Digital transformation, which has generated a sweeping impact in virtually every other industry, had until recently had a relatively limited impact on the construction business. Significantly, this had been the case across pretty much every global location and region. The likely reason behind this anomaly was probably the fact that the construction industry has, for the most part, depended on techniques and practices that it has developed incrementally over centuries. The sector has had a strong traditionalist streak and has shown a marked preference for retaining established approaches. In the last handful of years, however, it appears that the sector is racing to shed its previously tech-conservative reputation.
The emergence of ‘Proptech’ is unleashing some of the most cutting-edge innovations of any industry. The argument that has brought about this change of heart is the same as that of other fabrication-oriented sectors.
The era of embedded digital technology is upon us and virtually every device and gadget we use is being improved upon by incorporating sensors, distributed processing power and wireless communication. Naturally, built spaces are no exception and, in fact, smart buildings will be a key component of our digitally enhanced lifestyles in the future. In turn, the development of innovations, aimed at perfecting the construction of this smart infrastructure, has led to breakthroughs applicable to all construction projects. The construction industry is adopting the same IoT-ready, precision monitoring-enabled and energy-optimized approach to a construction site and overall operation, that it is increasingly expected to provide as standard features in the structures it erects.
AI and Augmented Reality are emerging as front-runners, among technologies around which digital innovations in the construction industry are being developed. Cognitive technologies – chiefly AI and Machine Learning – are emerging as crucial enablers of the optimal utilization of energy and resources as well as monitoring of processes and extrapolating actionable insights from data. AR and VR technologies, on the other hand, are driving the visualization of data and creation of simulations from 2D design, which help designers and fabrication teams to ensure meticulous adherence to client requirements and agreed-upon features. Typing up all of these innovative features is the reliable layer of ERP, project management and other related enterprise optimization capabilities enabled by software such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 and MTWO.
Optimizing Process though Digital Transformation in the Construction Industry
The construction industry generates extremely large volumes of data. Rather than leaving this information unused and of no consequence, a model that leverages real-time information, across multiple performance parameters, can create a feedback loop that enables constant fine-tuning and optimization. Augmented Reality is an effective means to make operational data visible, in a format that closely reflects the finished product, providing architects, developers and workforces a means to apply ongoing creative interventions and far more effective and rapid decision-making. Microsoft’s Mixed Reality HoloLens headset, for instance, is a device that can transform 2D plans and blueprints into a detailed 3D representation of the site, fully infused with real-time data. Such a quasi-tactile representation not only allows for intuitive visualization, it enables teams to identify issues and fix faults in the real world, as part of the fabrication process. Essentially, this model speeds up the construction process, improves stakeholder collaborations, empowers decision making and elevates the quality of the finished product.
Likewise, the potential that Machine Learning and AI unleash within the construction space is radically transformative and empowering as well. Think of this technology as a smart layer that identifies, analyzes and processes data significantly more rapidly than very substantial teams of human assistant could. When one considers what ‘data’ means in the construction industry, the huge benefits become readily apparent. From service and information requisitions, approvals and purchase orders to quality control, safety measures and making sure changes are adequately communicated, even the most basic layer of operational requirements in the construction industry is fairly imposing. Machine learning can address these mission-critical but repetitive tasks, without the need for human intervention. The impact of AI on more sophisticated tasks is even more dramatic. The added ‘smart’ layer optimizes even the most complex design, fabrication and resource utilization issues, enabling a faster and more agile operation, which produces output of a markedly higher quality.
In order for a construction business to perform optimally it requires real-time visibility into operations, the ability to visualize data as a tangible and generate actionable insights from it. AI and mixed reality technologies enable a user-friendly and empowering model, which aligns operations to ideal outcomes and promotes innovation.