Geek of the Week
Construction Tech News
JBKnowledge podcast network. This week’s guest Andrew Zukoski from Join, Inc. And this week’s news, Pac-Man with skid steers, repair robots, 5g networks, and more!
Construction is the world’s oldest industry but spends the least amount of money on innovation. When we realized people outside and inside the industry and typically did not typically associated with technology like virtual reality apps and robotics, we started The ConTechCrew. Each week we bring our listeners the latest in ConTech news and interview the minds behind the technological innovations, changing the way we build. So, strap in, enjoy the ride, and geek out. It is ConTechCrew time.
JAMES: The week is just crazy. Time flies, time flies. I had a good football weekend this weekend. My Aggies just took the University of South Carolina to the woodshed in every way possible. I went out and got to witness it in person. It was wild how badly they played and how well we played. We are now a Top 10 team. It’s insane. And the Saints, in bigger news, if you didn’t watch it, the Saints made Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers look like a high school team. For one second I almost felt bad for Tom Brady, and then I remember what a blessed charm life he’s had and that I shouldn’t feel sorry for him because he’s had a lot of wins and, and of course my Saints, I’m a South Louisianian by birth and was born and raised there, and I love the Saints. Man, they look good and they just steamrolled them, Jeff, they steamrolled them!
Jeff: They didn’t even slow down, man. There was not even a moment of worry, nothing. I mean, you know, the announcers were trying to do anything they could to get people to watch past halftime, talking about how last time, Brady was down 21 to three at halftime, but he came back and won, and I was like, I don’t think so. And you know, like switching out Brees, having no problems, switching out with Taysom Hill and letting him play. He comes out, throws a touchdown pass and then runs over them.
JAMES: It was something else, Andrew Zukoski with us from the Bay area of California. Are they even talking about football out there? Is it even on the register of people’s minds because the PAC 12 kind of decided to cancel football and then when everybody else joined in, they’re like, ‘Oh wait, maybe we’ll have a season anyway.’
Andrew: Yeah. Well Berkeley, not so much. Cal has delayed games for a few weeks at this point, I haven’t heard, I think the Niners are playing.
JAMES: Well the, of course the pro teams are playing. It’s so strange that they’re not having any fans in the stadium, the college teams have 25% and the pro teams have empty stadiums. That’s a very strange phenomenon.
Andrew Zukoski is joining us. I guess you’d call him a West coast guy. He’s really a middle coast guy. He’s, from the great state of Illinois, and we’re going to have a really fun time discussion with him about pre-construction of course, one of my favorite topics being an old pre-con guy, my self building pre-contact since 2006 is when I got started in pre-contact, we’re gonna have a good discussion around that.
Just reminding you out there in listener and watcher land. If you’re watching this, you can have every episode sent straight to your email inbox. When you text ConTech to 66866. it’s not just the audio, you’re getting our weekly email links to the show notes. The articles we discussed on the show, just text ConTech to 66866. if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, of course you can hit up my Google voice line for the show. It’s (979) 473-9040. We’re happy to address your questions, comments, concerns, et cetera, on the show or during one of our talk with the crew lives that we do, and I’m always excited to chat with you all. So feel free to hit me up any time, day or night.
A quick reminder about our cause of the show. According to the CDC, construction occupations have the highest rate of suicide, as well as the highest number of suicides across all occupational groups. To combat these statistics, contractors, unions, associations, industry service providers and project owners must work together to STAND up for suicide prevention.
The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP) is raising awareness about the risk of suicide within the construction industry and providing suicide prevention resources and tools to create a zero-suicide industry. Visit preventconstructionsuicide.com for more information And we are back with Andrew Zukoski from Join. Andrew, good to have you on the show.
Andrew: Thanks. I’m glad to be here.
JAMES: So let’s talk about you a bit, before we talk about Join, cause I want to talk about your story as it relates to the last 10 years since you graduated now. You grew up in Illinois, but you came down to the great state of Texas for your undergrad in electrical engineering and visual art from, one of my favorite baseball schools, Rice University. And I say favorite cause I have to say that because they kept my Aggies out of Omaha. Numerous occasions with their championship baseball team. Rice is a great school, small private school in Houston. That is just a fascinating case study, and of course a really, really great education. What did you dream of doing when you were growing up in Illinois and what got you over to Rice?
Andrew: Yeah, I wish it was something that drew me to Rice and there were a few things that drew me there, but have you ever been to Illinois in winter?
JAMES: Yes. Terrible.
Andrew: I had 18 of those growing up and I moved a thousand miles South. More of the decision than I’d like to admit, but I was drawn to Rice, cause it was small school, good school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I ended up staying for a victory lap, and leaving with, two pretty unrelated majors. And it’s a lot easier to do something like that at a small school where you don’t have to hike a mile and a half between classes at opposite ends of campus.
JAMES: Visual art is a totally different side of your brain than a double E degree, but there is a great case to be made for fusing design and engineering. If you look at the really, really great innovative companies out there, Tesla has done a phenomenal job of fusing design and engineering. Apple has done a phenomenal job of fusing design and engineering. You can keep running through the list. Elon Musk through his rockets has focused very heavily on the user experience of his crew. I loved the pictures, and of course that really fuses electrical engineering and design, because he’s trying to make control systems in a rocket that are easy to use and are beautiful. And you look at his rockets, you go, Oh my gosh, that’s a gorgeous capsule. Right? Like it’s like all glass panels. It looks like one of his cars, which is what he wanted.
Andrew: Does it have the same infotainment system?
JAMES: Almost? I wonder if it has the game
Andrew: Breakout or whatever, I don’t remember what it is
JAMES: It’s like Mario Kart, actually. He has a Mario kart style game on the Tesla. So if you’re waiting in line to pick up your kids, you can make you just flip on the game and you use your steering wheel. The only trippy part is if you’ve never played it, is that it actually turns the wheels. And so people will see your wheels just turning while you’re there, because you’re literally playing Mario kart on your car with your wheel.
Andrew: It’s good for your tires right?
JAMES: Oh, terrible for your tires, but he doesn’t care. It’s awesome. So, I mean, there’s a case to be made for fusing design and engineering. There’s not just a case to be made, I think it’s a foregone conclusion now that there’s a lot of value in combining those skillsets. What did you take away from getting those two very different sides of your brain educated?
Andrew: I wish that I was any good at design. I do deeply, deeply believe, especially in construction in the value of a good, good design to promote a good user experience so that people can realize the potential of the technology. And I’m very grateful that I get to work with Drew Wolpert, another one of Join’s co-founders who’s handling all the design on our side. What did I take out of art? I think art departments or people that go to art school or spend a lot of time in that world, have a willingness to question and think a little bit about some of the underlying assumptions for whatever it is that you’re looking at. I mean, the history of 20th century art is to some extent a series of people just questioning, what is art? Like we got Marcel Duchamp and like the first two decades. Oh gosh, I forget the exact dates. My art history teacher will be embarrassed. He’s like, okay, I don’t know what art is so I’m going to take this urinal and I’m going to sign it R. Mutt. And we’ve got a hundred years of people taking that forward. Not always quite so crudely, but looking at just this question of what is art and asking, okay, we definitely think that painting is art, but can we take a blank canvas and say that this is art? Is that still art? What do we get out of this? If a canvas that we actually paint on emphasizes whatever it is that we’re painting, like this blank canvas, then it becomes all about how the light falls on it and dust accumulates on it and so forth. And I think that’s a perspective that has probably annoyed a lot of my coworkers over the years, but that questioning of assumptions I think was the biggest thing I took away from art school.
JAMES: There’s a lot of philosophy behind both software engineering, engineering in general and behind art, right? I mean, you have to answer a lot of philosophical questions. I remember my computer science teacher in high school spent half the time teaching us about philosophy, you know, studying why we were doing something and why it mattered, as much as we studied what we were building and how we were going to build it.
Now you were a software engineer at Bespoke Innovations and at 3D systems, and of course 3D systems was, fairly well-known in the construction space. I covered quite a bit of news coming out of 3DS and then Flux, which was quite the interesting startup, made a lot of noise, a lot of news, looked fairly innovative. Tell me what you learned at 3D Systems and Flux as being a software engineer and director of engineering.
Andrew: Yeah. 3D Systems was interesting. I came into the company through acquisition of Bespoke. We were making customized medical devices, so I grew up as a software engineer in that world. We built systems that would 3D scan human bodies and then automatically design devices that fit particular people’s bodies. But mostly just learned that world. Flux was a lot more interesting. Flux spun out of Google and made a fair number of unforced errors in its journey as a startup, but they did do a lot of things right along the way. The company was probably founded eight years ago at this point, maybe nine years ago. And you remember this because you were wandering around doing construction technology. It wasn’t quite as exciting a world or as popular world as it is today, and the Flux team, credit to them, did a really good job at articulating how computational design technology could help the world reach a new state where we design better, we build better, we realize construction’s potential better, but, you know, coming out of Google, I think they took, what in the end was a fatal dose of, Google hubris with it. I love the Flux team; they did amazing things. I’m super close with all of them and I’m as guilty of this as anyone else who was there, but to some extent, the story of Flux is a story of some very smart Google software engineers sitting in a room and saying, we know how to build better. We know how to build better than the people out there building things. And then seeking to boil the ocean in an overnight transition to a new way of working.
I got to learn a lot about the industry. I saw tons of problems. We got to meet tons of really forward-thinking people, and you know, Hey, Google is calling, Google is doing construction, a lot of people pick up the phone. So we got to see a lot, but in the end, I don’t think don’t think the company was, going to be able to really meet the industry where it was. And I think the biggest lesson I took away was the need to approach as you call it the world’s oldest industry, with sort of two scoops of humility.
JAMES: Yeah, a lot of humility, a lot. By the way, we interviewed Nick Chim in episode three of the ConTechCrew. This was February 12th of 2016, I had Nick Chim on the show, not too long from when he was ousted from Flux, he wasn’t around Flux the next year, but I had him on the show. I went to one of his speeches he actually gave here at A&M and got to listen to him talking. The initial concept of Flux was fascinating. The early videos of flux released were really about picking any lot in a city and giving you the outer envelope of what you could build there and doing it computationally, so you didn’t have to actually manually model that they were going to use machine learning to process municipal code, fire code, electrical code, planning and zoning envelopes, and then you’d click on a lot and see what you build there, which was amazing. And I was, at the time I was a City Councilman here in town and, and had just finished my time as a planning and zoning commissioner, so I was like, Holy cow, this will save hundreds of thousands of dollars per lot in engineering and design and architects and lawyers and accountants time, to just figure out what can be put there and what if every city adopted this and just released it. And I was like this is amazing, and of course, then I found out Soylent green was made of people. At some level there it wasn’t quite as automated as it really was being held out to be, and then Flux kind of pivoted to some other stuff. Golly, man, it blew my mind. I was so excited about it and I love Nick Chim’s talk he gave about a wooden screw. In other words, how did you make the first screw? Well, you actually had to carve a screw to make a screw. You had to use a screw to make a screw. There’s some fascinating parallels there about how you have to build tooling, to make other tooling, to make other tooling, to really revolutionize an industry.
So you learned obviously that the construction industry doesn’t necessarily respond well to people just jumping in saying, we’re going to tell you how to do your job better than you, and that’s a really important lesson, I think for everybody in this industry and I had to learn it too, you know, that we were trying to revolutionize bidding and it took a long time.
And it really was kind of like a long series of incremental change rather than one seismic shift. So. After these two great predecessor companies that jump into, my gosh, and we can talk about that. Jeff and I could talk this whole show about 3D printing.
Don’t even get us started on blockchain. It’s a good thing you weren’t in a blockchain company because Jeff and I can talk about that all day long, too. Let’s talk about what in your time before Join, what did you see that led to the founding premise of Join? What was the big problem that you saw and how are you trying to tackle it?
Andrew: Yeah, that’s a great question. Credit to Nick Chin, he had a really singular mind and had a really singular vision that he was able to articulate very compellingly. One of the things that we saw sort of wandering around the industry, software in hand, was the challenge that teams have understanding the implications of their decisions in terms of cost, performance, and schedule. And it sounds a little cheesy to say this, but we spend a lot of time working with folks doing a curtain wall and window wall design like it was computational technology. It’s grasshopper, it’s layout 20,000 different panels, each of which is unique. It’s that sort of world.
And, you know, curtain wall systems are pretty complicated. There’s a bunch of different considerations that go into it. You need to worry about insulation. You need to worry about sound transmission, and you need to worry about, solar radiation. You need to worry about whether or not it’s hurricane proof, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
We found there was no way to answer the question, given this very high level design that I want, what systems out there meet our needs? What are the options that are out there? You know, if we make the panels a little bit wider, are we going from something that could be manufactured?
You know, any glazing fabricator in the country, or have we gone into Apple store land where we need to work with a German company to build a new factory, to create glass panels, as large as we’re going to need them. there’s just this gate gaping chasm of information between, people making decisions about, you know, about the design about what’s going to get built and the people who understand how to actually realize that, No realize that design, so it really struck me, as we were wandering around the industry. And that was flux, wasn’t going to address, but it was a problem worth solving.
JAMES: So, what does that turn into four years later? Functionally, what does Join do now versus the original idea?
Andrew: That’s a great question. We learned to focus on the people, so we handle person to person collaboration and coordination, during pre-construction. If we look at the curtain wall example again, the reason that you can’t just say, Hey, I got this sketch. Tell me what pre engineered systems will work. What are my options, is that answering that’s incredibly complicated. There are probably thousands of pre engineered curtain wall systems on the market in the United States at any given time, they change all the time. New systems come on, the market, old systems are retired. We’re not even talking about custom systems, and each of those systems has a technical booklet that comes with it. That might be 50 to 100 pages of detailed specifications and options. And it just gets really complicated. And what we learned is someone on the design team who has to balance multiple systems isn’t going to be able to wade through that information. Then they need someone to go with them. They need to be able to connect to someone at the general contractor who can help them understand trade-offs in terms of cost and schedule. They need to talk to a technical specialist who can open navigate this, and sort of beyond a single system, looking at a very high level just between design and cost, Construction teams are able to do their tech offs are able to work in their estimating tool. They’re able to come up with a very detailed estimate for a product project, and you can send that over to the design team and then they’ve got all the information they need and they should be able to make better decisions, and we should see fewer cost overruns and fewer surprises and need to do less value engineering. But, It’s really challenging to understand that. And what it turns out is that you need to actually work with the person who developed that you to work together with them to understand what’s actually in that estimate and what the implications are for the design and planning decisions that you’re making. We came back to the people and now we are completely focused on connecting people and augmenting them with software and data during pre-construction.
JAMES: So you have some visualizations on cost trend lines, so you can look at the path to success, keep a team on budget. You can visualize your project trends, you can see updates, then you have a visualization tool for estimates too, which is pretty cool, having dealt with a lot of estimates in my day, and helping folks prepare them. This was an interesting, I haven’t seen a lot of estimate visualization tools out there. And it’s interesting because pre-con from a construction, tech perspective gets less attention than the field, right. Maybe it’s because the field is sexy and it’s interesting.
Andrew: Robots, 3d printing.
JAMES: Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot that you can do out in the field and I think just in general in construction, like there’s a big, heavy emphasis on field and performance and less so on pre-con and the really sophisticated, profitable builders have really great pre-con departments. And I, I think a lot of them finally come to realize that, Hey, we’ve got to have dedicated professionals that really understand how to put a project together. Otherwise we’re hosed. It doesn’t matter how well we build it, the project set up for failure, right? So you’re trying to tackle that fundamental issue by bringing some collaboration in. So I’m imagining you’re collaborating between the GC, the subs, the suppliers, the architect and engineer during pre-con.
Andrew: Yeah, right now, 90% of our users are the owners, architects, and design consultants and general contractors. Join’s the best software platform to run a contentious owner architect, contractor team meeting with, and what’s happening there is enabling owners and architects to understand where the project is, and as you said, what that path to success is. It’s like in some ways the story of pre-construction is a story of teams, giving owners disappointing news, right? Classically, the design team is told like, Hey yeah, go off. We want this to be amazing. And they get really excited and they go off and they start drawing and they show renderings and they show drawings and they talk about it. And you’re just like, Oh my God, I can have a six floor atrium with this hanging sculpture, like great I’m sold. And you know, they go off and they draw more and eventually send the documents that over to the construction team. Assuming that they’re involved early in the construction team looks at this and say, you can, but you’re going to blow your budget by several million dollars. And it comes to the construction team to deliver that bad news to the owner and say, Hey, you fell in love with this, but you can’t have it. You can’t afford it.
JAMES: Yeah. Yeah. It’s like, what TV show did that all the time? It was the property brothers and they where they take a couple and they find out what their budget and the couple says, our budget is $600,000, and so they say, okay, okay. And so the realtor takes the couple into the house and they’re like, ‘and see here, he has a pool and five bedrooms and three bathrooms.’ And the couple’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so amazing. This is perfect. This is exactly what we’re looking for.’ And he goes, ‘it’s $950,000.’ Like every time I’m like, this whole show is about burning people’s expectations to the ground and crushing their souls. And then they’re like, ‘Oh, Oh, okay. Well, I guess we have to read your expectations.’ Of course. Ultimately right, this is just a humanity thing. So many things are just human things. Everybody has champagne taste on a beer budget. I mean, everybody. So that’s what you’re trying to reconcile.
Andrew: Yeah. Somehow you had to get people to Miller high life, right. You know, the champagne of beers.
JAMES: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I always feel like Michelob ultra is like one of those things, it’s cheap, has low calories and it tastes reasonably good. So you can kind of get by with it and not feel too guilty. High life was definitely that, you know, we could go through all the things we used to drink in high school, but my mom’s not listening to this podcast, so I can actually talk about that because she would still shake her Southern head disappointingly at me if she knew all the trouble I got up to in South Louisiana and in the nineties, remember the drinking age was 18. It was a different place to grow up than Illinois.
Andrew: Yeah, not a lot of drive-through liquor stores in Illinois.
JAMES: No, but we got plenty of them. And you know, in Louisiana the drive through daiquiri stores would tape over the straw. Cause then it was a closed container and they had excessively long straws. And it was obvious that the design intent of this straw was to be consumed and used while the manipulator of the controls of the vehicle had their hands occupied driving. So you could actually drink while driving. And I remember going, Oh my gosh this is terrible
Andrew: Hi officer my hands were at 10 and two.
JAMES: Exactly. I was absolutely paying attention to the road. Just didn’t know where the lines were.
I remember the first time I ever went to a drive-through liquor place. It was when I lived in Mexico, in the nineties, I lived there in ‘95, ‘96, we pulled up with some friends and we went to this random place that looked like an abandoned lot, and there was a little shed and we pulled up and they’re throwing stuff out in Spanish. And I was like, I don’t know, just whatever you’re getting, anything. Okay. ‘We’re getting a bowl.’ I’m like, what’s a bowl? This was like 1995. It’s tequila mixed with beer. And I’m like, Oh my gosh. And they did. And they served it. I kid you not styrofoam cup with a three foot long straw, three foot long. I’m not joking. Three foot long straw with it taped over on the end. I’m like, man, y’all take this to next level stuff. So you could drink your tequila and beer while driving the vehicle, it was bad. I’m not promoting drunk driving at all. I’m pointing out the irony and the silliness of all of it. When expectations and reality collide together, it’s a fascinating place. So let’s, let’s jump back in, Jeff has joined the team at Join, head of communications. Jeff, you’ve got some fresh eyes perspective on all of this, what do you have to chat about here?
Jeff: Well, this is what was interesting for me because, you know, James, we did all that time. Exactly. When Flux came out and we were spending so much time on construction and the, you know, the projects that were going on in the field and all the different changes that were going there, but it always felt like we were being set up each time.
Like the project was trying to recontinue and figure something out. And then, you know, we did a lot of engagements and in fact, I had one, I was talking to Carl McFarland from Kitchell recently about one we did way back when. I just remembered the pre-con team. We got to the pre-con team and we talked to them and it was like, why are you not on an estimate? What are you guys using? How are you doing? And it was all these Excel spreadsheets. So it always intrigued me. I’m like we have to something’s up, but what I wanted to know, and it’s, it’s one of the things that brought me over with talking to Andrew was. Andrew, why not make something better in estimating?
It’s all Excel. So why go where Join did, and what’s the focus on that? Are you fighting with Excel? You know, how are we handling that and how are you handling it? What was the approach? Why did they come out that way?
Andrew: That’s a great question. So you’re in this room, you’re trying to convince people that the champagne of beers is as good as champagne on their beer budget. It’s just always very messy. And people have reached for spreadsheets, both to develop a lot of the cost models, but then also to manage the complex process of bidding in many cases, to manage their decision logs, their VE logs or constructability logs, and what the real challenge is that they need to tell a story that makes sense to the owner, the architect, the major trades and the suppliers, and, you know, an estimate built up in CSI codes for example, doesn’t make a lot of sense to, to owners it’s Greek to them. They don’t understand CSI. They think programmatically, they think in terms of their own major budget categories and, you know spreadsheets provide the flexibility that teams need to be able to tell that story, but it’s a ton of work. And so we’ve looked at this and said, okay, if we bring a software solution to this we can save teams a lot of work copying information in and out of spreadsheets, checking formulas. We save them the risk of mistakes inside of those spreadsheets, because, you know, if you set the project up with the wrong number in pre-construction, you could be in a lot of trouble later. So we can save them a lot of effort, but then you can help them tell the story. You can end up with a much cleaner, much easier to understand, much easier to dig into and then build trust around a product for, for the owners, for the designers, the design consultants and other project participants. So, I wouldn’t say we’re fighting Excel. we definitely have had a lot of teams transitioned to Join, and almost every team that’s using Join transitioned from using Excel. But at the same time Excel is a really good friend of ours. Excel export was one of the first features that we built and we’re constantly finding new ways, to push data out to Excel.
JAMES: Yeah, Excel is everybody’s competitor though. I mean, let’s be honest. Look, we’ve done nine years of construction tech surveys in this industry and hit thousands of companies every year in Excel is always a top three solution in every single segment and category of software.
Andrew: Yeah. It’s, it’s the most powerful end-user programming tool that the world has ever seen. It’s fantastic.
JAMES: And the most dangerous. The number of stories that I hear of people in failed bids because of Excel, right? Cause they left to sell out. I mean, it’s extremely powerful and extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. What would you say you do compete against? . You’re not preparing the estimate, and you’re not bidding software, you’re not actually doing the invitation to bid. So where do you compete, or are you in truly green fields here?
Andrew: We think we’re in a little bit of a green field, although there are a few, I don’t want to say weeds, but now there are a few other people that are starting to catch wind of the opportunity that we’re approaching. What we’re seeing is that large general contractors, a few very large general contractors with really substantial budgets have been able to build homegrown solutions that solve the same problems that that Join does. It’s really Denovo software development. Some of them it’s a very well done integration of existing tools, on the other hand, we’ve seen that some projects I’m thinking of, IPD healthcare projects, where you’ve got hundreds of millions dollar budget, or potentially a multi-billion dollar budget have been able to afford dedicated specialists who piece together a software workflow that solves a lot of these pre-construction collaboration projects, just specific to that one single project, and so not everyone can afford this. Most, most folks can’t afford this. Most folks are making do with an Excel spreadsheet that they’ve shepherded from job to job. And actually finally company to company we’ve got enough customers at this point that we’ve encountered examples of people’s e-logs spreadsheets, for example, we said like, Hey, this one looks really familiar. Do you know this guy over at this other company and they say, Oh yeah, he used to work in this office. He actually developed a spreadsheet and he took it with him when he went up there to Colorado.
JAMES: There’s, there’s a lot of unintentionally and intentionally shared IP that comes in and out of the door through Excel, you know, in SmartBid we actually tagged our export files with some metadata so that when we went to do an import, another system, it would throw an alert if it was being imported from a different company, different clients. Exactly because of that, that’s actually one of the big problems with Excel is it is you actually ended up bleeding IP, through your Excel sheets because they leave with your employees. And you identified one of the big problems with just continuing to use Excel. what’s the end outcome when you get project to pre-con teams to, to actually collaborate and, and use a collaborative platform rather than an Excel, what’s the improvement. Where’s the ROI, what’s the outcome? Is it a more accurate estimate? Is it a tighter team? Is it reduced amount of time to produce an estimate? What’s the end outcome going to be?
Andrew: There’s a few, the big one is that the owner’s happy and the owner develops trust that the construction team is working with their best interests in mind. one of the ongoing transitions for the industry is a shift to collaborative methods of project delivery. I mean, you can look at, like FMI and, the DBIA study of the rise of design-build and seeing that risk, right. People are involved a lot earlier. And instead of leading with a bid, now they’re leading with an articulation of how they’re going to help the owner get to a place, the project successful, even though they’re going to be delivering bad news all the time. And it’s hard to do that. The owners need to really trust and buy in that the construction teams working with their best interests and the design team needs to buy in and understand that the GC is a partner. And it’s going to help them find a way to deliver the best possible project for the owner, rather than some shady character from the docks who’s just looking to set themselves up to profit via change order throughout the day, so that trust and alignment is the most important, and the outcome is a bunch of time savings for a lot of people. But with that trust, you’re able to make more timely decisions, which lets the project move forward faster. You’re able to actually align people and get buy in to these decisions. So we keep collecting these stories of projects where they’re over budget and they’re facing a wall, they can’t get the project to budget then the project’s done it’ll be canceled or delayed for years. You know, Jeff was actually just writing up a case study on this from a team in Cincinnati, at Messer construction, where they were working on a local healthcare project that had been brought forward. It was a nonprofit owner. They had been expecting to do this construction years in the future, but had a donation that allowed them to do it now. And so they were going to get this hospital a hundred hospital beds, years earlier than they would otherwise. And, they discovered they were $26 million over on the $90 million budget. And they had to find a way to get people to buy into the champagne of beers. They had to get everybody to understand what they could afford and how it would meet their needs and find places where it didn’t matter to the design team. And it didn’t matter to the owner. And you’re able to shave out costs that protect, you know, the really important, most critical aspects of the, the design and program. And yeah. Doing that successfully is really hard. It’s a really tense conversation. It involves dozens and dozens of different stakeholders. Usually it takes weeks with Join they were able to do it in one, four hour meeting. as a result of that, as the project gets to move forward, like in a way, the ROI there is that Southern Ohio gets a hospital years before they would otherwise. It’s a little bit of an exaggeration, you know, all the credit to the team on actually executing that. But, we were very pleased to be able to support them.
JAMES: Sure. And you still provided tool that’s an important part of the teamwork.
Jeff: I think that’s important and talk about how that in the next year and then the next couple of years, why that kind of ability to have the owners have trust and where they’re going and, and, and the quality of the product they’re getting is going to be important for not just construction, but the economy as a whole.
Andrew: Maybe things are going to change rapidly. I hope things are going to change rapidly with, putting the election behind us. Some of the recent vaccine announcements, but a lot of uncertainty in the market. And I don’t know about folks you guys are talking to, but we don’t talk to a lot of people with growing backlog. It seems that most owners are a little gun shy right now. They’re sitting on the sidelines. They’re not quite sure what’s going to happen. It’s not necessarily ready to make commitments and. You know, for their sake for our companies, for our customer’s sake, for the industry’s sake, but then also for everyone in these cities and towns and communities that depends on the built environment we need to get these projects moving forward. We need to give owners confidence that they’re going to get out a predictable enough product, predictable enough result that they should get off the bench and get into the game and that they should fund these projects to go forward.
JAMES: I’ll tell you what, I don’t know why anybody would be funding office projects right now. And that’s certainly something that we’re going to have to come to grips with is, a pretty big sea change for retail buying habits. You know the whole world has been forced to buy things online and a lot of them found out they liked it. And, and then a lot of companies have been forced to completely reevaluate their work from home policies. And a lot of them find out they liked it. And so you may just end up with less stuff being built. On that side of the house and more on residential. Like you, you think about it. If people have gotten more comfortable with working from home and getting delivered to home, they’re going to want bigger houses because I mean, it’s just the truth, right?
They’re gonna be like, ah, this is cramped. I need a dedicated office. I think it’s going to impact everything, you know? It’s always like a balloon. Right? And I’ve been in business now 20 years at JBKnowledge, we started at April of 2001 and the economy’s is giant balloon and different parts get squeezed down, but other parts get squeezed out, you know? And so you end up with, you know, you’re, there’s still a lot of opportunity, but the opportunity might exist in a different sector, right? Like we’re going to multifamily with larger multifamily where every apartment has an office. Right. That may actually end up being really attractive. And, and then certainly I think there’s gonna be a lot of balloon squeezing on geographies and where people work. The, the survey of Silicon Valley software developers that came out that said 60% of them have allowed to work from home would immediately leave Silicon Valley and the entire Bay area. That was pretty. That was pretty. Pretty stunning. Right. and, and so you’re looking at a lot of continued net migration to Austin. I mean, Joe Rogan just moved to Austin, he had had drinks with our governor on his patio, a week ago, governor Abbott posted a picture of that. I think there’s going to be a lot of migration, so companies are going to have to be able to really pivot quickly, you know, and construction companies, Andrew, aren’t exactly built to pivot quickly. They don’t have the tooling to pivot quickly. And so I think that’s another area where, where your software set could really help them is okay, You know, we’re, we’re not, we don’t have office projects coming up, but we have a completely different type of multi-family coming up and we’re not doing as much work in this area. We’re doing a lot of work in this area and we’re gonna have to spin up a new geography, which from a pre-con perspective is very challenging because you have to have, you know, new subcontractors and new supplier relationships and there’s a lot to coordinate. so I think there’s a, there’s going to be a lot for them to get their hands around. A lot.
Andrew: I think that you’re touching on something there just around knowledge management and upskilling folks, guiding a project successfully through pre-construction requires a lot of detailed knowledge, a lot of skills, you know, you need to know the right questions to ask about the project. And like those questions are really, really specific to the construction type to the programmatic use. And, right now it’s really hard to transfer that knowledge. If we go talk to our customers and say, we’re national, a top 20 GC, and we’ve got a really successful healthcare practice in this, in this region and in this other region as well, like in, in several regions around the country, we’re great at building healthcare facilities, but we don’t have that practice in this state and we’re, we’re considering what would be involved in, starting up and moving into this new area and pivoting to a new, new type of construction and a new region. And they realize like, You know, we’d have to build two hospitals at a loss to build the skills right now, all of the artifacts that come out of pre-construction live in these Excel spreadsheets that wander out the door occasionally, but then also defer and deviate from whatever the master template was. And so aren’t comparable and aren’t easy to access and understand, and it’s very difficult for folks to take, take what practice they might have in one area and learn to apply the new area or provide it to new people that were coming to work in that area.
JAMES: Yep. Awesome. Jeff, final question or comment.
Jeff: I mean, we’ve actually seen a lot of people doing this. This is what’s interesting, James, you said that, but from a rental perspective, you know, we’re seeing, Swinnerton go into New York. We covered that a couple of weeks ago that, you know, that’s a big move for them to do small projects that don’t have that huge. I’m going to take a loss on, you know, Hundreds of millions of dollars hospital projects. They’re going to create the relationships by doing a lot of renovation work, meeting the subcontractors. You know, it’s one thing to lose a little bit on a rental project versus losing something on a healthcare project and then learning the, you know, the ropes when it comes to, you know, ordinances and different rules and different jurisdictions on things to do and, you know, working with different unions, you know, you’re talking about New York city where it’s going to be a lot of union work. So I think those can pivot and those can innovate. It’s a pretty cool time for them, but, you know, Andrew, what I want to know is like we’ve had a lot of discussions offline about other technology, so put, you know, Join and pre-construction, what’s going on their aside and, you know, look forward outside and do the things that have got you going. And what are you focused on or what are you excited about seeing. Have an impact on construction, not just, you know, be another spark, but something that has an impact.
Andrew: That’s a good question. You know, I think it’s reasonably far from where we are, but I’m actually really excited about payments technology, in that if you look at how these projects get financed, right? There’s a lot of, a lot of literature out there about the capital stack that like a developer builds up, at the end of the day, manufacturers and trades end up financing a lot of work based on, you know, net 30 net, 60 a day payment terms. And I think that if you can use technology to tighten up those payment terms, a lot of these smaller companies end up being, I’m not an expert on this, could end up being a lot more financially healthy, you know, a lot more solvent and that, you can see some really exciting things, come out of companies that get paid faster. So that’s one, I’m really excited about this company, Mosaic that’s, I think based in Arizona recently raised money from Andreessen Horowitz, they, building technology to augment stick-built construction. Not excited about 3d printing and construction. I got to admit, I don’t know where you guys’ opinions are
JAMES: Well we don’t talk about it as much.
Andrew: It’s one of your agree to disagree topics
JAMES: The fact is like, Fastbrick is actually building buildings right now with their Hadrian X but they’re not doing it in the way that any of us thought it would be done. They’ve got a very traditional piece of equipment and then they fabricated their own custom block and, and adhesive instead of mortar. It was so it’s 3d printing with blocks and then. You know, Apis Cor seems to have something really going on there, with their rotary 3d concrete printing, but it feels like this is going to be the realm of the experimental for quite some time, on the 3d concrete printing rather than, The 3d block printing that FastBrick’s doing. I think, I think they have a, well, they’re already building houses and they’re already getting the engineering and municipal certification so people can actually move into them and get to get certificates of occupancy. So I think that has a much better shot, but even then I feel like it’s going to be, yeah, I think it will be a long haul because of what you have to do to get building materials and methods approved for occupancy.
Andrew: I think that’s pretty fair. Yeah. I don’t want to end on a downer. I think the last one I’ll throw out is just, onsite robotics that are really augmenting on teams.
JAMES: That’s happening a lot faster than 3d printing. I mean the tie bot, you know, now they have the iron bot. They already are revolutionizing bridge construction, because they have. Like right now on eight job sites, they have a robot tying rebar, right? I mean, that’s, that’s amazing. And they put another one to haul the rebar and it’s like that, that onsite robotics to me. It’s like a quasi step to 3d printing in a way when you have a robot, literally it looks like an inkjet printer. I mean, it’s just scanning the entire job site, right? I mean, yeah. It looks like a giant inkjet. it just spits out wire. I agree with you on onsite custom, specialized onsite robotics, not the generalized stuff. And I’d love Jeff’s presentation on this where he’s like, okay, this is what we thought it looked like. It’s not like that at all. It’s much more boring. and it’s much more practical, but it’s, it’s very job specific. Like you have a robot for literally an entire robot that’s $800,000 just for tying rebar and then seriously, and then in another entire robot, there’s another 800 grand just for calling iron and then another robot that’s just for picking up CMU. Jeff always gives that example of the CMU. I mean, there’s all these. Yeah, jobs specific robots because, you know, we’re just, frankly not smart enough to build, a construction robot that can build everything. You know, hell we don’t know how to, we don’t know how to build everything. Right. I mean, so how can we go to robot that knows how to build everything?
Jeff: It’s that augmentation, man we’ve always talked about it. And then it’s a lot of fun to show Atlas running across the ground, but yeah. You know that’s just not going to be the reality. The reality is going to be, we’re going to hit it somewhere in the middle where you know that, you know, rebar tying robot. I know if you’re not in that world, it’s dangerous to tie rebar when those things snap back, like, you know, that that can hurt people and you’re kind of right. I didn’t even think about it. It is. Looks like a 3d old dot matrix, 3d printer, the way it goes across, it’s just not dropping ink. And, you know, I guess the printer never really made the ink. It just dropped it where it was supposed to be on paper. So pretty much is printing, and the iron robot to carry things. And I think we’re going to progressive really augment people more and more in the process, I think from the beginning to the end and. You know, you know, I think Andrew and the payments there, James might have been talking a little bit about blockchain at some point. So we did hit them all. We got them to go to blockchain. We got, well, we can’t not have robots, blockchain. You know, you didn’t talk about generative design. I still think, you know, some of the things that came out of flux
JAMES: That’s because he’s burnt out from flux. That’s why he’s not talking about it.
Andrew: I’ll say an Elon Musk quote that I’m probably going to misquote that, if you’re trying to automate an entire factory, he realized that humans were highly underrated.
JAMES: Humans are highly underrated. There’s a lot of avarice, a lot of arrogance. when you assume that humans are easily replicated, no, we literally have the world’s finest computer sitting between our ears. We just don’t necessarily know how to use it properly, but we have a remarkable computer. I’m reading the book, inner game of tennis right now. That’s just a really amazing book, written in the seventies about self-two. Self-one is the, is the self that plays tennis that talks to yourself like, Oh, you know, pick your arm up, lift your back, swing up higher. Self-two is the part of your brain that’s actually really doing most of the work. Then it watches somebody swinging a tennis racket, and then it knows how to do it. And that really self-one can get in the way we have a really powerful computer that knows how to do things. If we can sometimes step out of the way of them. Another great book that I just finished Blink by Malcolm Gladwell talks a lot about all the sub processing that goes on in our heads. And this really ties back to the philosophy of software design. The goal of software is to allow humans to function at a very high level so that they can use this incredibly powerful computer between their ears, to chew on things and use their experience and identify risk factors in the pre-construction phase so that you don’t hose your job before you start building it. And that, that was always my goal in SmartBid was let me eliminate all the boring menial crap so we can get you out of self-one into self-two, so that you can really add value as a human being rather than just click buttons, you know, and, and, and key in data. I mean, that’s, that’s really a giant waste of a brain. I want to wrap up our conference. We have some news, but who do you integrate with? Because you’re, you’re visualizing estimates, who’re your partners, who are you’re integrating with? How do you, you know, where do you import data from?
Andrew: Yeah, that’s a good question. We’ve got, you know, our product team hates it when we broadcast things. So, suffice to say, we’ve got some integrations coming with a number of leading, leading estimation tools. she could look at probably the top, top three used by large general contractors coming later this year.
JAMES: Okay. Yeah, I’ll go ahead and say it by the way, the top two, according to the JB Knowledge construction technology report for the last nine years running is Microsoft project and Primavera and then of course there’s a lot of other tools on estimating. that you could jump into like, on centers, OST and, and, you know, quick bid. And there’s, there’s a plan Swift that you can take off an estimating. So there’s a lot of those tools out there. I’m not going to commit you to any of those, but there’s, there’s, you you’d have to be integrated with them to really do a lot of what you’re doing quick, quickly, rather than having to key this then. Well stick with us for the news. I wish we had more time for this, fascinating conversation, it has been a fairly interesting News week.
The Iron Man of IT is bringing it down with three new stories this week. Jeff, what you got?
Jeff: Well, we’re going to start with our friends at McKinsey, you know, always a good one. And this one came from, Fellow team member Rise of the platform era, the next chapter in construction technology.
And I think this one to me it was kind of telling the story of what we’ve been covering James, and it feels like it covers us a little bit as, as, as you talk about, you know, Rob’s journey through being the conapp guru with, you know, putting apps together and his. What did he call it? App alchemy back in the day was the, was the statement for it.
But this is about, you know, kind of the evolution of point solutions, you know, then becoming larger limited suites of, of software to now kind of the rise of the platform. And I, you know, I thought this article was great because it shows how much further we have. And some of the reasons we are where we are, I think we are in some of the limbo, because, you know, as usual in software, we get out over our skis quite frequently and ended up face planting and, you know, creating data silos, doing those kinds of things. And, part of it was the technology part of it was overselling. It, part of it was, you know, older technology was harder to integrate with.
And, and why did you want to integrate things? I don’t think a lot of thought was put into that along the way, but I think in the future, Look at some of the, just the visualizations on the constellations of where things are going around, 3d printing around artificial intelligence, you know, the whole digital twins, which I, you know, I have trouble still saying that term.
I think it’s more data twins and you know, the information that each person needs, but I think. In the end, most companies, you know, construction companies are going to be running a, a limited set of what they would consider platforms that work together, that flow information from the beginning of the construction process, all the way through to that final close out.
I don’t think there’s going to be one system to rule them all, but I think the rise of the platform is really, A unique experience. And I think it’s a challenge. I really think McKinsey has done this great job over time of, you know, everybody hates to see the different graphs that we used to show on all of our, of all of our speeches, but it’s always kind of like flux it’s.
It’s pushed us. If somebody doesn’t push us, if somebody doesn’t poke at us a little bit it’s not going to happen. So, I mean, you’ve been through this, James, you, you, you with smart bid had the idea of, it was never a single solution, right? It was, it wasn’t a necessarily a huge platform of its own, but it was an integrated platform.
JAMES: Yeah, it had to be right. we had no choice. I mean, we were connecting about a quarter million companies at a time together in any given week, so we had to wait to do a lot of integration between, takeoff solutions, estimating, it was a hub for sure. It was a hub. I always hesitate to call things platforms until they’re really, you know what I mean? I feel like Amazon’s a platform, you know, there are some things that are truly platforms and every tech company wants to be a platform because platforms get hot, get valued higher. Right. But I mean you’re not really a platform until you integrate a substantial portion of an industry, or in Amazon’s case, take it over, right. That it’s a, that it’s a, it’s a fascinating conversation, but yes, that’s certainly, was, that was our experience.
Jeff: Well, and it’s, it’s interesting. You talk about, you know, becoming an Amazon, that’s a transformation of the platform itself. I mean, it was, it was re-imagining it completely, that’s not what we all thought it would be, you know, it’s, it’s not some giant Superstore in, in the web it’s, it’s actually a web of communication of smaller retailers, et cetera, that that really does surface all of that. Andrew. I mean, you talk about the rise of the platform. I know you’ve seen it and seen it going on and what’s your take on it?
Andrew: Yeah, I think the trend is real people hate juggling two dozen log-ins and working between multiple systems and configuring yet another web hook to push one piece of information from one place to another but I don’t know if every everything’s going to, you know, any, any, any of these platforms are really gonna emerge as being able to solve all needs for anyone. I think the real question for definition of platform is whether or not the activity that happens built on top of it is more valuable than the work that happens inside of it and you could look at, look at, Procore’s really emerging as that. Autodesk historically has done a really good job of having platform technologies around AutoCAD and to a lesser extent rabbit, BIM 360 clearly making investments in this domain. We’ll see how it plays out. And yeah, we think that there’s an opportunity for one of these, one of these platforms that really enables a ton of ton of work in the pre-construction space and we don’t think it exists yet.
Jeff: And I think that’s, you know, it’s got to be connected all the way through from the beginning to the end and there’s gotta be technology for each to push them all forward. And I think we’re going to see consolidation. I think we’re going to see, you know, build out and I think that’s important. The competition is going to continue and. For those listening, it’s the end users that are going to drive what happens. And so you’ve got to want to have more, you got to believe that you can get more and that these systems can be integrated. So, it, it’s really interesting. I think watching the rise of the platform, it’s, it’s just part of evolution of technology and we’ve seen it everywhere else.
And, you know, construction seems to be a little bit behind, but I don’t. I don’t call us as behind as others do. I think part of it is the difficulty in some of the challenges that we have, and we’ve tried to tackle, especially with that field stuff we were talking about, you know, everybody wanted to build a robot that would handle everything, and then they realized we better build something a little bit smaller, a little more effective. James, talk about a platform. You created a rebar tying robot, and now you’ve created a rebar carrying robot. I mean, what’s next. The truck’s going to be robotic. That brings it to you. It’s going to pull it from a facility where a lot of that is automated and people are like, okay, there you go.
You just created a platform of rebar. I mean, and, and rebar tying. So those kinds of connectivities, you’re going to have to see that, you know, there’s always going to be things that are outside the fringe too. And then they have to come in to the fringe. They’re never going to stay out there. So it’s not the end of any one of those.
So if you’re a point solution out there and you think I’m telling you you’re over, I don’t think you’re over. I think you just have to really believe that you have to figure out how you fit into this overall. What I called back in the day, the ecosystem. So. Cool article, check it out. I’m going to jump to the next one and you know me and I actually have to give and want to give some credit here, to a buddy of mine that, that, that gave me this next article. If you are an iPhone user, you need to update now and it’s actually not pushing itself. So update to iOS 14.2. Now Apple issues, emergency iPhone security update. For those of you that are not in the security world, but you’ve probably listened to us before. There’s something called zero day patching, which is a flaw that has made it out into the wild that is readily available if your phone is not patched and IOS rarely has them, but it has one right now and it actually has. Three in the same one. So if you’re running fourteen.one, you actually have to go to settings, go to general, go to update. And it’ll all of a sudden tell you there’s a new one out there and you need to go get it. Because, I mean, it’s rare that we see them, but this one was from Corey Jackson, by the way, Corey, someone from the AGC IT world. And I want to thank him for it because actually he was the first one to share it across my LinkedIn. And I always appreciate those security flaws. James did it feel weird to have all of your iOS devices unclean for a little bit?
JAMES: I know it felt a little dirty. I mean, my goodness. Disconcerting would be the case. Yeah, I feel like, you know, like Tom’s got it and I love the article you referenced it says update now, like get a day it’s a, it’s a zero-day fall. And I did notice that. That all of a sudden, it kind of came out of nowhere, not too long after another update, this patch, this update came out and I was like, man, that, and the way Apple describes it, listen to this 14 dot two. This is the release notes. iOS 14.2 includes over a hundred new emoji. That’s what they lead with a hundred new emoji. Yay, new emoji. Introduces eight new wallpapers and brings other new enhancements and bug fixes to your iPhone. Talk about burying the lead. I mean, my goodness it’s like, and by the way, patched an emergency iPhone security fix, because there’s a zero day flaw. Oh. And by the way, your iPads are affected. So, all of them. All your iOS devices.
Jeff: Well, at least they have a, ‘you stole everything from me’ Emoji now, added in
JAMES: They needed a new face Palm. Face Palm I got all my crap stolen because of Apple
Jeff: I mean zero day flaw.
JAMES: Apple is really trying hard to lead the way on security and privacy. And I give all due credit to them, but facepalm
Jeff: It’s going to happen. Right. And it was interesting. I most pulled the article, because the hack was actually found at a Chinese white hacker event where they hacked it in under 28 seconds. And it just so happened that it had come out. It was crazy. This teams had to, I mean, they, I think they had come up with it. Before then, but they had to execute the hack and under, in under a certain amount of time to get the points and they executed the hack on 14.1 and under 28 seconds. And we talked about all the other things they, they hit and, you know, just so you guys know you’ve gotta keep things up to date. You’ve got to pay attention to this. You’ve got to have layers of security because you know, even Chrome’s getting hit and they used to be, you know, they saw an offer up about a million dollars a year to anybody who could hack the Chrome browser and they’ve since stopped that. So I think that kind of tells you that after a while you get big enough, everybody becomes a target that you’re going to get through. So multiple layers of security, keep your stuff updated, go out there and update. Back to construction news though, you know, I’ve got to always go to one, that’s a leaner and it just, it just so happens, James, that I think two of our articles are going to come together today.
So this was a new one from text bot and it’s, here’s why the unreal engine is coming to your car. That’s right. The GMC Hummer EV will be the first to use the unreal powered interface. So for those of you that don’t know, unreal is relatively known as a gaming engine, but it’s actually been used quite a bit in, in construction technology. And it’s, it’s really found a home there. It’s found a home in a lot of other places to provide a very realistic environment that came from the video game world. We see a lot of these things come from there, but basically it’s going to be your in-car screen is now going to be able to show you your car in a very real format. Why is that interesting? Well, this is really from the first one. The reason GMC brought it to the Hummer EV is because it’s for off-roading. So it’s about showing you not only where your wheels are, but how they’re, if they’re touching the ground in a very realistic way, because they used to be a lot of loss between the communication from, what the car was recognizing with all of the thousands of sensors in cars now, and what the driver could visualize. There was a limitation. It was that screen. It was what you could see there. And now unreal has brought that engine there so that you can, really see what’s happening now. That’s pretty cool in a, in a car. Let’s just be honest. That’s awesome in a car, but can you see this moving into construction equipment? Like if we have this in cranes, if we have this in, backhoes, if we have this in other large equipment that we’re operating on job sites, we’re going to have a visual ability, like the operator’s going to be able to see a reality that’s integrating all of the sensors that exist on a job site that are now powered telling it. I mean, Andrew, think about this. I mean, when you’re lifting, how many crane accidents have we seen? How many of these different, because of visibility, because of, not understanding the weight or where something is.
Andrew: Yeah, that’s pretty exciting. The, just contextual, contextual information, right. Just knowing that, knowing that somebody is holding something, it’s a person like around that corner, maybe being able to see whatever it is that they’re seeing.
Jeff: Yeah. And to be able to visualize it in a way you couldn’t before. I mean, now with all of that data, coming through and passing through the unreal engine. You actually, you know, you’re not just looking around the corner, being told there’s a square block around the corner. Now, you know, it’s a human now, you know, you know where you are, what your pitch is. And that’s where to what we were talking about before humans are really bad at, you know, we can’t see around walls. We can’t do those things, but if we can visualize it, we can make a decision that can save people really quickly on our intuition. So James, you had to love the unreal engine coming to a car near you.
JAMES: We’ve been building 3d applications on unity. We did a bunch of experimentation on unreal engine for, for years. Unreal engine, I would say produces a higher quality product. just as far as visually, you know their rendering and light shading, and the way that it produces environments is just pretty, pretty stellar. It’s pretty unbelievable. and so the experiments that we built with it, I was really impressed with. And, it just shows you why industries like gaming matter more than the fact that I just saw a real sports special on how much money teenagers are making on gaming right now, especially this year during COVID they’re getting multi-million dollar plate payouts for their e-sports tournaments now, because this is something you can still do during COVID.
Andrew: Jeff, are you going to be able to retire and, you know, manage an e-sports gamer full-time?
Jeff: I want you to, I want you to know that yesterday. He told me dad, I turned 13. I can start making money doing this. It’s not legal till then. And I was like, alright, I’m in, you know, go for it, buddy. Well, at first I was like, what is this YouTube thing? What, what are they? And now I’m like, ah, Okay.
JAMES: People, people like to watch other people doing all kinds of weird things. Okay. I’m just going to make that general statement. There’s doers and they’re spectators. Like that’s just, I think that’s humanity in general. There’s like, there’s like a small group of doers and a large group of spectators. And spectators like to spectate people doing all kinds of weird things, including playing video games, I’ve even seen videos of people, spectating other people who were spectating. In other words, you’ve been watching that for decades. It was called mystery science theater, 3000. It’s literally a movie of people watching a movie and making comments about the movie they’re watching. And then, I mean, that’s, that’s the world we live in. It’s a strange world, but unreal engine is what what’s exciting is that this, this gaming technology that’s previously just useful for making millionaires out of a 15 year olds, is actually extremely useful in large industry. it’s proven to be very useful in Holland, virtual reality for construction. It’s proven to be very useful in rendering building models, and in web browsers and on mobile devices, turns out you can use it for all kinds of stuff, because if you want to render a gigantic scene in video game, in a massive multiplayer role-playing game, it turns out it works really well for buildings too. I’m fired up. I’m fired up.
Jeff: That’s awesome. And that is my news James.
JAMES: So we’ve got a couple of stories I’m going to start out with, with, how 5g will revolutionize industrial control. And I just want to remind everybody that, first off 5g didn’t cause COVID, there’s some things that happened in February and March and April that really left me baffled. Of course the top thing was the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. That just made no sense. It wasn’t an intestinal infection. It’s not like everybody had to go use the bathroom a lot more, but we were really worried about toilet paper, really worried about toilet paper. If by the way, for those of you who went to avoid ever having that problem ever again, the swash bidet will change your life and will remove the necessity for that particular accessory. But the other weird thing is that the 5g tower epidemic in the UK, they actually burned down 70 plus 5g towers convinced that 5g was causing COVID. This, this was a very strange rumor. it doesn’t. and, and 5g is really quite, quite a fascinating technology, AT&T and Verizon have really put the pedal down on this. And understandably, so, mind you, Elon Musk is now posing a big threat to 5g networks at some level, not, not for this particular area in industrial control because the power of 5g is also in how little power it takes for the antennas. And that’s actually one of the really, of course, I’ve got a double E from rice on the line. So I’m not going to go into the why cause I’ll get circles run around me by you, Andrew. But, you know, Andrew, I know you gotta be excited about the, the amount of power required on 5g networks. Cause it, it really makes it possible to connect a lot more devices.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, you can, and, and much longer lived devices that are battery powered. Concrete sensors, company recently acquired by Hilti, right? You just, you check the sensor, you know, with a radio of some sort inside the concrete. It’s able to tell you how the concrete’s curing for years, and it can do that as long its battery lasts. And now you can look and say, okay, it’s going to be cheaper to manufacture these. And they’re gonna last a lot longer. It’s going to be able to use them in a lot more places.
JAMES: Yeah, it’s really, it’s really pretty impressive. They’re looking at like really, really rapid speeds. So ideally gigabit to 10 gigabit speeds wirelessly of course the real key will be how big your caps are on your data. Hopefully it’s not as it’s not, or it’s uncapped because when you’re pushing that much, man, with that quickly, you’ll blow through a cap in a heartbeat. But, there, there is still a lot of promise in 5g, both in, in how low power the antenna can be and, and how much bandwidth you can get now, Musk has been making major, major headway with Starling and he’s really pinning a lot of the enterprise value of SpaceX. Okay. Mind you it’s private right now. I believe that that SpaceX we’ll do a public IPO spinoff of Starlink so they can raise capital to get to Mars. In fact, he’s even said it, it’s going to take that much money to get to Mars. They’re going to have to launch all these satellites and then create this, you know, 40,000, constellation orbit. You have competing technologies, you’ll have satellite piping bandwidth, and you’ll have 5g. And both of them promise to radically transform the remainder of the planet that remains difficult to get into. It’s amazing to me, Jeff, there’s still a lot of the United States that has really crappy bandwidth. I mean, once you get off main highways and main cities, it’s still pretty crappy.
Jeff: Well, it’s interesting because you know, we’re all in this COVID remote world and we’re seeing that. You’ve got people who are choppy and struggling with their connections and you’re going really? Now? You know, all these things we talk about, but I like what you talk about when it comes to Elon Musk competing with the 5g world, because you’re actually talking about two different, and as you know, coming from the it background, I always want two ways to back all, anything I’ve got. So give me both and I from what’s in the ground and I’m capable of still having redundancy and using what I want for where I need it. You’re talking about 5g. That’s a perfect way to. To, you know, power these sensors over a long period of time. And that’s a single use case, you know, but there’s lots of use cases for how we can use 5g versus how we can use, you know, the Starlink network, but then in your article James, Really, we got to talk about 6g already? We haven’t even gotten through the conspiracy theory of 5g. And we all know 5g is not really completely here yet in the back haul systems there, but the front end is just not all the way there yet, besides the fact that they’re burning them.
JAMES: I couldn’t believe they even started talking about 6g. I’m like, look, it’s going to be a decade before 5g is really deployed properly. Let’s just, let’s just focus on one thing at a time. I’m really just slow the roll down just a little bit, by the way. It’s a numerical sequence, but it doesn’t have to be talked about yet. it’s insane. I just did a speed test by the way on my, my connection. I’m wired. I have a, I have a gig connection to this house. I just got 920 megabits down just now from my computer. Oh man. It makes me feel like a King. It’s amazing. It’s awesome.
Andrew: You’re going to be able to bit torrent in so many movies, right?
JAMES: I would never do that, Andrew. No, I would never, I would never do that.
Jeff: Yeah. The interesting thing I did see this week though, James, that really blew my mind was I saw a construction project go bad. I won’t call them out on who it was or what they were doing, but they cut an internet line. And for the first, so my internet, Andrew knows this cause I sent him a message and said, well, I’m not working this morning and he’s like, Oh, well, zero to 274 bags down while zero’s part of that. There was an emergency truck with a, with a generator on it that pulled up and spliced the cut inside of the van. To light the whole neighborhood up until later on in the day they could come back and fix it. I was like, that’s awesome.
JAMES: Yeah. That’s brilliant. It’s like, look, we got to cut. Roll the van. Let’s go.
Jeff: It wasn’t Xfinity. It wasn’t their company. It was somebody else branded. I’m like, you invented how to do this quickly. And that actually has to be a problem enough for someone to have a fleet of trucks that does this. So interesting one there that how we’re dependent on it.
JAMES: So let’s go onto the next one. we do have construction companies that build a wind turbines. you know, they have to get assembled and built on-site the slabs have to be poured. These guys have to be assembled to, this is part of construction. From bimplus.co.uk world’s first blade walk by a robot on an off shore wind turbine has taken place off the coast of Fife.
Two days last month, a six legged inspect and repair robot, repeatedly scaled blades at the offshore renewable energy catapults 11 mouth demonstration turbine. It’s being developed, as part of an innovate UK initiative and it’s a six legged robot that would really keep some people up at night, it’s called the blade bug and it can inspect blade surfaces for emergent cracks and imperfections, transmit data on condition back to shore and help resurface the blades. So this is really, really interesting. We’re looking at, again, specially use robots, right? So we keep seeing this. This is the theme. There’s not one general purpose, construction robot, or service robot, or a repair robot. This is specifically being developed for blades, but it’s pretty interesting. It walked during the demo, walked 50 meters on a vertically positioned blade. That’s a length of 84 meters of the tip reaching 195 meters above the sea when upright. So you add an, a person really doesn’t want to go up there and go crashing 200 meters below into the sea. That would be super unpleasant. It adheres to the blade through vacuum padded feet and transmits data from blade scans in live video feeds back to the techs. So I’m super cool. I imagine this very similar technology could be used to crawl steel structures and inspect them as well. I think there’s some cool stuff coming there. I just wanted to throw it out there again. This is called the blade bug.
Jeff: Can we do a PSA here though? Designers? Andrew, you have a design background here. We discussed this before. There’s a touch of the experience. Why do we keep making them look so scary that keeps people up at night, like Boston Dynamics when it had the dog with the cobra head that opens the door. Now we have a spider bot that is going to keep people up at night.
Andrew: Just put Mickey mouse ears on it, that’s all you need to do
JAMES: Yes, exactly. You know, here’s the deal. Nerds have a sick sense of humor and very twisted sense of humor and they watched way too much Scifi and so they can’t resist the temptation. Like let’s make a robot that crawls a blade. Let’s make it look like a bug that’s going to eat you. Right? Like it’s like, why not? I mean, come on. There are so many things that people do because they think it looks cool. And what they think is cool. Looks scary to somebody else. Onto our next news story from construction junkie.
This is the last one. And I’m closing out on a, on a hilarious slash awesome note. If you didn’t see this already. Awesome. Two videos. Caterpillar creates a gigantic Pac-Man game, played with remote controlled skid-steers. That’s right. They actually put together a very creative and very expensive way to show off their construction equipment. In the past, they did a giant Jenga game. They did a world’s first moving golf course in the back of their dump trucks, which I thought was really awesome. You literally had moving greens. Now they’re showing off some more of their tech it’s the biggest Pac-Man game. So it measures 162 feet wide by 180 feet tall. The Pac-Man game that they created is 19000% larger than the size of the original arcade game. Your character is they cat 236D3 remote controlled skid steer loader and you’re actually playing in the dirt. This is mind-blowing go watch the video. It took 70 man hours just to dig the game board. That was 6,800 yards of cut and fill a one, a 1% grade was added from side to side for better drainage. The walls were dug down to four feet deep. There are even more Cat machines used to build the course and they were all equipped with Cat grade 3d to make sure everybody was on the same page. They really showed off their tech. I love this in so many ways. Cat has a bunch of amazing tech that a lot of contractors refuse to buy. They just want the traditional equipment because they don’t see the value in it. And they’re like, no, look, if you use our tech, you legitimately can do a lot more stuff with us. A lot faster.
They released four videos, the event it’s a highlight reel, a time-lapse of the course completion to behind the scenes videos. go check these firstname.lastname@example.org. Shane Headman. Thank you for posting this and aggregating the videos because. This is epic. It’s absolutely epic. Andrew. We talked about onsite robots and of course, Cat has really turned their equipment into robotic equipment with what they call smart iron that’s, all their sensors, lasers, infrared, depth sensors, positioning systems, connectivity, they’re really taking it next level stuff.
Andrew: It’s exciting. It’s like a lane assist for all this heavy equipment. Right. Really sophisticated robotic systems, centered around the human crews who were working.
JAMES: Yeah, it’s super cool. Super cool. Well, Gentlemen. It’s been good talking with you. Good show out there. Jeff, thanks as always for being on,
Jeff: It was great to be here, James and another great week. You know, it feels like the blending together a little bit. I do want to say to Cat, if you’re listening, I know at least three or four crew members that would be happy to broadcast live, and I’m telling you we’ll take care of live. We can show this off. We can really drive it home. Did I sell that enough yet?
JAMES: I want to drive it to I want to play Pac-Man against you with skid-steers like, I want to, yeah, it’s going to be awesome.
Jeff: Our competitive nature. If you don’t know, we’ve all competed on different things, you know, when we travel together, certainly those things happen. There’s always a little bit of a competition. I can just imagine how this one ends with real Pac-Man.
JAMES: And the, the man from Illinois who went to school in Texas and lives in California. Andrew Zukoski. Thank you, for joining us from Join, Inc. And, where can people find out more about your company?
JAMES: Awesome. So go to join.build, to find out more about Andrew and his company and to ask them for some demos. I’m sure they’d love to demonstrate the software for you, Andrew. Thanks again for joining us today.
Andrew: Thank you, James. Thank you, Jeff.
JAMES: And thank you out there and listener land for tuning in to geek out episode 243. Our interview with Andrew Zukoski from Join, Inc. Please join us next week, episode 244 with Brian Ringly from Boston Dynamics. That’s right. The robot dog to read all of our news stories. Learn more about apps, workflow, and hardware. Subscribe to our newsletter at jbknowledge.com or text “CONTECH” to 66866. Big thanks to Jim Greenlee, our Podcast Producer, Kara Dalton, our Creative Producer, Tish Thelen, our Advertising Coordinator, and our Transcriptionist, Adéle Waldeck. To listen to this show, go to the show website at TheConTechCrew.com.
Until next time, enjoy the ride and geek out!