The Construction Industry Has Tech Fever

01Aug17

by KATE L. HARRISON

Smart construction sites now use augmented reality, drones and more.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

At first glance, a muddy, disorganized and congested construction site might not seem like the best place for flashy, expensive tech like drones, remote-controlled machinery, and AR glasses. But Willy Schlacks, president and co-founder of EquipmentShare, knows for the modern job site, these tools are a match made in heaven.

Schlacks’ company is transforming the estimated $713 billion construction industry with their Internet of Things solution, ES Track. With a solution known as telematics technology, his company aggregates large amounts of equipment data to modernize old and much less efficient processes within the industry. Telematics is the branch of information technology that deals with the long-distance transmission of computerized information. It is just one of many technologies changing the construction industry today.

Here’s a look at some of the technologies Schlacks says are moving the industry forward by helping boost operational efficiency, streamline projects and cut costs:

1. Data Aggregation

Data is the key to effective equipment and project management in the modern construction industry. Powered by telematics, contractors, owners, and fleet managers are able to pull valuable data like run times, oil levels, tire pressure and location, for every piece of equipment. Aggregated over long periods of time and at large volume, this data gives owners and operators greater visibility into the functionality and value of their equipment — allowing them to make smarter decisions when it comes to fleet management and equipment deployment.

“Instead of letting their equipment collect dust in a warehouse corner,” Schlacks says, “contractors can pinpoint dozers, tractors and lifts they should either rent or sell to drive greater ROI.”

2. Drones

Providing a real-time look at job sites and construction projects, drones capture insights into material volume, equipment location and on-site progress. And they’re more than a fad. It’s projected that the construction industry will purchase more than 6.3 million drones by 2025.

“While a bird’s-eye view of your site is exciting, the biggest impact drones have on the construction industry is the data collected on the back-end,” says Schlacks “Without pulling, tracking and analyzing data, drones wouldn’t be all that valuable.”

3. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) gear is helping workers visualize equipment and jobsite data in real time. Increasingly, contractors and equipment managers are leaning on AR technology to proactively catch breakdowns, double-check building plans, and track on-site progress.

Whether on a tablet, helmet visor (like the Daqri Smart Helmet) or AR glasses which are forecast to reach 5.4 million units by 2020, augmented reality allows workers to see what’s going on inside a machine, through their screens. For instance, an augmented reality app might allow a contractor to hold up their phone to a piece of equipment and instantly see an overview of data, such as fuel level, tire pressure or engine conditions.

4. Automation

It may seem futuristic, but robots and automated equipment powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) are also finding their place on the construction site. Automation is helping to improve safety by preventing crashes, speeding up project timelines, and increasing efficiency. Take, for example, the Hadrian robotic bricklayer, which lays bricks 20 times faster than human hands.

“While full automation in the construction industry is still 10+ years out,” Schlacks says, “We’re starting to see hints of automation in more predictable and controlled construction environments such as highway and mining operations.”

There’s no arguing that emerging construction technologies are driving greater efficiency, increasing productivity and boosting the bottom line for contractors. As more adopters lean on telematics data and bring modern technologies to the job site, the construction industry of the future will look very different than it does today.

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