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5 ways technology will modernise construction in 2017

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The new year is the time for companies to look back at the successes of the previous year, and look for key learnings for the year ahead… Thankfully, Chris Richardson, Trimble’s Business Area Manager Construction Software, has identified 5 key areas of change to keep a watch of this year.

In the civil engineering and construction industries, 2016 saw capital spending decrease – this decline was in response to reduced oil prices, which caused many energy companies globally to delay projects. This market contraction had some impacts upon the construction technology industry, while manufactures of heavy equipment felt the effects most.

As a result, we can expect to see an uptake in construction spending across Australia throughout 2017. In addition, the civil engineering space will be re-invigorated and challenged to deliver innovative solutions and methodologies across a number of key areas.

  1. Increased BIM Awareness and Adoption of Model-Based Construction

This year, we will see significant advancement of BIM – Building Information Management – in the civil construction space. We are continually seeing increased adoption of BIM technology throughout Asia Pacific. Contractors at all levels are becoming more aware of the benefits of model-based construction, and I believe we will see more engineers and owners moving away from paper design delivery to digital delivery. In addition, with BIM there’s a push to improve communication among different disciplines when generating models. These groups need to be on the same page to build a common model that’s accurate and can be delivered between various disciplines such as highway or railway design, utilities, structures and landscaping,

  1. Cloud-Based Design Spurred by Globalisation

Big changes are in store for design methodology, driven in a large part again by globalisation. Traditionally, designs and models have been tied to a PC, which makes collaboration challenging and cumbersome. We are seeing an increase in the number of organisations outsourcing design work to India, Eastern Europe or Asia where skilled engineering talent is less costly and readily available. The result is a lot of cross-border, cross-time zone, cross-language and cross-discipline design happening 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Cloud-based design technologies help meet the need for collaboration in a global environment, making model sharing easier and more prevalent.

  1. Leveraging the Connected Site on Both Large and Small Projects

There has been growing adoption of what we call the “connected site,” and that evolution is continuing full speed ahead in 2017. The goal of a connected site is a project environment where equipment is connected and communicated seamlessly. Information can be shared on development progress and machine diagnostics, between everyone involved in a project. In 2017 I anticipate that contractors will continue to look for opportunities to more deeply leverage their intelligent job site technology on both large and small projects.

In addition, we will see an increase in the number of equipment manufacturers providing factory-fit machine control programs, making it even easier for contractors to adopt machine control technology. As machine guidance and GPS solutions have evolved to become easier to use and less costly, contractors are realising they don’t have to hire a professional surveyor to get the most out of the technology, whether it’s site positioning technology or machine control.

  1. Site-Wide Connectivity with WiFi

While the speed and availability of mobile coverage is improving, the cost of mobile service on a jobsite is still relatively high because contractors must pay for multiple users and assets. This is why new advancements and options to bring high-speed broadband connectivity to a job site, at relatively low cost, is truly ground breaking.

Rugged wireless connectivity solutions are already available and being used to manage shipping containers at harbors and ports. Today, these wireless networks monitor inventory and continually process containers across the yard. The civil engineering industry will flock towards this caliber of reliable WiFi hotspot technology. WiFi will become more typical for corrections and data transfer, sharing of data between a machine and a field asset, or machine-to-machine or field asset-to-field asset, and then back to the office as well.

  1. Continued Advancements in Positioning

The appetite for a connected site and intelligent construction technology is in part being driven by advancements in satellite or internet delivery of GPS corrections. This is a move away from traditional base station technology where customers set up and operate their own base station, to a service-based model.

These technology advancements will allow contractors of all sizes to mobilise an entire workforce of people using mobile phones with relatively low-cost antennas and services to get centimeter-level positioning accuracy anywhere on the planet, within seconds. This major shift will fuel a whole new generation of application development, and it will let contractors leverage high-accuracy GPS for an even wider variety of construction-related tasks.

Together, these industry advancements will ensure that civil construction contractors will have increased access to more sophisticated digitally-evolved design methodologies, real-time information sharing, better real-time decision making and more collaboration across the project site.

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