Technology is constantly changing the way we work, and live our lives every single day. We’re discovering new ways to utilise devices, and technical tools, supported by advances in software constantly improving efficiency and finding new ways to innovate.
A follow on from our previous blog ‘Sci Fi Tech in Civil Engineering – Opening Careers Doors and Sustainable Smart Developments’ we take a look at different aspects of technology not previously covered affecting the built environment.
In the workplace, this new ‘digital future’ of businesses of course has its’ advantages, but also comes with its drawbacks – what is inevitable, is that digital transformation is unavoidable. Although not always factually accurate, advances in technology are often driven by fictional ideas and evidence of this can be seen across entertainment platforms. For instance, the sci-fi Netflix-favourite “Black Mirror” showcases what life would be like if technology continues to advance at the rate we’re moving (if you’ve not seen, we recommend!).
The built environment is a huge contributor to our economic growth, so more and more research and development is being carried out to improve systems wherever possible, and new technologies, or new ways to use existing technologies are always emerging.
The reason technology and design software prove fundamental in the world of architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) is that they improve the way we work. We’ve provided a few examples of how technology has already benefitted the industry, and discussed future trends that are emerging.
Drones are excellent multi-purpose apparatus used by people of all ages. Drones are being introduced onto construction sites as a highly-beneficial tool. They’re effective for site surveying, covering land quicker than a construction worker could. Further to this, it improves overall communication channels between the team in terms of sharing and collaborating ideas.
The 5G network is set to become one of the biggest game-changers of 2020. Having already entered the scene, the world is still catching up with the new step up of remote data transmission. This exciting new development promises increased speeds, reliability, capacity as well as reduced latency. To put it bluntly, a much more elite version of our current 4G software.
5G will make a noticeable different to certain industries who rely on this technology. IT infrastructure - BIM software- will be easily accessible.
Of course, not forgetting overall communication coverage will be a huge improvement for site workers. Data will be available more quickly and accessibly.
Construction individuals and engineers will receive the most benefits from technological features being incorporated into work uniform. The main effects will initially be improvements to health and safety, as well as information being transmitted more effectively.
Video-recording devices implemented onto hard-hats. This ensures construction workers are protected, hazards may be detected that the worker may not have noticed. As well as this, it protects the employer. If something unfortunately was to happen on-site, the employer can look back at the footage and investigate.
However this is fairly standard now in our modern era. Fieldlens have released an article about new developments with helmets for the construction industry. An example they provide is Daqri, a company providing wearable technology. They’ve developed a helmet where the main benefit is still the safety aspect, however the hat comes equipped with a visor- where the owner can pick up visuals through Augmented Reality (AR) Technology. BIM models, and other planning documents can be visualised without having to move to an office environment.
Additional sensors are also a feature, where the technology will feed information whether the conditions are safe to work in (i.e falling objects).
Another aspect could be adding GPS tracking systems to PCP (Personal Protective Equipment). This acts as a safety caution, in-case the worker is faced with a tricky situation and need to be located quickly. On the other hand, the GPS can indicate how saturated the workforce is in certain areas, whether other parts of the site can be worked on.
Another focus the technological industry are excited about is self-driving cars, which will be a great development for the construction industry. On-site vehicles will no longer need “drivers” to control them, leaving the workers free to take on different tasks. Despite much evidence to promote the safety of self-driving vehicles as being safer than manual operation, much scepticism and ethical debates hold back the adoption of such technologies.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
All the said technologies in the article link nicely to AI as they create new data which can be fed into and linked to AI systems. As machine learning continues to improve, computers are able to assign more meaning to video footage, geo-data, create links, draw insights and communicate and co-ordinate valuable actions to support workers and improve productivity.
AI is currently thriving, and improving through research, trials and the increasing availability and accessibility of data to gain insights from. This technology is vital in terms of societal change, as the progress will affect our roles as humans in terms of our jobs. AI programs a device to “learn” and process data. This affects the built environment, particularly engineering- as these machines are able to adapt and learn how to take on activities that engineers, designers and contractors do.
This technology is again, saving man hours and allowing businesses to take on other projects. Some argue that we won’t be affected by jobs lost to new technology as new roles will be created to fit with the new advanced future. What we know for sure, is an AI revolution isn’t on the brink right away as it’s still in it’s narrow stages of development, which we will cover in an upcoming post focusing on the artificial intelligence in the built environment.
So, what now?
All in all, as technologies become more mainstream, we must move with the pace technology is progressing. There are certainly pro’s to embracing a more futuristic, technological world – but there are con’s too. Where will we be? Are our jobs safe?
At present, integrating technology and roles within the built environment is proving effective. It saves time, is cost-effective (in the long-run), opens new future jobs and increases client satisfaction as their proposals have a quicker turnaround.
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