The technology coming out of Silicon Valley has dramatically transformed several major industries in recent years and some say construction is next. Venture capital firms are expected to increase their investment in construction technology and this could dramatically change the landscape of construction as we know it. Firms looking to grow or stay ahead of the pack would be wise to keep an eye on evolving technologies.
The construction industry has never been a consistent trailblazer when it comes to technology. This is in part because contractors are typically focused on maintaining profit margins rather than investing in new technology, according to McKinsey & Company. In that past, this approach made sense but advancing technologies are becoming too valuable to ignore.
In fact—with the help of world-class innovators—the construction industry could be the force that brings about major changes in robotics, cloud computing and other cutting-edge technologies. Self-driving technology, a long-standing goal of the automotive industry, is expected to hit construction sites long before the vehicles are ready for public roads and highways, according to Built Robotics founder and CEO, Noah Ready-Campbell. Construction sites are ideal places to launch autonomous vehicles because they are closed areas rather than open roads.
This is excellent news for the construction industry because few technologies could revolutionize the worksite as significantly as a self-driving Bobcat, which is exactly what the engineers at Built Robotics are creating. Using LIDAR technology to view and interact with the world, their autonomous track loader digs holes on its own. Operators simply enter the location coordinates, specify the size of the hole to be dug and stand back.
The Semi-Automated Mason (SAM100) is another example of how technology and robotics are helping to eliminate heavy lifting and increase productivity. SAM can lay six times as many bricks as a human per day and reduces lifting by 80%. SAM is the first commercially available robot of its kind and already has an impressive portfolio of work.
But, even with major developments like the self-driving Bobcat and SAM, robots are not set to “take over” the job site. However, one area of technology that is expected to become widespread is 3D modeling and drones. Construction firms are already using drones fitted with high-tech cameras to inspect structures in dangerous and difficult-to-access locations, which is especially useful at extreme heights. And 3D modeling software is allowing construction teams to recreate the real world on a digital platform.
Advanced construction robotics and other technologies are reshaping the construction industry and change will continue to accelerate. The best thing that construction executives can do is keep their eyes on hardware and software advancements if they want to keep up in the years to come.