March 19, 2014

Technology is on the rise in construction

The Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry is undergoing a broad transformation in how it uses the latest technology to improve profitability and productivity. Some of the most interesting developments are catapulting us into a virtual world of robots, hyper-localized notifications, and virtual perspectives.

This is exciting stuff not just for futurists or technology nerds, but for all AEC workers looking for a competitive advantage.  The following trends conjure up a world once only inhabited by the Jetsons.

George JetsonAs you probably know, Google Glass is a voice-controlled device that looks like eyeglasses and has similar capabilities to the smartphone, including taking photos and videos, or retrieving information online and offline. Google Glass enables users to have a hands-free experience by accessing online meetings, obtaining search results, or even tweeting a photo of the jobsite.

With the ability to show your point of view, project managers or clients can track real-time progress and get walkthroughs of distant project sites. We currently have construction clients testing various applications with Google Glass and look forward to learning how this new wearable technology will influence future Cosential developments.

Beacons are tiny Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensors that can trigger specific actions when in proximity to enabled mobile phones without wifi or a cellular connection. While the main applications thus far have been to deliver content to retailers or consumers to enhance the user experience, the technology has extensive possibilities when applied to the AEC industry.

Imagine a world with such hyper-localized awareness and notifications that you could monitor the location of workers on a construction site, track their progress, send targeted messages, control data security, and improve overall efficiencies remotely. This is real-time business intelligence on steroids.

The construction industry is already taking note of 3-D printing’s fast rising popularity. Dutch architects have embarked on a grand-scale Lego-like research project. They’re currently building this Canal House as their test.

Hedwig Heinsman of architecture firm Dus explains that the goal isn’t to build a functioning house, but to continue to learn by building and rebuilding over the course of three years as 3-D printing technology develops. “There’s only one way to find out,” she says. “By doing it.” We’re still a few years out from having this technology be effective in AEC applications, but it’s coming.

Another 3-D printing application, contour crafting, is a robotic construction system currently being researched and tested at the University of Southern California. It promises to dramatically reduce cost, waste, emissions, while also lessening construction time from approximately six months to one day.

It puts 3-D printing in the hands of robots, which are fed a design plan, that is then “squirted out” in concrete or plastic to complete a structure. To learn more about contour crafting, explore their website here.

Where do you see technology taking us?  Do you think any of it could benefit your firm?  What are the negative implications?  What technology trends are you most excited about? And finally, how would you like to see Cosential connect to your favorite technologies?

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