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Technology and the future of construction

In a presentation at RICS COBRA 2016, Dr Huijbregts explains that now industries face being changed from the outside by digital disruptors. The construction industry is large and well established, but it has not embraced transformation and innovation like others and it must not assume that it won’t be affected.

Claudia Conway, Journals Editor, RICS
18 September 2017

Large businesses such as Kodak did not pay heed and will be totally unknown to the digital natives soon to be entering the workforce. Tellingly, he highlights that Pokemon Go reached many more users in its first month than BIM has over a number of years of existence.

He highlighted the key technologies and issues of which construction must be aware:

  • Mobile – everything must be mobile compatible.
  • Video – vital for remote learning, watching for leisure and as a tool for collaboration and innovation.
  • Apps – businesses should have apps to meet the needs of their customers, or face falling behind.
  • Internet of People/Internet of Things – mastering data and using powerful analysis is a must.
  • 3D printing – alters the relationship between where we design, manufacture  and consume.
  • Robotics and AI – robots are changing healthcare and manufacture, and now AI is truly emerging to take them beyond this.
  • Drones – as well as mining, transportation and policing applications, drones could prove invaluable for construction visualisation.
  • Regulation is needed for all sorts of technologies such as drones or sharing economy, but at the moment it cannot keep up with the pace of change.
  • Blockchain – this could be revolutionary in financial services, contracts and home buying, it’s coming fast and could have bigger impact than the internet.

Watch this session | Dr. Rick Huijbregts

Construction, said Dr Huijbregts, is not ready for technology and the possibility of being disrupted by companies such as Tesla.

He recommended that all organisations have a chief digital officer for business transformation.  MIT research has proved that companies with a digital strategy are 26% more profitable than ones without, and while 96% of business executives know they need one, only 17% actually have one in place.

BIM is still not the big game changer for construction, workspace and FM that it was predicted to be and remains primarily a design tool, however technologies such as power over Ethernet and the bringing together of once disparate systems into ‘open, secure, scalable IT infrastructure’ could be revolutionary. These systems, suggested Dr Huijbregts, should be thought of as the ‘fourth utility’.

New standards are regulations are needed, along with simple persistence to convince the industry of the need to move forward, thrive and attract the younger generation.

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