Construction Technology Hot List for 2020

construction technologyThe number of new technologies for construction exploded over the past few years and investment in U.S.-based construction technology startups reached an all-time high of $3.1 billion in 2018, compared with $731 million in 2017, according to Crunchbase dataThis year, adoption of disrupting technologies is expected to accelerate as start-ups transition from testing to full commercialization of their products. Driven by cost-overruns, schedule delays and labor shortages, the construction industry is overdue for investment in technologies that can create competitive advantage.

Jay Snyder, Technology and Innovation Practice Leader for construction consulting firm FMI, believes that contractors have begun to recognize that they need help developing a tech road map and that they need to be more deliberate in how they are spending tech dollars. “The conversation around leveraging data for insights across the industry is really catching on. The challenge is that many people don’t have an integrated technology stack, a data strategy, or data stores,” says Snyder.

Three technologies that are promising for 2020 are artificial intelligence, robotics and virtual/augmented reality. For each technology, we’ve highlighted solutions that are commercially available and identified construction firms that are already employing those solutions.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Artificial intelligence (AI) promises to create new efficiencies a wide range of applications such as project management, fleet management, documentation and estimating. According to a 2019 KPMG Global Construction Survey, more than 52 percent of the industry’s innovators (those who scored within the top 20 percent on a future-ready index) believe that within five years, machine learning, cognitive machine learning and AI will be commonplace. Twenty-four percent of these innovators have already adopted AI. 

Companies to watch include:

  • Alice Technologies
  • Briq
  • Disperse
  • InEight
  • OpenSpace
  • Togal
  • Uptake

Any solution that is going to create capacity is a win,” says Snyder. “AI doesn’t need a lot of assessing. Contractors don’t need to understanding the back end of AI platforms. Instead they should appreciate enhanced awareness that drives practical use cases.” According to Snyder, AI solutions don’t cost any more than legacy solutions, but they have an intelligent back end that can alleviate much of the manual burden for superintendents and estimators, for example. The challenge will be creating the huge data sets needed to leverage the technology.

The global market for artificial intelligence (AI) in construction was valued at USD $398.6 million in 2018 and is anticipated to exhibit a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.0 percent from 2019 to 2025, according to GrandView Research.

VIRTUAL REALITY AND AUGMENTED REALITY

Virtual reality makes it easier for project owners, contractors and designers to visualize the built environment before construction begins, and for equipment operators to learn skills in a no-risk environment. 

Augmented reality provides a digital overlay to a construction site, offering data or information to help improve quality and productivity. Collaboration is easier and less time consuming.

Safety training is yet another important application that becomes more interactive and effective with VR and AR. In the 2019 KPMG Global Construction Survey, 59 percent of innovation leaders in construction reported implementing virtual reality while 45 percent have implemented augmented reality.

According to a study by Kenneth Research, AR and VR are expected to grow into a $409.99 billion market by 2020– with a CAGR of 54.91 percent. While the strongest demand for the technologies currently comes from gaming, live events, video entertainment and retail—adoption is expected to spread to a diverse mix of industries including construction, real estate, healthcare, education.

Solutions to watch in construction include:

  • Dalux Field
  • IrisVR
  • Serious Labs
  • Trimble
  • vGIS
  • Visual Vocal

ROBOTICS

While just 10 percent of construction industry innovators are currently using robotics, 2020 is likely to be a pivotal year. “According to Research and Markets, the construction robotics market will be valued at $190 million by 2025, with an annual growth rate of more than 20 percent.

Tight labor markets, an aging workforce and low margins are driving contractors to look for more efficient ways to automate many aspects of the construction process, from excavation and building layouts, to rebar tying and brick-laying.

The companies to watch in construction robotics are:

  • Built Robotics
  • Construction Robotics (SAM and MULE)
  • Dusty Robotics
  • Holobuilder
  • Scaled Robotics
  • Tybot

“I think 2020 is the year for robotics,” says Snyder. “Instead of people looking at robotics as an R&D effort, construction companies are beginning to realize the technology is mature and safe enough to deploy on real projects among workers. With the advent of 5G technology, latency, and to a degree poor connectivity, will be completely eliminated.” According to Snyder, the industry has reached its maximum capacity and efficiency using traditional tools. Process optimization and new technologies will be needed to meet increased demand in a market with a flat or declining workforce.  

COMPANIES TO WATCH

Technology Company Application Company Notes* Contractors Using It
 
 
 
Artificial Intelligence
Alice Technologies Construction planning software uses AI to help firms understand the impact of key decisions on project cost and duration Reduce project costs by $30 million on a typical $500 million project
 
$13.4 million in funding**
 
 
AF Gruppen
Parsons
Briq Data analytics software powered by AI, machine learning and blockchain technology, helps contractors predict the success of projects as well as identify demand for new projects $6 million in funding** McGowan Gordon Construction
Schuchar
Mortenson
 
Disperse Software takes 2D and 3D visual data from construction sites and uses AI to create a digital twin and provide actionable insights. Reduces schedulers time by 60% and project manager’s time by 25%
 
$16.7 million in funding**to support North American expansion
Meyer Bergman
Lodha
Mace and Canary Wharf Contractors
 
InEight Schedule
 
AI captures insights and learnings from prior projects and uses the stored knowledge to make informed suggestions during the planning process 30,000 users in 700 companies
 
Acquired Basis Software and QA Software in 2018
 
Kiewit (Wholly-owned subsidiary)
 
 
Open Space Creates navigable 360-degree photos of construction sites with camera attached to hardhat.
Maps images to project plans with no corrections or location pinning.
20x faster than manual photo capture
 
$17.5 million in funding**
Suffolk Construction
DPR Construction
Level 10 Construction
 
Togal  AI-based automated takeoff software platform that uses flat PDF files.
 
  Coastal Construction
KD Construction
 
Uptake AI platform for fleet management aimed at equipment dealers helps fleet owners utilize preventative, predictive and prescriptive maintenance CNBC Disruptor 50 Honoree 2019, 2018, 2017
 
No. 3 on Forbes inaugural AI Top 50 List
 
 
Blanchard CAT
Ohio CAT
Virtual Reality/
Augmented Reality
Dalux Field A supervision, quality assurance and safety inspection augmented reality app for construction. BIM models are uploaded, and when the jobsite is scanned using a smartphone camera, a 3D map is created, anchoring the model in the physical world. 15 of the 50 largest contractors in Europe are using Dalux
 
Multiplex
Straybag International
Ferrovial
IrisVR
 
IrisVR Prospect allows building designers and contractors to take 3D plans and blueprints and turn them into VR experiences viewable on devices like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, GearVR and Cardboard
Iris Scope converts panoramic images into VR experiences for smartphones
$13.7 million in funding** Mortenson
Thorton Thomosetti
HDR
Black & Veatch
Serious Labs Combines instructional design, game mechanics, virtual reality and simulation technologies to train employees on jobsite safety, operation of cranes, mobile elevating work platforms, and forklifts $7.9 million funding** United Rentals
Industrial Training International
 
Trimble Site Vision is an outdoor augmented reality system that allows users to explore complex 2 and 3D models with accuracy, both above and below the ground
Trimble XR10 with HoloLens 2 is compatible with a standard hardhat
Trimble Connect for HoloLens connects project data from field to explore and interact with BIM models
 
  Site Vision:
Skanska
ONEC Group
Fletcher Construction
 
Trible Connect:
Acciona
BP
Consolis
AECOM
Gensler
CSCEC
 
vGIS Construction
 
Enables users to place BIM designs in the real world 90 percent of users were able to detect clashes faster
 
Skanska
Stantec
Tighe & Bond
vGIS 
Utilities

 
Transforms GIS data into augmented reality displays and holograms overlaid on a view of a physical job site
 
Visualization of water pipes, sewage systems, gas and electrical lines, improves safety and productivity Toms River Municipal Utilities Authority
Robotics Built Robotics An AI guidance system that can be installed on existing construction equipment from any manufacturer, turning excavators, bulldozers, and skid steers into fully autonomous robots Unveiling at ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020 in Las Vegas with remote demo
 
$48 million in funding
Mortenson
Independent Construction
Sunstate Equipment Co.
Construction Robotics
SAM
SAM (Semi-automated mason) is a brick-laying robot designed and engineered guided by laborers Lays bricks six times faster than conventional methods; reduces lifting by 80%
 
$75,000 in funding**
Barton Malow
Leidal & Hart Masonry Contractors
Wilhelm Construction
Avila Masonry
Clark Construction Group
Berich Masonry
 



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