Last Friday, the ConTechTrio aired episode 48 of the podcast in which James Benham (@jamesmbenham), Rob McKinney (@conappguru) and Josh Bone (@bim2thebone) discussed the latest construction tech news. Headliners last week included the Microsoft HoloLens, explosion in drone usage, advancements in laser scanning, multi-trade prefabrication, employee job site tracking and much more! On the episode the Trio reviewed their construction tech highlights from 2016 and industry predictions for 2017.
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The 5th Annual Construction Technology Report, published by JBKnowledge in partnership with MCAA, CFMA and Texas A&M University’s Construction Science Department, is now available for download. This year’s survey produced over 2,000 responses and incorporated BRAND NEW questions on Participant Demographics, BIM/VDC Workflows, IT Staff, Mobile Apps, Drones and more – providing more insight than ever before. Get your copy of the 2016 #ConTechReport and learn about the tech solutions and strategies builders are using and how your company compares! Download the Report.
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2016 Year End Review:
The Microsoft HoloLens headset delivered big time this year. The HoloLens is the first self-contained, holographic computer, enabling users to engage with their digital content and interact with holograms in the world around them. The headset can extend interaction with 3D models beyond the confines of a 2D computer screen, creating new ways for construction teams on complex projects to visualize, share ideas, and manage change requests. The HoloLens allows visual overlay combined with manual gesture tracking, it’s a great example for what comes next after touchscreens. Trimble even developed an app for it’s SketchUp product to be used in HoloLens to markup construction projects via the headset. Many more HoloLens applications and improvements coming in 2017.
Major Strides in 3D Printing
3D printing is revolutionizing the way that the construction industry views a project, from providing a greater range of design and material options to expediting the procurement and build process. With 3D printing, builders have been able to gain more control over the physical location and specifications of their building materials, allowing for fewer mistakes and more assurance of a successful procurement. 3D printing currently rests at the front line of construction technology, and companies can start exploring the technology through small scale printers, such as the CubePro, Lulzbot, MakerBot and more.
Explosion in Drone Usage
As the most widely used emerging construction technology, according to the 2016 JBKnowledge Construction Tech Report, companies are employing a variety of drone hardware and software to capture aerial data for imaging, topographical mapping, video recording and much more. The prevalence of UAV usage has increased exponentially within the last year. The Kespry aerial drones were highly regarded in the construction industry in 2016. Their ability to fly a 150 acre site in less than 30 minutes, measure any distance or volume in less than one minute and provide millions of data points in each 3D model, make them an optimal tool to track progress and conduct site surveys on the job site. Skycatch and DroneDeploy were the top drone software applications used in the AEC industry.
The Surface Pro 4
The use of tablets have become more common on the construction job site. When Microsoft launched the Surface Pro series of tablet PCS back in 2013, they started a new movement and future for construction project management. Construction managers are now able to combine the power of their laptop and the flexibility of a tablet. The Surface Pro 4, released in 2016, is giving Apple’s iPad and Mackbook Air a run for its money. In fact it’s 50% faster than a Macbook Air. With features like a 12.3” PixelSense display, Intel Core processors and up to 1TB of lightning fast SSD for all programs, photos, and music the SP4 is optimal for project managers. Construction professionals can pair their SP4 while in the office with a docking station and run up to two additional monitors plus all other accessories. When out on the job site, the Pro can be used like any other tablet and run full Windows apps, rather than the small mobile apps.
[Img Source: Microsoft]
Procore App Marketplace
Procore launched their App Marketplace and Partner Program earlier in 2016, an online center for third party integrations and custom apps supported by a growing ecosystem of current leading software providers working across all areas of construction. The App Marketplace offers solutions for ERP, accounting, business intelligence, CRM, drone technology and more! There are currently over 20 apps available for integration on the marketplace – and many more, like SmartBid, on the way.
Improvements in Battery Powered Smart Tools
Smart tools made major headway in construction this past year, as project managers started to realize that the more data they can get from the job site, the more they can optimize. By integrating innovative tool electronics with custom-built mobile apps, hardware producers like Milwaukee and DEWALT, are offering solutions that give workers and superintendents a new level of control on the job site. For example, the Milwaukee One-Key, allows construction companies the ability to catalog their tools, track tool performance in real time, remotely control and automatically program the tool according to the type of work they do. In addition, the DEWALT Tool Connect allows professionals to have more control over their batteries. Users are able to identify, enable/disable and check their tool’s battery diagnostics via a Bluetooth connection.
BIM Level 2 Mandate in the UK
The importance and benefits of Building Information Modeling (BIM) has grown significantly within the past year in the construction industry. After realizing these benefits and the growing need to implement BIM on projects, the United Kingdom set a strategic plan to require all government contractors be compliant with Level 2 Building Information Modeling. The mandate requires public construction project stakeholders – architects, contractors or suppliers – to be able to exchange project data through a common file format.
The Rise of Macro Coordination Tools
Macro Coordination tools, such as Revizto, BIMTrack, Fuzor and Glue are allowing users to simplify the complexity of the AEC industry. These collaboration platforms instantly share BIM data with project stakeholders, accurately convey designs, as well as, identify, track and solve challenges throughout all phases of the project life cycle. Users are also able to access this data anytime, anywhere from a desktop or a mobile device.
Advancements in Laser Scanning Tech
According to the JBKnowledge 2016 Construction Tech Report, 3D laser scanning is the second most widely used emerging tech among construction professionals. Scanning tech produces as-built point clouds of a structure in significantly less time and substantially higher detail than traditional surveying. Point clouds are a format to show exact, measurable dimensions of a captured space. Conditions can be captured accurately and comprehensively in a point cloud for review, and then BIM models can be built to exact dimensions on top of the point cloud for later modeling use. Faro, Leica and Paracosm are among the most widely used scanners in the AEC industry.
The Year of Analytics
2017 is the year of analytics for the AEC industry! Construction companies will see more software applications hardware solutions providing analytical based recommendations to help make better decisions. Autodesk Project IQ is already shifting towards this analytical based reporting. The BIM 360 Project IQ provides intelligent recommendations by sifting through construction project data and applying machine learning and analytics. The IQ system is continuously learning from professional feedback, making the program smarter, reducing risk and costly rework on projects. Rhumbix is another example of collecting data to enhance performance and productivity. Rhumbix is essentially workforce telematics. The app uses timekeeping and production data collected from the field to generate real-time productivity and performance insights.
Multi-Trade prefab is expected to increase in 2017 based on its cost effectiveness and reduction of error. This process allows multiple building components to be constructed in an offsite environment simultaneously with the building structure and site work. Projects with complex and repetitive features, such as plumbing, are well-suited for this offsite construction building method. A step forward in this method comes via Dubai, where what’s hailed as the world’s first 3D printed office was recently completed. The building was printed in 17 days in sections elsewhere before being assembled over two days on-site.
Off-Site Construction (Modularization)
Similar to the previous trend, off-site construction (modularization) will become increasingly utilized in 2017, especially among subcontractors. Tech progressive subcontractors will employ modularization construction to gain a competitive advantage and win more projects. Subs utilizing off-site manufacturing facilities to prefabricate building components for final assembly on the job site will benefit from more efficient construction, reduced waste, faster builds with smaller teams, and more.
The Move to Safety Training in AR/VR
Safety training in the construction industry has continuously been a challenge. AEC professionals are now utilizing AR/VR to create interactive training courses to prepare their workers for potential job site hazards and consequences. Before a site is opened to be worked on, workers will be able to walk around a virtual version of the site, be exposed to possible dangers, identify these areas that will pose particular safety risks, and plan appropriate safety measures before construction. Say goodbye to those boring, uncontextualized safety videos that employees are usually forced to watch and do not absorb.
Acceptance of Employee Tracking for Safety & Productivity
Labor costs can contribute up to 40% of total project costs, requiring construction managers to have complete confidence in the sources of these costs. With job site tracking, leaders have the ability to clearly see and analyze construction operations in real-time. Employee tracking will allow professionals to accurately locate their people in real-time, from early job site preparations through to post-construction walk through’s. In 2017 construction companies utilizing employee tracking will see dramatic reduction in project delays by re-configuring how they organize the job site – learned the best configuration by tracking wasteful worker movement.
Dramatic Increase in Apps Available
There’s a new coin phrase in the AEC industry, “App fatigue.” The question many companies are facing is “How many apps do I really need to provide me the benefits I am looking for?” With the continued expansion of apps in the market place, reviewing and implementing the right ones for your specific company is becoming increasingly more difficult. Many of these apps are coming from the UK and Australia who are looking to expand their average market size. In 2017 construction professionals will need to implement a plan for innovation based on app/tool experimentation, budget, vision traction and health.
New Cost Effective Solutions in Scanning
In 2017, there will be a massive adoption in using computer vision to manage project stages. Laser scanning provides a cost effective and efficient method for gathering existing locations of structural components. For example, with the use of scanning, AEC professionals are able to see the overlap between the model and the physical space on-site immediately to verify that items have been installed as designed. Within the next year, the supply and demand curve of scanning will increase dramatically for this industry.
Further Democratization of BIM
BIM technology offers innumerable data to the AEC industry, and in 2017 we predict more individuals will know how to dissect this information and understand how to leverage it. More and more BIM solutions are becoming cost-effective and easier to understand, which were two main barriers to adoption in 2016. Pericept’s BIMVP is making major headway in this department, with features such as the ability to document completion and issues on 3D photos, quantitively-accurate measurement grids on-site before installation to prevent errors and more.
The Emergence of a Common Data Environment
On a typical construction project, a mass amount of info is produced, and the trouble is that this information is often unstructured, poorly coordinated and difficult to locate. A Common Data Environment (CDE) can help structure this data, which is an online place for collecting, managing and sharing information amongst a project team. Project teams and contributors are able to work in their own areas, provide their deliverables to higher-ups for review, then once approved can share with all project parties. By implementing a CDE, projects become simpler, information is right the first time and production cost is reduced. This process was introduced to the industry in 2016, and we predict its value will be understood and implemented in 2017.
Tune into the ConTechTrio podcast again Friday, January 6, 2016 for Episode 49, with Jennifer Lanzetti from Cn3D Construction and star of the TV show Survivor! Until then, you can catch up on past episodes of our construction technology podcast and even check out some bonus episodes via the links below!
Follow On Twitter:
James Benham: @jamesmbenham
Rob McKinney: @conappguru
Josh Bone: @bim2thebone