Last week I shared a few great predictions for technology in construction for 2016. Where will new developments in technology allow construction projects to go in 2016? Some people are focused on hardware, a few on software, and even a few on processes. Today I will add to this series with a few more predictions from fellow construction technologist Dan Conery and myself.

Prediction #1 – Drones will assume more roles on the jobsite

“In 2015, drones became popular among consumers, and consumer technologies often make their way onto job sites: for example, iPads. Drones will become more pervasive as people get used to them – and as the Federal Aviation Administration figures out how to regulate them or gets out of the way. Picture using drones for tasks such as visual inspections of places dangerous or difficult for humans to reach, such as bridge undersides and curtain walls.”

Prediction #2 – More workers will wear technology

“Construction can be dangerous. To ensure the health and safety of workers (and control expensive insurance claims), life safety wearable technologies will become more popular. For example, wearables can relay vital signs for people on remote or dangerous parts of the jobsite, and alert supervisors if a diabetic’s blood sugar goes low or heart rate beats dangerously fast. And injured workers in remote locations will have a way to signal for help.”

Prediction #3 – Robotics will get a foothold

“By “robotics,” think “3D printing.” For example, a robot that lays out a masonry wall. People (or other machines) feed the bricks and mortar, and the robot erects the wall!”

Prediction #4 – More automation on the construction site

“After 15 years of experimenting with robotics and 3D printing, we’ll have self-assembling buildings. You’ll “print” the building! As in manufacturing, construction will be marked by high automation and high quality. And that quality will be repeatable!  As a result of automation, the demand for unskilled labor will continue to decline, and the demand for skilled labor will continue to rise. Workers will need to know how to run the machines.”

Prediction #5 – Visual planning software will become necessary

“Visual planning software should be in use, because those technologies, such as Newforma® LeanPlanner software, support the democratization of decision-making and unlock the potential of people by fostering collaboration. By “democratization,” I mean it’s not just your skills you bring – your steelwork or carpentry or drywall or painting – but the way you solve problems, derived from your life experience. It’ll unlock solutions you would not dream as a person or small group. But note: Such technologies only work on top of a culture of collaboration and democratic decision-making. Without that culture, the technologies are bricks.”

Dan Conery, VP of Business Development at Newforma

In conclusion here are my predictions for 2016:

1. BIM for All

The ability to view and add real time sites conditions to a BIM model is becoming a highly sought after workflow for many construction companies. The days of creating a BIM model that just is used for presentations, contract requirements or simple visualization are over. Many contractors have hired staff to build, coordinate and manage their own 3D models. The savings on time and cost have been well documented. In 2016 look to see the use of BIM become common place alongside the other traditional workflows.

Products such as Assemble Systems, BIM 360 DOCS, and Bluebeam will continue to push the boundary of how 3D model data is shared and viewed by construction employees in the field. As the pace of project schedules picks up speed in the new year the need for quicker and more reliable coordination will become more vital. Using devices such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 will allow construction users to take the BIM workflow into the field to view and add data in real time.

2. Legal Drones

Now that the date has come and gone (December 21, 2015) to register UAV/UAS or “Drones” expect to see the release of the final ruling allowing for the use of a drone unit on construction sites to be more realistic. This will allow construction companies to move forward with their “experimentation” with UAV/ UAS technology.

There are many benefits that construction companies can realize for using UAV/UAS units on their project sites. Drone units can provide hourly updates about project condition by taking photos, videos and scanning the project site. In the future a Drone could be deployed on a project to deliver a constant stream of data to the project site and main office.
Companies interested in deploying drones to need register their unit with the FAA, apply for a Section 333 waiver, develop an internal program for safety and pilot training, and inform their insurance carrier about the use cases for the device (to insure proper risk management control are in place).

3. Laser Scanning

The ability to determine existing and real time sites conditions is becoming a highly sought after workflow for many construction companies. In markets such as industrial, medical and residential renovation projects are increasingly complicated. In older facilities there are little to no “As-Built” drawings that adequately document existing systems. Take for example an aging hospital built in the early 1940’s that has been renovated many many times. What if you are a General Contractor asked to submit a bid for a new renovation. How will you know the location and tolerances of all the existing utilities in the basement?

One of the more accurate options would be to laser scan the area and upload that information to a BIM model. Laser scanning provides contractors an extremely accurate way to scan the interior spaces they are building or renovating. The cost of hardware is coming down and the power of the software is coming up quickly.

In 2016 platforms such as the Trimble DPI-8 Handheld Scanner and Matterport Pro 3D Camera will change the way existing conditions are documented in the field. These devices will allow construction engineering staff to measure and document spaces with hand held devices. This information will generate 3D data that can be fed back into a BIM model and managed gig forward in the project. In addition, platforms such as Matterport, Pointivo and Google’s Project Tango will change the way location data is captured in the field. These platforms will allows construction layout staff to measure and document spaces with hand held devices.

4. Wearables

The introduction of wearable technology has already begun to change the construction industry. Devices such as Google Glass and the GoPro have made a significant impact. The first version of Google Glass allowed the user to take pictures and record videos of the things that they were looking at. The GoPro units allow staff to document existing site condition like never before. Employees are able to mount a GoPro unit to their hard hat or harness and take constant photos or videos. Some companies have even mounted them in equipment and cranes

In 2016 look for wearables to become more commonplace on construction project sites. The workflows of safety, time entry, photos will see the biggest impact. The release of the Apple Watch has paved the way construction employees to start tracking items such as their personal health, location, and production.  The Oculus platform a paired with a Samsung Smartphone offers users a whole new world of options for Augmented Reality thoughts apps such as SmartReality, a product of JBKnowledge. The Myo armband can now control presentations through a laptop, what will it allow users to do later this year?
What wearables allowed construction users to actually complete workflows in the field in real time? What if a GoPro user could take site progress photos and send to a server in real time through a Smartphone hotspot? What if a Myo user could control a tablet to generate punch list items? What is a Oculus user could view real time changes to a BIM model? All of these options are possible to some degree now, the question is which companies will unlock these workflows to develop their new competitive edge in 2016!