Emerging technology in construction - the benefits and risks.
Technology continues to change at a fast pace, shaping industries and working practices every day. The world is becoming a more digital and automated place. And, like others, the construction industry is under pressure to keep up.
How is technology changing construction?
Wearable ‘tech’ is increasing safety, accuracy and efficiency. There’s a smart hard hat which can project 3D images using augmented reality (AR). And, an enhanced safety vest that uses GPS and radio, that can warn users as they enter dangerous zones.
Mobile devices, apps, and project management software
These all help collaboration, communication and coordination. Building Information Modelling (BIM) software is a key change. It’s digital and replaces all needless paper such as blueprints and drawings.
Drones collect information from remote locations and help site security, assessments and inspections. They also keep track of logistics, deliveries and the workforce. Drone footage is even being converted into 3D pictures that can be compared to initial plans.
3D printers can print complex objects and unusually shaped parts and structures, using a method called ‘contour crafting’, where the cement is the ‘ink’. They can also print full scale models which reduces the chance of mistakes and future corrections; saving both time and money.
Robots can perform a range of tasks such as demolition, brick laying and excavating with more care and in less time. They can be manned remotely, even from another side of the world, or work independently; reducing any risks to site staff.
It’s easy to assume every leap forward in technology is a leap forward in benefit. But this isn’t always the case.
Increased technology could increase cyber security risks in construction
As companies rely on digital means, cyber security will be more of a threat than in the past. Businesses could become a focus of cyber criminal activity, corporate and political spying and cyber terrorists.
Your business could be targeted with viruses, malware and ransomware. These threats can disable and disrupt your systems and steal your sensitive and personal data. They could even gain access to flood controls, traffic systems and public transport systems. Such breaches can carry major legal, financial, and operational risks. Your hard earned reputation can be hurt if your systems are not protected.
Could new technology lead to workforce disruption for businesses in construction?Emerging technology could displace large numbers of your workforce. It will change the nature of work and jobs. Older technology will quickly become outdated. As a result the jobs and skills your business requires could phase out.We’re likely to see an increase in the use of new materials and a move towards pre-fabricated or modular building; as the industry looks to increase productivity. We’ll see a shift to a more automated approach using 3D printing, robotics and drones. As well as more data driven changes such as BIM, which will reduce the demand for some skills currently required.
What are the financial liabilities of new technology in construction?
As technology advances there will be a financial cost to use it. Your business will have to think about what will be useful in 20-30 years.
It might sound like science fiction but what if we have flying cars? Consider the world we live in today to what people thought was possible just 20 or 30 years ago. Once technology is integrated it can quickly become outdated. Your investment could be short-lived. This is important in the context of privately financed infrastructures. Many companies have financial risks based on models that are unable to identify this kind of disruption.
How you can combat technology and it’s construction risks
It’s vital that your employees understand how to use new technologies in the workplace, and the risks they could pose to both themselves and your business. Such liabilities may not be covered under standard construction insurance policies. Its important risk management strategies keep pace with the rest of the world.