Just like any other industry, the construction sector is constantly evolving, changing and making use of rapidly improving technological advancements.
From mobile phones and 4G WiFi to drones, augmented reality and BIM. There are so many different technologies impacting the construction industry.
As one of the UK’s leading suppliers of technologies to the construction industry, here’s our top 10 list of the technologies that our customers are utilising to create a more efficient, safer and cost effective construction site.
1. Mobile Devices
It’s no secret that construction companies and contractors have been using mobile devices for many years. Whether that’s tablets, phones or laptops, having a portable device that keeps your team connected while on site is important.
The beauty of mobile devices is their portability—allowing workers on site to stay connected whether they’re in the site office, or wandering around the site.
Many of our construction customers opt for tablets and mobiles with LTE capabilities, and a data SIM card inside allows them to stay online and make use of cloud technologies, modelling applications and safety systems (all of which are other items on this list).
Mobile devices are truly the backbone of the modern construction company—without them, sites wouldn’t be able to operate at their maximum efficiency.
How are Mobile Devices Being used in the Construction Industry?
We often see construction companies utilising their mobile devices (such as tablets), for on site modelling, technical drawings and cloud technologies/platforms as well as keeping in touch with colleagues.
Often, these vital assets need protection from the rough and ready environment of a construction site. As more construction firms use in-field devices for day-to-day tasks, we’re seeing an increase in accessories such as ruggedised cases and screen protectors, to keep these mobile devices safe.
2. 4G and 5G Data Connectivity
Internet connectivity is important, whether you’re in an office, working from home or on a construction site. 4G and 5G is a great way to connect your site devices to the internet, without using fixed broadband infrastructure (such as a fibre line).
With a strong 4G connection, you could reach speeds up to 150Mbps, with real world tests averaging around the 50-70Mbps mark in optimal conditions. Our tests show 5G reach speeds up to 600Mbps—faster than most fibre broadband connections.
How is 4G/5G Impacting the Construction Industry?
Many construction firms rely on 4G and 5G connectivity for their site offices and portable cabins.
With good internet connectivity, site workers can:
- Download and upload technical drawings
- Send and receive emails
- Browse the web
- Make important video calls
- Run a VoIP phone to ensure they’re contactable
Hundreds of sites are utilising our construction site WiFi solution, which provides your on-site team with reliable connectivity without the requirement for a fixed line or any permanent infrastructure.
3. The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things, often referred to as the IoT, is a global network of devices connected to one another via the internet. The IoT enables communication between devices,
These devices send and receive data, often using a Fixed-IP SIM card. Construction companies often utilise the IoT for VPNs, remote machine controls, CCTV and more. With IoT devices, businesses can reduce the number of staff required to run things, and help streamline their operation.
IoT In the Construction Industry
There are so many use cases and applications that can benefit from the IoT. From remote controlled machines to monitoring and sensors. With a Fixed IP, construction companies can dial into equipment and ensure everything is running smoothly.
The internet of things has had such a big impact across the globe. Everything from smart meters in your home monitoring electricity usage, to lighting towers, large construction equipment and more.
4. Building Information Modelling (BIM)
BIM has become a fundamental part of construction in the modern world. Helping generate realistic models of buildings, projects and materials to guide the build and design process.
Building information modelling (BIM) is a method for creating lifelike renders of construction projects using computers. Often, BIM helps simulate real world environments, materials, scenarios and physics to help construction workers, architects and contractors fully understand their project.
How BIM is Changing the Construction Industry
Before BIM was widely used, the process for planning and designing large scale projects was much more complicated.
BIM helps streamline larger projects, particularly those with high levels of complexity. It makes planning and modelling easier than ever, freeing up more time for construction and helping reduce overall costs.
BIM software Autodesk reports that 89% of architects will be using BIM software by 2024, along with 80% of structural engineers and 72% of civil engineers.
5. Drones & Aerial Imagery
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning drones and aerial surveys. Chances are, if you work in construction, you’ve seen someone, or heard of someone using a drone to assist with the planning and surveying of a project or site.
As the industry develops, drones are becoming commonplace—allowing developers and surveyors to build up a complete picture of land they’re developing before the planning stage.
With a thorough view of their proposed project from the air, architects, planners and construction teams can reduce the time spent planning projects, and improve the technical drawings of the area using data captured by the drones.
How Drones are used by the Construction Industry
Many drones that are used by construction companies come equipped with multiple methods to capture data.
From infrared sensors, to laser measuring tools, cameras, video equipment and sometimes even SONAR or LiDAR technology, a well-equipped drone gives surveyors the opportunity to create a complete map and environment of their surroundings.
6. Cloud Technologies and Platforms
Chances are, you already use some kind of cloud technology in your day to day job. If you’re sending an email using Outlook, browsing files on DropBox or using a cloud BIM software, then you’re already utilising the cloud.
Of course, it’s more than just simple tools that cloud technologies can deliver. Large scale construction projects often use cloud technologies to improve the modelling, planning and data processing.
Examples of common cloud technologies and platforms includes:
- Microsoft Office 365
- BIM software
How Cloud Technologies are Transforming the Construction Industry
Cloud technologies are impacting swathes of every day life—from Alexas and Google Homes to cloud computing technology for rendering vast quantities of data and processing the outcome quickly.
Cloud computing systems, such as AWS and DigitalOcean are the backbone of the internet and digital infrastructure, and construction companies that utilise it are seeing huge benefits.
7. Machine 2 Machine Communication
Machine 2 Machine, commonly shortened to M2M is a form of inter-device communication between equipment on a construction site.
An example of Machine 2 Machine is mention sensors linked to CCTV equipment. When the sensors detect movement, they can trigger a CCTV recording. Other examples include multiple large plant machines working together on one project simultaneously and asset monitoring.
A large construction project such as Hinkley Point C in Somerset, utilises site-wide M2M communications to streamline their operation. By tracking all of of their concrete vehicles, cranes, workers etc, they can ensure a high level of safety and more efficiently plan for the large operations and ventures on the site.
Machine 2 Machine often uses the same connectivity as the Internet Of Things, (fixed IP SIM cards) , but rather than feeding the data back to a centralised location or cloud server, M2M sends data to and from other machines using the same technology.
How is M2M Impacting the Construction Industry?
Machine 2 Machine communications are having a huge impact on the construction industry and related sectors.
Allowing machines to communicate with one another improves site automation, thereby reducing man-hours and cutting down on staffing costs.
Machines that communicate with one another also create a safer construction site. With lone-worker protection, environment motoring and safety procedures being automated, the construction industry is becoming safer due to M2M.
8. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence
Quite a hot topic in the technology sphere at the moment is big data and artificial intelligence (AI).
With all the technology and connectivity construction companies are utilising (IoT, M2M, 4G, BIM etc), they’re generating large amounts go data, which are often stored and process by large computers and enterprise level databases.
What is Big Data and AI for the Construction Industry?
Big data is a large collection of data that is too big for standard equipment to process and store.
Construction companies operating on large scale projects can use the data gathered across millions of data points throughout their site to further optimise and refine processes, helping reduce costs and improve the workflow of the site.
This data is often processed using artificial intelligence, which learns the site and how it operates to contribute to the improved workflow of the site team.
9. Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR)
Two technologies that go hand in hand are AR and VR. These two technologies allow users to visualise a project, structure or element in real time.
AR is often used as an overlay, where workers on site can use their tablet or mobile to view a projected image of the construction project onto the area they’re looking to construct it. As the user moves around, the model overlay keeps perspective, allowing construction workers to fully explore projects and gather a deeper understanding of the job.
VR is more commonly used in simulation, with architects and designers able to render a model and explore it in 3D space, as though it exists in real life. VR often requires more bulky equipment, such as a headset, and is therefore less practical for on-site use when compared to AR.s
How AR and VR are Impacting the Construction Industry
These two technologies go hand in hand with the construction industry. Using AR, workers can create a full visualisation of their projects, using as little as a tablet or mobile device.
While VR does require a bit more technology, which often makes it more impractical on a building site environment. However, in the planning stages, VR can be an important tool—helping engineers to plan not just the building itself, but the process and materials as well.
10. GPS Tracking & Fleet Management
Fleet management and GPS tracking is a key part of construction logistics and supply chain management—helping construction companies better supervise their incoming and outgoing deliveries, as well as tracking assets across site.
Our GPS tracking solution offers not just increased security for vehicles, but also helps improve site efficiency. Our fleet management solution tracks not only GPS locations of vehicles, but also:
- Door opens/closes
- Fuel level
- Speed and travelling information
- Fuel consumption & Mpg
- Driver work time
With all this data measuring multiple key metrics, construction companies can improve the site, ensuring that vehicles and resource and spread evenly and the areas that require more resource are catered for.
All vehicles and assets that are tracked can be monitored from a centralised location (usually a site office or head office), which minimises the number of engineers you need on the road, and consolidates your data into one easy to understand web portal—to help you better manage your site.
How Construction Companies are Utilising GPS Tracking
Large construction projects, like Hinkley Point C, are utilising fleet management and asset tracking to help improve the efficiency of their site. Vehicles such as cement trucks can be monitored from one centralised location, mapping their position on site and ensuring that concrete is delivered to specific areas quickly and efficiently.
Other construction companies utilise fleet management for their vehicles on site. Plant equipment such as trucks, forklifts, lorries and excavators can be tracked across site, with their locations monitored through the day. Additional data such as driver work time, fuel consumption and more all combine to give you a detailed, high level overview of the site.
So, there you have it, 10 technologies that are making a big impact on the construction industry—from 4G and 5G to GPS tracking and even VR.
As a provider of communication and technology solutions to the construction industry, our knowledge and industry insight helps us to be on the forefront of what’s coming in the industry. Speak to a member of our team about how Bytes Digital can help transform your construction company’s telecoms, connectivity and technology infrastructure.