The construction industry is finally starting to shed its long-held reputation of being “behind the times”. After decades of technological stagnation, the industry is now making a comeback and evolving at a breakneck pace. Construction technology and innovation are thriving—which could not have come at a better time.
Construction spending in the U.S. reached nearly 1.6 trillion dollars in 2021, with Texas and California leading the pack. Globally, the construction industry reached 6.4 trillion dollars in 2020, a figure that is expected to more than double by 2030. In short, the construction industry continues to serve as the backbone of the world economy.
However, the industry is not without its challenges. As worker shortages and supply chain issues disrupt production, there has never been a more crucial time to leverage technology to its fullest extent. By implementing the right technologies, the industry can overcome these challenges and continue its recent streak of innovation.
Here are 13 innovative technologies that are transforming the construction industry—for the better.
The Internet of Things (IoT for short) is a popular buzzword these days. Defined as the connectivity of physical things combined with sensors that allows us to digitize the physical world, its applications are endless.
One such important application is within the construction industry. IoT allows for the linking of physical things like equipment, materials, and personnel to a centralized, digital platform. With global shortages of both qualified workers and supplies, IoT can help ensure optimal usage and tracking of all available resources.
IoT can be used within several different technologies to promote productivity, such as sensors, wearables, monitors, maintenance systems, a digital twin site map (more on this later) and more. Innovative startups like RodRadar are developing disruptive sensor technology that will continue to increase use cases for IoT within the construction industry.
2. Connected Tools
An especially important application of IoT, connected tools deserve to be emphasized. These Bluetooth-enabled devices can greatly increase site productivity by allowing your tools to sync in real-time with your technology solutions.
By setting connected tools to the correct target value, you can ensure that work is done right every time. Plus, when you choose the right connected tool solution, it enables you to store a detailed work history in the cloud for simple retrieval to inform any future work that may be needed.
3. Digital Twins
The digital twin market was worth 7.48 billion in 2021, so it’s no surprise that this popular technology offers immense value. A digital twin, sometimes known as a data twin, is a digital replica of a physical construction project.
Transforming real-world information into a digital format offers several advantages. One such benefit lies in efficiency. By connecting field and office teams, digital twin technologies like Veerum allow for resources to be more efficiently allocated—maximizing business resiliency.
4. Smart Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Technologies
A lack of safety remains a big problem within the construction industry. Every workday, an average of three people are fatally injured in the construction industry.
Smart PPE technologies (also known as wearables) represent an effective way to combat this statistic. This technology, ranging from exosuits and smart helmets to AR glasses and connected boots, is starting to see significant traction within the construction industry.
5. Robotic Total Stations (RTS)
As construction projects become more complex, the traditional methods for laying out buildings on a site are becoming irrelevant. Not only is the process inefficient, but it also has a large margin of error—which down the road can cause costly errors and expensive rework.
Robotic Total Stations (RTS) are an electronic theodolite that can be operated completely remotely. RTS has been proven to be much more effective than alternative methods and can be executed by just one operator. In short, RTS allows for more layouts to be completed in less time with less workers.
6. Building Information Management (BIM)
BIM is a way of digitally managing information from a construction project. While BIM shares many similarities with Digital Twins, the two are not to be confused. Digital Twins are most commonly used for maintenance and operations, while BIM is better suited for construction and design.
Benefits of using BIM to create a visual model of the project include cost savings, data continuity, better connected teams, and better estimates of overall project scope, cost and timeline. To verify engineering data in models like BIM, companies like asset55 are leading the way.
7. Mobile Devices and 5G
Mobile devices empower us to stay connected better than ever before. And with the arrival of 5G, mobile connectivity has never been more reliable or far-reaching.
The construction industry is leveraging this technology to breakdown the disconnect between field and office teams via a real-time data connection. For example, a project manager who is in the office can instantly transmit detailed work instructions to a field worker who is miles away.
In addition to facilitating better overall communication, mobile connectivity also allows project information to be processed and stored on the cloud. This reduces the reliance on physical paperwork and creates a more reliable and organized storage structure.
8. Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
CAD has become an instrumental part of the construction design process. With the ability to work in both 2D and 3D, CAD brings a much-needed level of precision to the design and planning process for buildings and structures.
The next generation of CAD technology is already being developed and refined. By leveraging artificial intelligence, it enables users to automate large portions of the design process. This streamlines the design process, saving companies both time and money.
9. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
For many, AR and VR are associated with younger generations, evoking thoughts of video games and the metaverse. But these versatile technologies have much broader applications—especially within the construction industry.
Training with heavy machinery and equipment was once a huge burden to schedule and execute, but AR and VR are changing that. Training simulations allow cumbersome training sessions to instead be executed with the use of VR goggles. This frees up valuable equipment and training personnel.
Inspections, land surveys, equipment tracking and progress reports are just a few of the ways that drones are being used in the construction industry. With the ability to be useful in almost every phase of a construction project, drones are one of construction’s most embraced technologies.
Drones are becoming so widely used in the construction industry that the global construction drone market size is projected to reach nearly $12 billion by 2027. This represents a sky high compound annual growth rate of 15.4% from 2020 to 2027.
11. Sustainable Materials
The industry is under increased pressure to make construction more sustainable. One of the biggest construction culprits for emissions is unsustainable building materials. Popular materials such as concrete and aluminum are produced in ways that cause high CO2 emissions.
New sustainable building materials, such as mycelium and ferrock, offer an eco-friendly alternative. While there are many factors to be considered before these alternative materials are widely used, the industry is already beginning to make more sustainable material choices.
12. Modular Construction
Modular construction is a process that leverages controlled plant conditions to build new buildings in a fraction of the time. By breaking down modular buildings into multiple prefabricated sections and assembling them offsite, valuable space and time is saved.
This innovative new way of building is already taking off, and is seen as a major solution to accommodate for the rapidly expanding population around the world.
13. The Cloud
Last but certainly not least is the cloud. It’s fair to say that the cloud is playing at least a minor role in the adoption of nearly every technology on this list. Without it, these technologies wouldn’t be nearly as scalable or accessible.
The cloud creates a seamless connection between the field and the office, with easy access to any online resource needed so long as there is mobile service available. Further, the cloud reduces the reliance on paper documents and makes organizing and retrieving documentation a breeze.
How many of these innovative technologies is your company actively using? By implementing new technologies at job sites and beyond, the construction industry will continue to evolve and move forward.
However, it’s the companies that use the right technologies in smart new ways that will pull ahead of the pack. Schedule a demo to learn how Cumulus can help your team leverage connected technologies for a safer, more productive jobsite.