The construction industry is defined by the technologies available to it. The wonders that we can create are limited by the quality of the tools at our disposal. In the same manner in which a rising tide lifts all boats, the march of technological progress promises to drive the future of how people build and to make us more effective craftspeople. Here are five emergent technologies that will transform your construction business in the very near future.
1. Mobile Device Applications
The age of the desktop has passed into the age of the smartphone. As digital tools become more mobile and accessible on multiple platforms, their utility increases for team leaders who need to rapidly coordinate a project. Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasing the sophistication of programs like construction site employee tracking software and making it a simple matter to contact team members in real time via in-app texting features. Digital timecards are cutting paperwork to nearly nil while allowing data to be effectively collated and stored at the push of a button, thus massively streamlining logistics.
2. Augmented Reality
Wearable augmented reality (AR) systems are similar in concept to virtual reality (VR) technology, but rather than immerse the wearer in a digital world, AR creates an overlay of data on top of perceptual information. What this means is that you can "see" information about objects in your field of view. Where this impacts the construction industry is that it allows hands-free access to site plans, distance measurements and even allows workers to teleconference while in the field. The impact of these capabilities on time and safety while on-site are obvious and will make each worker more individually effective.
3. Building Information Modeling
Building information modeling (BIM) is one of those technologies that is being incrementally improved through general advancement in computer complexity. Similar to CAD (Computer-aided design), this software is instead focused on the 3D modeling of places, such as buildings and entire construction sites. Advances in drone technology are fueling the development of BIM, as drones are capable of viewing a site from angles that humans simply cannot. Where this will be critical in the coming years is in the field of green building design. Having a sophisticated model of a site not only aids in environmental impact studies, but also allows the analysis of green design concepts before they're implemented in order to help gauge and improve their technical and cost efficiency.
4. Additive Manufacturing
Also known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing is a good example of a cutting edge technology that has been in the works for a while, but is only now starting to show its revolutionary potential in the market. Additive manufacturing builds objects on-demand, layer by layer, from a supply of feedstock material. The brilliant part of this is that it allows prototypes to go directly from a CAD illustration to production, making logistical supply chains far more efficient. When the technology was new, only a few feedstock types (mostly resins) were available, but with metals and even concrete now available as printer materials, the possibilities are becoming limited only by imagination.
5. Robotic Construction
Robotics is likely to change the construction industry drastically within a few decades. Currently there are robots able to perform tasks like masonry and brick-laying. Robots are best at doing repetitive tasks under controlled conditions. That has the potential to change once self-organizing robotics begins to mature. Artificial intelligence will enable a swarm of small, specialized robots to coordinate in order to build...well, just about anything that a human team could accomplish! Wedding advanced, autonomous robotics to additive manufacturing has the potential to remove the human element from the ground-level of the construction industry almost entirely, relegating people to supervisory and creative positions.
As the technologies we use continue to improve and adapt, forward thinking construction company owners will find new ways to employ them. We can never predict exactly how and when new capabilities will emerge, but what we know from long experience is that construction firms that fail to innovate will fall behind, while industry leaders who embrace the future will succeed.