Nine construction technology trends you must keep your eyes on in 2019 range from autonomous vehicles and exoskeletons to robots, artificial intelligence and cloud computing.
Rapidly moving from science fiction to reality, robots are beginning to enter construction in a number of areas.
From autonomous rovers that can increase the efficiency and detail of site inspections to mechanical arms that automate highly repetitive tasks like brick-laying and tying rebar, the robotic revolution looks set to gather significant pace in 2019.
While the credibility of robots on live construction sites has long been questioned, the last 12 months saw a number of real-world trials deliver their results and the unveiling of some astonishing developments.
Now taken seriously, the debate has moved on to how best to integrate robots, the impact they will have on existing job roles and the new skills that will be required as processes become automated.
THE CONNECTED JOBSITE
Connected job-sites use cloud technology to make information about almost every aspect of their operation available to all the relevant parties, regardless of whether those parties are on-site or elsewhere.
From putting design information streamed from a single point of truth into the palms of operatives, to information by geolocation, remote site monitoring, personnel location tracking, live mark-ups and the seamless transfer of as-built information – connected job sites improve communication, productivity and safety for everyone involved in a project.
With growing awareness of the impact that construction has on our environment, technological advances are bringing numerous new material innovations to the fore.
The recycling of hard-to-dispose-of waste products has seen a significant increase, particularly in relation to plastics.
Recent developments have seen the incorporation of waste plastic into roadways and even its use as a material for 3D printing new building components or structures.
CO2 is another by-product being re-purposed in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the industry.
CO2 can be injected into concrete mix used in the building’s structure. This carbon dioxide becomes trapped inside the concrete as it cures while chemical reactions within the mix form limestone nanoparticles, that increase the overall compressive strength of the final material.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – also known as “drones” – are set to become increasingly common on construction projects throughout 2019.
From undertaking inspections ensuring that operatives are kept out of harm’s way, to surveying vast areas of land in just a few minutes, the continued rise of UAVs will considerably improve safety and productivity in construction.
In a similar vein to robotics and the rise of automation, debate in this field has matured from one around feasibility to consider the steps needed for a successful implementation – with safety, approvals, privacy, the need for suitable legislation and the urgent demand for specialist skill sets all on the agenda.
VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY
While virtual reality (VR) has traditionally enabled project teams and stakeholders to step inside their proposed schemes before construction works commence, the technology is finding countless new applications across the industry as 2019 dawns.
From enabling walk-throughs of complex site logistics plans in advance to supporting health and safety awareness training, VR use has matured in construction and made a largely successful transition from its early days of novelty into a number of practical uses.
In hardware developments, HP’s Virtual Reality Backpack PC allows VR users to enjoy a more realistic “untethered” experience, adding to authenticity and improving outcomes.
Meanwhile, developments continue to be made in augmented reality (AR).
The technology provides a digital overlay of our real-world view, offering a range of data to site personnel; from design information to statistics on productivity and health and safety warnings.