Technology innovations have made their way into construction industry trends, including the Internet of Things, cloud computing, SaaS and more.
When it comes to technology, construction industry trends include the Internet of Things (IoT); cloud computing; software-as-a-service; mobile apps to support real-time communication and collaboration; and more. As a Construction Executive article explains, these technologies “will lead to far greater productivity and efficiency, better access to information, reduced risk on several fronts and the potential for a competitive advantage — something for which contractors constantly are striving.”
With IT helping to move the industry forward, the digital age is working its way into all aspects of construction. Increased functionality, collaboration and workflow are making it possible for construction to potentially reach new heights and innovate. Let’s examine how five specific examples of digital transformation are now driving construction industry trends in the realm of IT.
1. Mobile Apps
Workers at construction sites have their best productivity tools in their pockets, as smartphone-based mobile apps are able to perform a number of important functions. These include, but aren’t limited to, safety training when working in hazardous areas or with hazardous materials, punching in and out via mobile app for payroll purposes (allowing workers to punch in no matter what worksite they’re at that day) and sharing photos of trouble spots on the site as they arise so that emerging problems can be quickly troubleshooted. The number and function of these mobile apps for construction continues to grow almost daily.
2. Cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)
Increasingly, construction companies are able to shed their expensive, on-premises IT infrastructures and access processing power on demand — as they need it and in the precise amount they need it. The cloud allows companies to store their data remotely and securely access that same data 24/7 over almost any device. As with mobile apps, digital technology is untethering back-office and on-site functions from physical geography, enabling people to work productively, no matter where they happen to be. Cloud technology and SaaS also support greater cost flexibility, allowing for scalability (you buy only what you need when you need it), and make construction companies more agile in their cost and operational structures.
3. The Internet of Things (IoT)
Sensors and devices that stream data are now being embedded inside construction equipment, allowing companies to monitor the performance of their equipment, diagnose potential maintenance issues before they disrupt operations and make quality improvements based on continuous flows of performance-related data. The Internet of Things is only beginning, but it may soon transform the construction site by enabling a constant flow of important, actionable data from machines to workers.
4. Digital Collaboration Platforms
Popular collaboration tools like Slack and Trello are changing the way teams interact in all industries, and the construction industry is no different. Digital collaboration tools are making it easier to access the right data — and the right people — at the right time to answer important questions and solve problems in real-time. Designers can now easily communicate with workers on a construction site and vice versa, monitoring the work and ensuring that ongoing quality expectations are being met. Project development has never been more transparent than today, because digital tools are easily-available to collaborate in real-time over easy-to-use platforms.
5. 3D Printing for Prefabricated Modules
With 3D printing now emerging as a construction trend, on-site workers can act more as assemblers of different building components rather than starting from scratch. Having modules or prefabricated components of a project made remotely by 3D printer can reduce the time to finish a project. These prefabricated components can be transported to construction sites and assembled as needed. Of course, the types of materials that 3D printing can craft are changing, moving from simple plastic to more durable materials as the printing technology rapidly develops.
What’s clear from the five trends described above is that the construction site is becoming more technology-driven, both in administrative functions and in the way work gets done on sites. Emerging digital technologies hold the promise of allowing construction companies to work smarter, cheaper and more efficiently.