Today, more and more construction companies are seeking to adopt new technologies onsite, as the move towards running fully paperless jobsites continues to gather pace. While some industry leaders have been quick to adapt, others are slower to make that all-important leap of faith towards embracing the latest technology. The threat of this growing divide makes it more important than ever for professionals to track emerging trends in construction technology. Adopting some of these innovations as part of your organisation’s workflow could be the key to staying one step ahead of the competition.
Device convergence: phablets to replace tablets on-site
A “phablet” – (phone + tablet = phablet) – is a smartphone with a screen which is larger in size than that of a typical smartphone, but smaller than a tablet computer. The large screen allows for greater versatility and room for manoeuvre, as well as making it easier to read and write content regardless of your environment. The phablet’s larger capacity also means that you are guaranteed a longer battery life.
Construction professionals have been in two minds on the subject of whether to deploy tablets, such as the iPad, onsite due to the large screen size, or invest in company smartphones which allow for more efficient collaboration. The solution to this quandary is possibly coming to an end with the introduction of phablet devices, which have the potential to provide the best of both worlds.
Augmented reality and wearables to make BIM and VDC more accessible
Augmented reality technologies such as Google Glass have the potential to revolutionise the way in which we interact with our immediate physical environment. The use of these technologies in construction has the potential to make virtual design and the use of BIM (Building Information Modelling) more accessible on-site. BIM enables project stakeholders to create information-rich virtual models that help better visualize building projects. Augmented reality promises to improve BIM by superimposing virtual models on a live view of the world.
Using GPS, the user can sync their location data to a BIM model. In doing so, they have the ability to see the 3D virtual view of the construction overlaid on the real-world view of the jobsite with the click of a button. Technologies are also currently being developed that make BIM data easier to manipulate for non-BIM experts, via one-click options and user-friendly design.
NFC, or near-field communications, allows information to be exchanged between devices when they are brought into contact with each other, or within a few centimetres of each other. The technology is has already been adopted in relation to mobile payments (tap to pay and pay from your phone) and was released as part of Apple’s iPhone 6, as well as being already present on many Android and Windows devices.
As NFC begins to grow as a popular form of data exchange we can expect to see many uses for it in construction -especially with materials tracking, prefabrication and workforce management. For example, NFC can be used to track prefabricated sections of large structures onsite. Tracking these prefabricated materials can help quickly identify if an incorrect section has been delivered, or if parts are missing prior to installation – saving valuable time and costs.