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Five construction-sector tech trends for 2019

10th Jan 2019

A brand new year, and for techies there comes the usual predictions about the big developments to look out for in the year ahead. This week’s CES Tech Show in Las Vegas fires the starting gun on the year’s ‘ones to watch’, plus the usual sprinkling of the ridiculous (WiFi enabled cat toilet anyone?). Paul Fassnidge, BIM Digital Developer at Hydrock runs his eye over what's hot for 2019.

For the construction industry the technological advances trickle down and make their mark in their own way. It seems like every January in recent years I’ve read an industry tech blog telling me this is going to be the year for VR, AR, drones or 3D printing, when in fact these - and some other usual suspects - have been slowly gaining traction for a few years now. So, what are the top tech trends for 2019? Here’s 5 things I think are going to shape the way you work this year and beyond…

  1. AI & Machine Learning: In reality, machine learning is just one of many types of AI, and its ability to crunch enormous amounts of construction data, and then suggest how to improve it, is where we see its most powerful benefit. Companies like nPlan are starting to offer market-ready products for the industry, looking for opportunities in the volumes of data that the human brain simply cannot process.
  2. Block Chain: What started as the technology behind Crypto Currency, like Bitcoin, has suddenly become of interest to any industry involved in a transaction….so that’s everyone then! Using a Distributed Ledger (an independent data record of transactions), ownership and transfer of money, data - even construction site materials - can be reliably traced throughout its journey, and a record kept digitally. We’ve written about this previously, here.
  3. Robotics: Featuring in a number of industry areas, market-ready robots are starting to conduct site surveys, produce data and even carry out production tasks. Companies such as Scaled Robotics are delivering commercially available products being trialed by companies on site, now. These are robots that can adapt to changing conditions and ‘think for themselves’ (sometimes based on machine learning experience) to enhance automation.
  4. Connected Sites: As a continuation of themes from previous years, increased cloud computing power, capacity and faster data networks such as 5G are making data available faster, in greater volumes, and in real time. In the long-term, issuing drawings and construction information as a static, paper-based document will be a thing of the past: real-time delivery to site is about to be the norm.
  5. Generative Design: Here’s another one that’s been gaining traction over recent years. The difference in 2019 is the emergence of tools available for us to start having a play with it. Industry tech leader Autodesk launched a long term R&D project called Project Refinery which, when coupled with Dynamo (already available as part of Revit), gives you the beginnings of a Generative Design platform. You can find out more from Kean Walmsley’s excellent blog here.

Aside from my personal top five, there are plenty of other trends starting, or continuing, to gain industry traction in 2019 and beyond. Alongside the continuation of growth for VR, AR, drones and 3D printing, look out for Digital Twins, continuing development for Advance Materials and even the emergence of 4D printing(the 4th dimension?).

If I’ve still got your attention and you’ve read this far then the keen-eyed amongst you will have noticed a common running thread through all these technologies … data! They nearly all can’t operate, or cease to be useful without it. As a company, Hydrock is not alone in producing tons of data every year, right down to an excel spreadsheet with drawing numbers and issue dates. On its own, not very powerful. But bundled up and stored with lots of other, similar documents, analysis can take place and opportunities to do things better can be found. No data, in any format is useless.

The one biggest trend for me in 2019 is smart data usage. It will increasingly drive everything we do and the technology we use, so love your data no matter how big or small. Don’t leave it in your Recycle Bin or unloved in a folder on your desktop. Nurture it, store it well and make it available to everyone because it has value, even if we don’t know it yet! #loveyourdata

(Oh, and in case you’re in the market for one, you can find out more about a WiFi enabled cat litter tray here).