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Construction is one of the most important sectors across the globe, and a recent benchmark report found that  by 2030, the volume of output will rise by 85 per cent to $15.5 trillion worldwide. Yet despite growing demand, research from McKinsey shows that  productivity in the construction industry has been flat for decades

Businesses must evolve in order to stay competitive and on top of the workload. Luckily, recent innovations in  telematics and big-data analytics can streamline work processes, ensuring the sector is staying on top of growing demand as they keep up with emerging tech trends. 

While some of these new trends, like 3D printing and VR, are closer to a full-scale rollout than others, they can all offer significant benefits. Companies that are first to adapt to new technologies will not only boost their productivity, they’ll gain a serious advantage in a competitive industry.

Let’s examine three new technologies shaping the construction industry for the future.

Exoskeletons 

A natural progression from the likes of smart boots and helmets, exoskeletons are the next step in wearable technology for construction workers. Ranging from small units targeting specific body parts like your shoulders to full body suits,  ABI Research predicts the robotic exoskeleton market will reach $1.8 billion in 2025. 

These futuristic suits shift weight from one body part to another, reducing continuous strain. For example, Sarcos Robotics announced new advancements in its  Guardian XO Max body suit in January this year, allowing users to easily lift 90kg repeatedly without any injuries.

What does this mean for your business? Exoskeletons offer significant safety and wellbeing benefits while improving productivity. Whether it’s a back support exosuit, an arm support limb or a full body suit, they reduce repetitive strain and allow workers to perform manual tasks with heavy equipment easily. As exoskeletons place less importance on an individual’s strength, they would ultimately allow more people to enter the construction industry, regardless of their physical abilities, helping to address increasing demand.

How likely is it? While the Guardian XO Max is slated for delivery in 2020, equipping all construction workers with full body exoskeletons is expensive. We can expect the rollout of exoskeletons to start small, with construction workers using power gloves and support limbs to perform efficiently without exertion.

Bioconcrete

Despite concrete being the most used material in the world, it’s prone to damage over time, which can lead to compromised structural integrity of buildings or infrastructure. Luckily, researchers at Delft University of Technology have created a new form of concrete using civil engineering and microbiology, known as ‘ bioconcrete’. 

This self-healing material combines regular concrete with bacteria that produces limestone. This limestone then fills any gaps or cracks that are forming before any serious corrosion occurs.

What does this mean for your business? Repairing cracks in concrete can be both a time and labour-intensive process for workers. Bioconcrete requires no human intervention once placed and ensures major structures will remain intact for decades to come. This will have a huge impact on local government and councils as they won’t need to dedicate time and money towards maintaining vital public infrastructure like paths and roads. 

How likely is it?  Bioconcrete currently costs double the amount of regular concrete, but researchers are working towards making the material more accessible. While we’re several years away from roads and bridges built entirely with this material, the ground-breaking innovation will eventually lead to a whole new age of ‘biological buildings’.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have been making waves across various labour forces, and they’re now being used to automate workflow and improve efficiency on construction sites. Many construction managers use AI to mitigate risk though  Artificial Neural Networks. These networks use factors such as project size and worker competence level to provide a realistic timeline estimation while predicting potential cost overruns.

AI is also being employed alongside human workers to automate repetitive tasks. Earlier this year,  Built Robotics released its line of autonomous construction vehicles including track loaders, excavators and dozers. These self-operative vehicles use onboard sensors and cameras to perform monotonous prep tasks. 

What does this mean for your business? Most mega projects run over budget, and Artificial Neural Networks provide realistic timelines for construction managers. AI allows humans to dedicate time to more pressing tasks and autonomous vehicles can be used in inclement conditions or while workers are sleeping for round-the-clock progress. 

How likely is it? Advanced construction businesses are already finding ways to integrate AI, so it won’t be long before the rest of the industry catches up. Many construction managers use big data and machine learning for realistic predictions, and while autonomous vehicles currently carry a hefty price point, we can expect more self-driving machinery to enter the market in the coming years.

With only 32 per cent of companies reporting they aren’t experimenting with emerging technology in 2019, it’s essential for businesses to maintain a competitive edge. Whether its full-body exoskeletons, self-healing concrete or AI, technology allows construction businesses to improve worker safety, increase productivity and position construction as a cutting-edge industry for a new generation of employees.

James French is a Australasian Solutions Specialist, CE at Teletrac Navman.

James French is Australasian Solution Specialist for the construction industry at Teletrac Navman. James has worked for more than 20 years in the construction industry and shares his expert knowledge and passion for GPS asset tracking with construction businesses to fulfill their needs.