The latest digital innovations in Construction

The latest digital innovations in Construction
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I’m currently on the train, coming back from the DigitalBAU expo in Cologne, where I had the pleasure of representing Z-LAB to new clients.

It was fascinating to see all of the most recent developments and innovations which are coming to the construction industry in Germany in the coming months and years.Here are my takeaways of the most popular and important innovations on display:

  • Platforms: Clients like construction companies are demanding a wider selection of services and providers, and slowly but surely are coming to digital platforms to find them. While previously when trying to find rental equipment meant searching for and phoning several companies, then waiting hours (or days) for a response, new rental platforms like klickrent allow them to get the benefits of thousands of providers.
  • AR and VR: a lot of agencies were showing off new ways to see what finished construction projects would look like using augmented and virtual reality headsets. However, compared to the enthusiasm of the solution providers, customer response was a lot less passionate. It seems like architects and site managers cannot yet see the value of putting themselves in a virtual room. And to be honest, it doesn’t seem to yet provide enough actual added value.

These exhibitors used their VR solution much more than any visitors did

  • BIM (building information modelling): there was one software solution which at least 30 exhibitors were trying to get people excited about, and that was BIM. A way for architects, designers, planners, engineers and craftsmen to collaborate on building plans, each company was tiring that they had finally created the software solution which would bring everything together. While technologically innovative, the challenge they face is convincing everyone in the value chain to accept using the same system, since all stakeholders will likely with multiple other companies across different projects. This could make it challenging for a single solution to dominate the market.

Some exhibitors pulled out all the stops

  • Image based site measurement: the final trend I want to highlight is a combination of hardware and software to overlay real world images of construction sites onto architectural plans, to see progress and even measure changes. Some of the hardware was pretty standard, like drones to image roofs, some were new uses of high end scanners like automated laser machines, and some were definitely early stage prototypes, like one which looked like a cross between a tricycle and aheadset. The software definitely has scope to improve, as in most cases it still requires a human to draw walls and boxes into the images rather than the software being able to recognise them. But it is definitely a step forward.

Some truly awful slogans. This is made me cringe!

So those are some of the innovations I saw on the construction industry so far in Germany. What have you seen in your country, and what do you find exciting on the horizon? Let me know in the comments below.

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