The construction industry is often criticised for being slow to adapt to change and reluctant to embrace new technologies. There are many horror stories circulating at the moment about robots stealing our jobs, especially in manual occupations like construction (Some have predicted robots will make bricklayers completely redundant for example). However, there are a number of exciting innovations which we should grab with both hands and show that our industry is ready for the fourth industrial revolution.
Perhaps the most promising prospect for our industry is virtual reality (VR). Wearing a headset or goggles, the user can be transported into another world and fully interact with elements in this new environment. Although the technology has been available to the public since the 1980s, only recently has the potential for VR to transform work been explored.
Take training for example – one of the main advantages of VR is that it allows the user to fully experience situations without being physically present, ideal for allowing workers to gain experience in environments which would be dangerous in the real world. What’s more, the immersive experience offered by VR means no more falling asleep during boring PowerPoint presentations.
Augmented reality (AR), not to be confused with VR, also has the potential to transform the construction industry. AR works by overlaying a digital image on top of a real-world image. Unlike VR, no specialist equipment is required – AR can be experienced using the phone in your pocket. This technology is already allowing clients to see what a completed project will look like, allowing them to request the design be altered if necessary. Adopting this on-site can facilitate better communication between all parties, leading to quicker and more informed decision-making.
Blockchain, the often-talked about but little-understood technology, could change project management within our industry. Put simply, blockchain securely records all transactions, eliminating the need for a middleman. Its sequential and unalterable nature makes it ideal when you need to understand what previous work has been undertaken, for example on roof refurbishment projects.
There is however one significant downside to blockchain – it requires an enormous amount of processing power and concerns have already been raised that the sheer amount of electricity the technology requires is contributing to global warming – a single transaction is estimated to create up to 500kg of Carbon Dioxide.
We are in an exciting time within the construction industry, with many technologies still being developed which could transform the way we work within the next decade. Some may make our work more efficient and some may eliminate certain tasks altogether. Whatever happens, IKO is ready for the digital age of construction.