2017 is likely a banner year for disruptive technology in the construction space. Let’s break down the top five major tech trends in the industry:
1. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a quirky term you’ve likely heard on and off in recent years, referring to wi-fi connectivity features being added to everyday tools and appliances. In the construction space, key IoT innovations are GPS integration for tracking equipment and employees in real-time, and equipment that streams performance data. Managers can easily leverage these new tools to increase productivity by having access to definitive data on when tools are in operation, and when employees are in active labor on work sites.
2. Modular Construction is on the rise, as an outgrowth of the more general trend in streamlining construction projects to lower costs and shorten time spent on each project. Newer, more dependable pre-fabricated constructions do require more planning — meaning a change in the structure and timing of a job — but they minimize variables like weather in contrast to building everything on-site. With construction blooming as housing markets expand in most major cities, pre-fabricated modular construction is an increasingly popular method to minimize the amount of space used on materials surrounding the structure itself.
3. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are emerging from decades of theorizing and testing, to being ready for on-the-job applications. VR — fully immersive headsets and tracking technologies used together — is a fantastic alternative to on-site job training. AR — applying visual overlays to the user’s sight line through wearable tech — also has training benefits, as well as the potential to provide data on work site conditions at a glance. AR overlays can also stream workers engineering information, real-time task instructions, and a simulacrum of objects underneath the surface of an object. With enterprise-level implementations becoming reasonably priced, VR/AR is ascendant in 2017.
4. Drones are now fully integrated into society at both a consumer and enterprise level, in countless configurations and price ranges. 2017 is the year of complete normalization of drones as tools in many industries, not least construction. Aerial photography is the most obvious use, and in most cities drone permits are easy to obtain for that purpose. Drones can also be combined with the aforementioned VR/AR technologies, for real-time operation. They’re also incredibly useful for construction teams looking to limit physical risks for employees; sending in a drone to examine structural irregularities safely is a far better option than sending a person to inspect a potentially dangerous issue personally.
5. Peer-to-peer rental is rapidly on the rise. Sorting through reams of data centrally is useful for developing all sorts of avenues towards increased efficiency, and even new revenue streams. Peer-to-peer rentals are the best example of this, using telematics data on construction implements to accurately track when they’re most often idle, to efficiently rent them out short-term to other construction teams without disrupting your own projects. This alleviates maintenance costs, ongoing payments, and in some cases is outright profitable. With most construction implements sitting idle around 70 percent of the time, expect to see peer-to-peer rental become an industry standard.
The key is to avoid frivolous trends, and stick to implementing new ideas that have a tangible benefit for your workplace. After a short training period, tools like AR and GPS have massive potential to pay for themselves and then some. Drones especially are dependable enough today that the injury prevention application alone is likely worth the initial investment or rental fees.
These five trends are the top concepts in tech to keep an eye on in 2017. It’s key to get on board with new tech ideas when they’re ascendant, but before they’re 100% standard, as being ahead of the curve and more efficient than the competition makes your team the best choice for new contracts.