The pace of evolution in construction focused technology seems to be speeding up each year. Every year the industry must explore, adapt and implement new advances in construction technology. What were the big construction technology highlights for 2016? The following are a few highlights that I believe made a big impact on the industry. 

The Surface Pro

The Construction Industry saw more adoption by Users such as company Executives and Project Managers. The Surface Pro allows construction users to continue using legacy software such as MS Office (Outlook, Excel and Word), Primavera P6, and various accounting software.

In addition, more Apps arrived in the Microsoft App store such as Plangrid, Procore, and iAuditor have joined existing apps such as Bluebeam Revu, Drawboard, and Latista. These innovative companies have listened to their users and have migrated their software to the Windows platform. This allows construction users to work in a the office with a laptop set up (Keyboard and Mouse) or go out into the field and work in tablet mode to view files, capture field mark ups, or take photos.

The addition of the Surface Studio and Dial at the end of the year were interesting additions to the Surface family to watch in 2017. These new devices offer office users in pre-construction and project management roles new tools to help out with take off, estimating and mark up workflows.

Procore App Market Place

Several years ago I had the idea of connecting mobile apps through cloud technology, or as I referred to it “App Alchemy”. The idea was to make it possible to move data from one app to another one. Over the past few years the team at Procore have been working on way to accomplish this concept. In early 2016 Procore announced the launch of the Procore App Marketplace with around 20 integrations. The coding team have opened up the Procore platform API to allow third party apps the ability to access data in the system. This means that Procore users could have apps like Botlink (for drone images), Box (for cloud storage) and Dexter & Chaney (for financial information) connected into their Procore account.

The was an initial move toward creating what is referred to a “Common Data Environment”. A concept which means that all the data a company may generate and use if connected digitally through the cloud. In October Procore announces the second group of apps that had been added to the Procore App Marketplace. These included Push to Talk (Employee to Employee Comunication) and Rhumbix (Employe Telematics).

Battery Powered Smart Tools

Over the past year there have been several advances in battery powered tools, or should I say “Smart Power Tools”, for the construction industry. The introduction of battery powered tools on construction project sites help improve both the production and safety of crews. The introduction of Bluetooth technology is helping to improve performance and security. These new battery packs delivers more power for performance, while also making the job site safe from less extension cords.

In 2016 Dewalt introduced the worlds first reverse compatible batter pack, the FlexVolt system. This innovative new battery pack can power the new line 60V Max tools (or 120V when used as a pair) or the older 20V Max tools. The battery pack automatically switches from 20V to 60V when connected to a power tool. This allows one batter pack to work with the new line of 60V  tools and older 20 Volt tools such as drills, grinders, and saws. 

Dewalt also added new features to the (Tool Connect) App allows users to control the new Dewalt series of Bluetooth Batteries. Field employees using the App on their smartphone can control and monitor the battery in several ways.  Field users can control connect to a battery to enable or lock out the  battery for use by others. Users can lend a battery to another user and set up a work area, a geofence boundary zone. The app shows the “Last Seen” location. This feature is based on data from Google Maps which allows users to know where the last recorded position of a battery is.

To learn more about the Tool Connect app check out this video (CLICK HERE).

The Milwaukee M18 RED LITHIUM series offers a 18V ( 9.0 Ah) battery pack that can  extended power offering that has been engineered to hold over 1,800 charges. This provides users with nearly five times more tool run time, thirty five percent more power, and run nearly sixty precent cooler. The new REDLINK intelligence feature  provides overload protection by utilizing system communication between tool, battery and charger. The fuel gauge on board: displays remaining run-time for less downtime on the job The battery case is designed to be water resistant through a secure latch cover and electronic coating. The RED LITHIUM Series works with over 100 Milwaukee M18 cordless power tools.

Milwaukee Tools has added more tools and features to the ONE-KEY system. The ONE-KEY  mobile app combines a mobile app with built in Bluetooth technology. The ONE-KEY app allows users to customize, track and manage the new line of M18 Fuel tools (drills, impact, sawzall, and lights). The app allows users to customize tools through the built in Bluetooth system. Field employees using the App on their smartphone can control and monitor the tool in several ways.

To learn more about the Milwaukee ONE-KEY app check out this video (CLICK HERE).

2016 was a very interesting year for advances in construction technology. To listen to my highlights from 2016 and the other members of the ConTechTrio check out Episode #48 (CLICK HERE).

Recently I spoke with a few other construction technology enthusiast, a few other highlights from 2016 they offered were:

Lucas Acosta: Founder and CEO of Foojee

While there are lots of players in the industry, they’re usually riding on the back of the giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook (Oculus). So until one of these titans makes a move in new technologies like AR/VR/360, those landscapes will continue to be a frenzy with fast-changing applications and use-cases. I think these sleeping giants are waiting for the right moment in the market to release something that will actually be used. It’s still too early to have a clear projection, and that’s why they’re not making big bets”.

Dustin Chapman: Account Manager at BusyBusy 

“There are two bits of news from 2016 that shows the most potential to me- both are probably a few years off from being relevant, however.

  1. Virtual Reality- this has massive potential for construction on two fronts.  A) Conceptualizing what’s going to be built before it’s actually built both before any dirt is ever moved and also coordination of trades, etc. as buildings are being built. I have a hard time today seeing a superintendent and a tradesman in an open lobby with VR headsets on looking up and having a conversation about what’s going to be built in that space (I think it will get some laughs the first time it happens)- but eventually I could see it becoming the norm. B) Taking people who are far away from the jobsite to the jobsite to see progress and provide input. Whether that be an owner’s rep, an architect, or somebody from the contractor’s or subcontractor’s home office that’s not on site- that person can now see progress in a “nearly there” sense and provide input on the project from wherever they are at.
  2. Self-driving Freight- Unlike the self-driving car, which is being marketed as a consumer product, the idea of self-driving freight ( delivery trucks , semis, concrete trucks, etc.) could be an instant money maker for companies so I think we’ll see that sector take off much more quickly than most think it will. Increasing fuel efficiency, shorter delivery times, increased safety, etc. are all potential game changers for self-driving freight. It could also result in lost jobs- which is something that has to be carefully thought out ahead of time as well.”

Peter Lazensky: CEO at Notevault

“We saw a significant increase in mobile adoption in the field. Based on a recent survey we did, nearly 70% of respondents are utilizing mobile apps to manage construction reports with 45% of the ones not currently utilizing mobile mentioning they are highly likely to adopt smartphone solutions in the next 3-6 months. More info will become available in the next few weeks on our overall findings from our data and survey.” 

Kris Lengeiza: Director of Virtual Design at Stiles Construction

“2016 was a year which we saw the awareness of AR/VR, laser scanning and drones grow by huge margins, 2017 will be the year in which we figure out how to get the most value out of them”.

Rowan Matz: VP of Product at Drawboard

“2016 was the year the Surface line truly announced itself as a powerful companion for AEC professionals. This has only been boosted by the recent releases of the new power base Surface book (for graphics-intensive modelling software) and the Surface Studio (for design professionals). Largely due to the constant evolution of Windows 10, computing infrastructure that supports mobile work no longer requires complicated implementation.

2016 saw a boom in the adoption of VR as a common visualization tool in the AEC space and growth in the general awareness of AR. Led by the HoloLens, early adopters experimented heavily with various AR technologies on their projects in a bid to find that leading edge.”

Megan Wild: Freelance Writer

“One of the big highlights of 2016 was the adoption of drones in construction for surveying and project management purposes. Construction isn’t well known for its efficiency, so this has been a huge step forward.”

Nathan Wood: Founder & CEO at Spectrum AEC

“I would say that the biggest thing I learned this year is that there is never going to be a “One Size Fits All” app for construction. The people that make this industry great are too unique and too valuable to be contained in just one app. My hope is for app developers in 2017 to focus more on app partnerships and integrations instead of bells and whistles.

We saw a rush of new apps in 2016 like Rhumbix, SmartVid.IO and feature developments from Procore and PlanGrid. I predict fewer new apps introduced and less features added in lieu of stringer integrations with “industry standard” apps like Revit or Bluebeam. Also, keep an eye out for both FieldLens and OnTarget to make a big splash in 2017!”

What were you technology highlights form 2016?