reduce errors, especially in mechanical, electrical, and plumbing work.
New technology is becoming more and more common on jobsites all around the world. However, there are always new innovations just waiting to be capitalized on by the most forward-thinking individuals. For those professionals who are willing to take a risk on new technology, the opportunities for using exciting tools to improve processes and profits are plentiful.