A raft of powerful new technologies is sweeping across the AEC sector and having a transformative impact upon the way firms involved in the development of built environments operate and do business.
These technologies cover a range of different areas and functions, including unmanned drones, building information modelling (BIM), reality capture, big data, as well as augmented and virtual reality platforms.
Mobile data in particular is having a highly “disruptive” impact on the AEC sector, with workers carrying levels of computing power on their person that were all but inconceivable for even the largest mainframe devices only one or two generations ago.
It’s this extraordinary level of mobile computing power in tandem with surging levels of connectivity that underlies the ability of other disruptive technologies to make critical contributions to the AEC sector.
Mobile technology means that drones, embedded sensors and portable smart devices can channel vast amounts of data from building sites or built assets to cloud computing hubs, supplying them with all the information they need to fuel or enhance other key technological processes such as BIM, augmented and virtual reality, or predictive analytics that rely upon the accumulation of big data lakes.
A recent white paper published by Viewpoint Construction Software on mobile technology and data notes that this ongoing trend is set to accumulate momentum, leading to further profound changes in the development and operation of built environments.
The white paper foresees the development of “better telecommunications, more connected mobile devices, increased integration of enterprise and project-based software, growing reliance on data-rich BIM(M) approaches and the explosion of data-emitting, interactive systems in and around our built assets.”
The authors of the paper further observe that “the successful construction business of the future will be one that can harness the power of this data, working with its supply chain partners and its customers to extract intelligence from its processes and from the assets it helps deliver so that it can add real value.”
If the effective adoption of new paradigm-changing technologies is essential to the success of construction companies in future, Australian firms will need to overcome prevailing levels of trepidation and conservatism about these shifts in order to flourish in years to come.
According to Lynne Edwards, ANZ marketing manager, Viewpoint Construction Software, many in the construction sector remain laggards when it comes to the adoption of new technologies.
“The construction sector isn’t making the most yet of the new technologies that are now on offer,” said Edwards. “There’s the technology out there, yet many people remain nervous about using it and making it work for them, because they either don’t like change, or they don’t want to disrupt the status quo.”
Firms at the mid-market level can often feel that they’re not large enough or sufficiently prepared to embrace new technologies.
Edwards notes, however, that it’s often the size of construction projects rather than the companies themselves that should determine the types of tools or technologies that are adopted.
“The products that can really help construction companies are designed to foster collaboration in larger and often complex projects ,” she said.
“While a company might feel a bit overwhelmed by having to deal with a huge project, the only way they’re going to grow is by enlisting the help of those technologically based resources.”
Another issue impeding the use of key emerging technologies by the construction sector is the Catch 22 dilemma of companies never having an appropriate time or situation to forge ahead with their adoption.
“Companies feel they’re either too busy at the moment to think about it, and so they say to themselves they’ll do this when we’re less busy,” said Edwards. “When they’re less busy however their conservatism creeps back in and they say they don’t want to make an investment now that they have the time because of the risks involved.
“When the situation turns around and they’re busy again, they still haven’t invested in that much needed technology.”
While the practical and circumstantial barriers to the adoption of costly new technologies by firms are readily understandable, Edwards feels it’s imperative for companies to overcome these hurdles given the essential role such technologies will play in the future of the industry, as well as the benefits they can bring to business.
"These technologies will be necessary for the construction companies of the future to flourish, as will platforms to enhance management of the vast amounts of data that they generate," she said.