Although 2016 is over, it brought huge construction technology trends that defined the construction industry as a whole. Before we adventure into the wild technological frontier of 2017, we’re taking a look back at trends that defined construction this past year. Here’s what made our list:
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, became a major staple construction technology trend of 2016 when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introduced their new law in August, making it legal for Construction companies to operate drones onsite. This industry defining moment opened the floodgates for construction companies in America to both test and deploy drones onsite to aid in the construction process.
Before the FAA’s law changing introduction, drones were already fast becoming a construction industry staple and were working onsite from the early parts of 2016 up until the close of the year. Drones popped up everywhere from the Sacramento King Stadium in Illinois via Turner Construction Company to the US Department of Transportation in Michigan to Allstate Inspections in Colorado.
To date, larger scale construction company leaders are adopting UAV technology, but popularity and awareness is trickling down quickly to all areas of construction.
2016 proved that Virtual Reality (VR) was not just for the likes of video games, but for the AEC industry as well, and it fast became a construction technology trend that defined the industry. VR, a computer generated simulation viewed on electrical equipment (usually some type of headset), brought construction into a sensory driven world filled with images of life like scenarios.
With advancements in VR technology integrations into BIM in 2016, AEC professionals were able to view project information and share actual project models with stakeholders and team members. Non-designers were able to visualize and conceptualize projects and provide feedback to the firms handling design. With the help of VR in 2016, the entire construction process became an immersive experience for everyone involved.
During the latter part of 2016, we also saw construction giant Bechtel use VR to train their workers to increase safety onsite. Workers trained using VR headsets with simulations of dangerous tasks which allowed the trainees to repetitively practice risky work scenarios in a safe environment. (Bechtel)
Slightly different from its brother technology VR, Augmented Reality (AR) became a staple construction technology trend in its own right during 2016. AR, defined as a technology that superimposes images laid over user’s real-world view via headset device, focuses less on a fully integrated environment and more on a digital overlay over our real world.
Microsoft’s highly anticipated AR device, HoloLens, entered the commercial market this year, leading to an interest in applied applications for the device for construction. Construction/software giants AECOM and Trimble partnered up for the world’s first application use of HoloLens in the AEC industry to use their AR “mixed reality” technology to explore complex structures.
Even further, companies Scope AR and construction manufacturing giant, Caterpillar, teamed up to bring a never before seen service to the Heavy Civil side of construction. Through the use of tablets, Caterpillar machine operators receive AR video support where experts can remotely show them how to repair damages and problems right on the spot through a holographic simulation.
AR in 2016 took major strides in delivering never before done things to the entire AEC industry.
Last on our list of construction technology trends that majorly impacted 2016 is the continued use of sensors onsite, and the big data they bring with them. But 2016 was not just about tracking things, but about proactively obtaining data to monitor the status of both objects and people.
IoT sensors saw a surge of usage in the AEC industry to track equipment such as large machinery onsite. They did things like collect important data in real-time, such as the health of machinery, real-time data of operating equipment as it’s being used, historical maintenance records, equipment inspections and even the location at any given time of the machine/equipment. They could self-detect and communicate to construction companies the impending need for repairs before machinery breaks down. In other words, sensors paved the way in 2016 for giving companies real-time data that could help with foresight and budgetary management.
Safety sensors also were a staple trend. Safety sensors can now track the health and status of workers, such as their body temperature, if they’ve been injured, how long they’ve been on their feet and so on. The digital information being collected can be used by construction firms to create better work environments for their employees.
So Long, 2016!
What trends did you experience at your firm in 2016? Share below in the comments.