autonomous construction is safer The introduction of autonomous construction plants will improve safety onsite, as sensors can identify and respond to danger quicker than humans.
“The move towards a digital construction industry is fuelled not by oil, but by data. In order to get the most out of it, it needs to be accessible and connected”
3D printing in construction. Having already disrupted the manufacturing industry, the lessons learnt from 3D printing smaller parts are being scaled up and applied to an industry in need of improvements in both safety and productivity. 3D printing has the perception of being a far-off dream. However, here in the Middle East we are in the midst of a revolution driven by the demands of pioneering and ambitious leaders. This is epitomised by the Dubai 3D printing vision to see 25% of building elements use 3D printing technology by 2030, with incremental targets such as 2% by
2019. Again, data is at the core of this technology. Ensuring its flow from design intent to physical realisation without corruption or interpretation is essential to fulfilling 3D printing’s potential. The much-anticipated arrival of autonomous vehicles on our roads is continually in the headlines as the technology reaches new milestones and achieves heightened levels of autonomy. This same technology is also being adapted for use on construction sites, but with much less fanfare. All heavy equipment manufacturers have or are developing autonomous construction plants, from
bulldozers to excavators, mobile cranes to piling rigs. With construction sites providing a more predictable and easily controlled environment, many believe that we will see the acceptance of autonomous construction vehicles before they become common on the roads. The introduction of autonomous construction plants will improve safety in two ways. First, sensors can identify and stop dangers quicker and more extensively than human operators. Secondly, because instructions such as setting out or the assessment of quality can be completed remotely, we would put fewer people in harm’s way in the first place. As more of this type of equipment is used, more data is gathered to improve the prediction algorithms and therefore the desire to use the equipment in the future, thus creating a virtuous circle. Automation and robotics isn’t coming, it is already here. It will change the way our industry works, from the complexity of projects we undertake to the types of people we employ. This drive towards automation isn’t without risks and uncertainties. However, the more imminent danger comes from the lack of awareness and appreciation of cyber security. The move towards a digital construction industry is fuelled not by oil, but by data. In order to get the most out of it, it needs to be accessible and connected, bringing with it the risk of abuse. Currently the industry isn’t a major target for cyber criminals and vandals. Inadvertently, our industry’s inertia to adopt technology has sheltered it from the risks of cyber crime. As we become more digitised, we must become more digitally secure – we must protect our digital oil. February 2018 39