Last week I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the 2016 AGC IT Forum Conference in Chicago. This was the eighth annual addition of the industry leading technology event. The conference consists of a day and a half of amazing presentations and demonstrations of new and cutting edge technology for the construction industry. This year the AGC IT Forum partnered with Northwestern University to provide a new academic flavor to the conference. There were several great presentations at the conference this year.

A few of the highlights from the first day for me were:

Keynote by Brent Darnell – Building & Leading High Performance Teams

Mr. Darnell kicked off the day discussed how the role of leadership have evolved in construction. He asked the audience, “What are the problem? The Process or People”. Mr. Darnell then asked the audience to participate in an exercise in communication. He had all of the attendees stand up and use two playing cards. We were first asked to pass one card around the table clockwise, then we were asked to pass a second card around the table counter clock wise, and finally different stops and starts were introduced to create chaos into the process.

The point of this exercise was to demonstrate how construction crew dynamics work in the real world. People are just thrown into projects. People simply jump in, do not meet through a formal introduction, and deals are often not explained when things change. People are not into the process – communicate, trust and engage.

Mr. Darnell went on to explain that companies are struggling to deliver construction projects faster, cheaper, better. Owners expect a high level of performance of companies that have never met or worked together, with materials never used before in a one time design. How can companies do this in such a competitive market?

IoT & Field Connectivity – Dr. Burcin Kaplanoglu – VP and Operations Director at Lend Lease

Dr. Kapalanoglu discussed his research about on internet connectivity on construction projects sites. His team has been working on building a WIFI Mesh network for monitoring home on military base home. The company he works for hard a particular pain point and developed a solution to solve it.

He asked the audience “What is the ROI for new tech initiatives?”. He explained that there are several “Challenges for Connectivity” on project sites such as (1) Cost to Connect – how much spending now (2), VoIP – how stable and fast (3) Types of Connectivity – Cell, WIMAX, T1 lines (4) Temporary or Permanent (5) Speed to Deploy.

He encouraged the audience to think about the following: (1) Define IoT Strategy (2) Form partnership with Tech Company (3) Launch small scale pilots (4) Consider investing in accelerator / incubator (5)Start with energy consumption efficiency and process optimization.

Cyber Security – Securing Your Information Assets  Joe Oleksak  –  Partner at Plante Moran

The topic of Cyber Security has become a popular one over the past year at several conferences. But what does “Cyber Security” mean to you in your business and personal life? At the most basic level the term refers to how secure you data and network are from an out side attach by hacker (criminal technology masters looking to exploit your data). Mr. Oleksak discussed what Cyber Criminals are looking for today. They are looking for your Your Personal info, Credit Card data, Username and passwords. They are also looking for your  Business Email, Company Trade secrets, Customer list, and Vendor list. So why be concerned about Cyber Security? He reminded the audience that their job sites are connected, there are more devices per worker ( 2:1 ratio), and social media is much more prevalent with workers.

To demonstrate his point, Mr. Oleksak and his team set up a rogue free WIFI hotspot in the ball room to show the audience how easy it is to hack into systems. To accomplish this the team brought in a portal computer unit and wireless router. They created a mobile hotspot and named it “Hacker_Example”. The interesting thing to note here is that during the presentation more than a few attendees had tried to use the hotspot for “Free” internet access! The point of the exercise was to show how vulnerable mobile devices can be out in public using “free” WIFI networks.

Affordable Solutions – Steven Mulka & Rob McKinney

This year I opened the popular open session about new and affordable technology for construction. This is a very interactive 75 minute session that allows attendees to ask questions, seek answers, and share relevant “Affordable Solutions” that benefit their businesses. I started off the discussion with a update about a few new apps and updates on innovative other ones. Some of the topics and solutions discussed were discussed were…

Safety

CCS Safety: great internal lessons learned platform for sharing safety information.

Safesite: planning a new OSHA 300 Log reporting module.

Tool Management

Milwaukee ONE-KEY: scan photo to PDF

Dewalt ToolConnect: manage batteries through a  Bluetooth connection and GPS location.

Drones

COMMANDER: employee telematics for field information.

Drone Deploy:  digital time cards

Photos

SmartVido.IO: timekeeping app

FotoIn: new Tag options and deeper integrations with SharePoint and Office 365.

Time

Rhumbix: employee telematics for field information.

BusyBusy:  digital time cards

Plans

Drawboard: plan and PDF annotations for SurfacePro users.

RollOut AEC: provides plan management and comment stream for items.

Plans4Less: new printing technology for mock ups #PaperReality.

BIM

Revizto:  digital time cards

These were my highlights from day one of the 2016 AGC IT Forum Conference. Stay tuned for details about day two of the conference including  more presentations and a live broadcast by the ConTechTrio!