Advancements in construction technology have been making waves in the industry for the past decade. The last few years have been particularly exciting, with advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and machine learning.
The past, present, and future of construction technology seem to converge in the here and now as the possibilities begin to take shape. With rapid technological development, the industry is seeing more innovation than ever. Great news, as this means more challenges are being overcome every day.
From site cameras and drones to AI and software solutions, tech adoption has risen steadily in construction. But what does the future hold for construction tech, and what does the trajectory look like? We can make some informed guesses based on how the industry has evolved and what’s currently making headlines.
TYPES OF CONSTRUCTION TECHNOLOGY
Construction technology encompasses an ever-expanding variety of hardware, software, and cutting-edge developments that make the industry run more smoothly. Over the past decade, technology adoption in construction has become essential for companies that want to stay competitive.
The use of project management software has become standard in the construction industry. In 2021, the majority of contractors used Procore, according to the JBKnowledge Construction Technology Report. 97% of companies reported using construction-specific software daily.
Cloud-based software is becoming more popular in construction, enabling real-time collaboration and access to critical files from any location. Sharing across teams is done in the cloud with little effort or risk, making it an ideal technology for construction pros.
Construction site cameras are now integrating with today’s most exciting technologies, like AI and popular software applications, to streamline large and complex projects. Tech now plays an essential role in the industry, but this hasn’t always been the case. The construction industry has been slower to adopt new technologies than other industries; however, the usefulness of recent developments and the prospect of more futuristic products is finally turning the corner for construction tech adoption.
97% of companies reported using construction-specific software on a daily basis.
recent developments in construction technology
Most of the technology being used in the construction industry today was developed over the last 20 years, with the widespread adoption of construction technology taking place even more recently, in the past five to ten years. 3D scanning, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics have taken turns in the spotlight recently, with tried and true technologies, like site cameras, evolving rapidly to keep up with the newest developments in construction.
Site Cameras and Construction Security systems
Construction site cameras have become popular over the last ten years for their time-lapse video, images, remote monitoring, and security capabilities. Site camera features have expanded significantly since they first appeared on the market, and they’re continuing to evolve in response to new technologies. Cloud-connected cameras with efficient and compact batteries, solar power capabilities, and high-quality low-light images would have seemed impossible 20 years ago. In recent years, site cameras have become more robust, with advanced technologies like AI and machine learning taking remote monitoring to the next level.
AI In Construction
Artificial intelligence has become one of the most anticipated technologies of the 21st century. Over the past few years, AI technology has evolved enough to offer some advantages in construction. While AI has a long way to go before it reaches the pinnacle of its potential, it has come a long way since its inception. In construction, AI can now analyze data, like images and video, in the blink of an eye and make decisions or issue warnings about safety, materials, project progress, and more. It’s an exciting time to be in construction as the future unfolds right before our eyes.
The JBKnowledge Construction survey found that 48% of construction professionals will only adopt new software if it includes an easy-to-use mobile app. One of the main benefits of mobile apps is their ability to be used anywhere, from any device. In the case of cloud-based software, the same information can be displayed in real-time across all devices to keep everyone on a project up-to-date. This technology takes huge strides toward increasing efficiency and productivity for large and small construction teams.
Hardware (i.e., a site camera) is only as good as its user interface. That’s where most of the interaction with the product takes place, and that interface is a type of software.
In construction, a user interface must be easy to use and ready for collaboration without unnecessary fluff. That means ease of use from any device and not having to move between applications to get the fullpicture. That’s the goal, and recent developments in software, namely cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), have made this possible.
Nevertheless, rapid innovation in the industry has led to challenges for companies adopting new products that have yet to be integrated with each other. Companies like Sensera Systems are rising to the challenge, providing seamless solutions through partnerships and integrations with widely used products like Procore.
WHAT CONSTRUCTION PROFESSIONALS ARE SAYING
The growth of technology in the construction industry has completely changed the way projects are documented and completed. In the last two years, multiple surveys have shown the same trend; companies are adopting more technology than ever and are benefiting from it in more ways than one.
In 2019, 78% of contractors who responded to the Dodge Commercial Construction Index survey said they believed construction technology increased productivity. 75% said construction technology could improve schedules, and 79% said it enhanced jobsite safety. This response shows a clear trend toward increasing technology adoption and the importance of technology as a competitive advantage.
According to the 2021 Associated Builders and Contractors Tech Report, 78% of respondents said they adopted a new construction-related technology in the past two years. Among the 2021 ABC Excellence in Construction Award winners, 42% used jobsite and progress monitoring solutions, and 51% used drones. This sheds some light on what larger companies are doing to stay competitive.
In 2021, 45% of Global Construction Survey respondents said they recently adopted a remote monitoring technology, which allowed contractors and project managers to stay up-to-date on their construction sites from anywhere. In the same survey, 50% of contractors said they plan to invest heavily in construction technology in the coming year, and 33% of owners said they planned to do the same. This is good news for construction, as the adoption of technology is raising the productivity and safety ceilings in the industry.
CHALLENGES OF ADOPTING CONSTRUCTION TECHNOLOGY
Technology adoption in the construction industry has been comparatively slow, which indicates that there might be some challenges to full adoption. With any new technology that solves a problem in construction, unforeseen challenges may arise, like budget constraints, infrastructure challenges on-site, training on new products, and integration of old and new technologies.
The lack of power and internet infrastructure on construction sites was previously a significant obstacle to tech deployment. These challenges have since been overcome with wireless solar-powered hardware and cellular connectivity. Now that construction companies are discovering the possibilities of solar and mobile technology, construction tech adoption is picking up.
With that in mind, most companies are now moving towards technologies like cloud-based software and mobile devices to facilitate instant communication and collaboration anywhere in the world. Whether sharing livestreaming video, or real-time BIM project visualization via tablet, these technologies make high-level collaboration easy, without tethering people to an office or job site. However, going from one technology to another in a short period has unique challenges for companies that have done things the same way for a long time.
The 2021 ABC Tech Report showed that 34% of contractors believe the number one challenge to using new technology is poor adoption overall. Poor employee cooperation or subcontractors who aren’t familiar with the chosen technology can provide an obstacle to adopting and successfully implementing new tech.
In the same report, 17% of contractors said their #1 challenge to technology adoption was that it was difficult to use. 16% said it was a lack of integration with their existing technology. These findings support the idea that full adoption of technology in the construction industry will depend on technology becoming easier to use and to integrate into existing systems.
Fortunately, this is something that construction technology companies are beginning to address, with more integration compatibility and higher standards for ease of use and intuitive software.
THE FUTURE OF CONSTRUCTION TECHNOLOGY
Historically, a big challenge in construction has been communication and information sharing. Early in the technology revolution, the solution was simple, with the emergence of telephones and email making communication faster and easier. Today, those are no longer the most efficient methods of communication or collaboration.
Continuing growth of technology in the construction industry is a sure thing. This means existing technologies will continue to evolve, while new technologies will likely further revolutionize the construction industry.
AI in construction will become more widely used, likely becoming a standard requirement in all site cameras within a decade. It’s in such high demand that technology companies are working hard to provide AI solutions to construction challenges, like safety, traffic control, and materials management. Right now, the usefulness of AI is just beginning to make itself apparent, and AI technology is still in a state of growth. The possibilities continue to expand every year, so new capabilities of AI in construction will be popping up consistently in the near future.
Even insurance companies are seeing the benefits of the rapid growth of construction technology. AXA Insurance recently said “new and emerging technologies are showing potential to reduce risk, improve productivity, and increase profitability on construction projects.”
Having insurance companies support technology in construction has its benefits. Many construction companies are already profiting from the insurance breaks they get for deploying site cameras on their projects. Those savings will likely continue to expand, encouraging further tech adoption in the coming years.
The future of construction is likely to be defined by innovation and technological advancement, and it’s not too soon to embrace it. Early adopters of advanced technologies like AI, machine learning, and cutting-edge software can help shape the future of construction technology and pave the way for tech-adoption stragglers. Using the most up-to-date technology to boost productivity and efficiency is an effective way to remain competitive in an industry that is rapidly changing.