Future of Construction – Construction Drones, AR and Wearable Tech | Construction Podcast

The Commercial Construction Index tracks global construction trends to inform industry leaders on the most important problems facing the construction market. Listen to “A Podcast That Builds” host Ben Johnson and Dodge’s Donna Laquidara-Carr discuss the findings from the 2018 Q4 CCI Report, including insights into the future of construction, construction drones and other emerging construction technologies. Below is a transcript of this construction podcast. 


Ben Johnson:    

Hello and welcome to "A Podcast That Builds", a podcast covering the news, trends and analysis that will shape the future of building. On today's show we'll be discussing technology on the job site, which is the subject of the spotlight article and the Q4 2018 CCI report. And we have the report's author with us today, Donna Laquidara-Carr. Welcome, Donna.

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:  

Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here again.

 

Ben Johnson:    

So, let's talk about the topic you chose this quarter, which is advanced technology on the job site and the future of construction. Which technologies did you choose to include in this study?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:  

Well, we actually had a pretty long list. It included construction drones and equipment tagging, augmented or virtual reality because we didn't really separate those two out wearables, which we've seen a huge interest in lately. RFID tagging, tending to be a more about materials than the equipment tagging. Reality capture, automated equipment or robotics, you know, the kind of things where dump trucks are driving themselves. And 3D printing. We started out just by finding out what they use now, what contractors are using and what contractors expect to use in three years. Because we really just wanted to understand a baseline of what was going on with these technologies right now. There were a few things we expected such as construction drones being widely used, you know, that was, we knew that that was true. And with, you know, we saw over one third right now though for report using them, which was a little bit higher than I was expecting and 39% expect to use them within three years.

So that's a pretty well-established technology. Now out on the job site the only other two currently that were used by more than 10% were equipment tagging and augmented and or virtual reality. Now that strong performance for a virtual reality or augmented reality, that was a little surprising too. And then some of the real surprises were that if you combine all the technologies together, over half of the contractors use at least one of them. So even though these are all emerging, this whole field of technology on the job site is really becoming prevalent when you've got over half of the contractor's using something. And then we saw that there's a really dynamic interest in them because just under three quarters expect to enter the new era of the future of construction within three years. That was about 74%.

 

Ben Johnson:    

So, I'm curious which technologies have the biggest increase expected in expected use in your study?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:  

Well, equipment tagging sees a big spike and that's going to be used the most other than construction drones, and so does RFID tagging. But if you look at just, you know, where the biggest growth is from where it is now to where it's going to be in three years. It's wearables. That's what really had the largest increase growth.

 

Ben Johnson:    

Any idea why that might be?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:  

Well, I think there's a few reasons. One is that the technology for all three for wearables, equipment tagging and RFID tagging is actually pretty sufficiently developed. We're not talking about relying on technology that still needs to, this can still be perfected. It can still be improved, but it's functional as it is right now. And that plays a huge impact. You know, if there's something like robotics or especially three d printing, they're still working out the kinks of some basic functionality there. Another thing that may be contributing to why these three are the most popular is that they'd been developed for the construction industry specifically, which means that, you know, the contractor specific needs are already been addressed in the technologies they're seeing on the market. And it also helps the prices are certainly getting to be a little bit more in line with what contractors can think about investing in and for wearables in particular that the way that they've been connected in the minds of the industry with making job sites safer and more productive hits on two key points that really matter to contractors these days.

 

Ben Johnson:    

So, you mentioned earlier that nearly three quarters of contractors expect to use at least one of these future of construction technologies within three years. Why do you think contractors are so interested in these technologies?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:  

Well, we ask contractors whether any of these technologies would help them achieve critical benefits. And their answers really for me at least made the driving force for adoption. Very, very clear. About three quarters of contractors believe that at least one of these technologies can help improve labor productivity and improved also improve key performance indicators on projects, schedule, budgets, safety, you know, when you can really impact those kinds of things. Productivity, safety, schedule, budget. This really speaks to the priorities that contractors have in their industry. Equipment tagging landed up emerging as the major technology in this study because it was incited for its potential to improve all three of those categories. Labor, budgets, schedule and safety. Interestingly the top one for safety, safety was the only one where really there was a one technology everyone focused on and you know, everything else was kind of much, much smaller. And that was wearables, which again, you know, I think really speaks to why they're seeing that spike in growth.

 

Ben Johnson:    

So, do you think there's one thing driving technology adoption in construction more than others?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:  

Well, in addition to asking the question about the specific technologies that had the potential to help contractors achieve those key benefits, we also asked them to rank the top benefits that would encourage them to invest in technology here. Or they can only select the top three. So, you know, rather than, you know, just chest checking on what technologies would help with all the benefits. We really get a picture that emerges of what their biggest priorities are and two thirds of them put increased labor productivity among their top three. So, you know, any technologies that can really visibly and demonstrably address that are going to be of interest to contractors, especially if they're priced appropriately. Scheduled budget and safety were all selected by half as well. So that reinforces that these are also issues that you really want to be able to address. But that ability to increase labor productivity is definitely going to be the top driver for technology adoption.

 

Ben Johnson:    

So personal opinion here, but the, you got to see a lot of interesting technologies in this study. What do you find the most cool?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:  

Oh, that's an interesting question. It's hard to resist this augmented virtual reality thing, you know, it helps. It could potentially, if they can perfect it for construction, it could help address skill gaps, right? Because you could actually include sort of instructions on how to do things in the whatever visual thing people are wearing. And you know, and it's also for me personally, you know, as a researcher and not a contractor, a technology I can easily visualize and imagine being of use and that helps make it cooler to me.

 

Ben Johnson:    

It is literally visual, and I can certainly use it the next time I need to change out a plumbing fixture. If I could put on some glasses that would give me directions as to how to not screw it up, that would be great.

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:  

Yes, exactly. I mean, I know that sounds silly, but that's exactly the kind of potential they have on the job site when we're seeing contractors in the study that we talked about last time we spoke. When we see contractors really worried about the skills people are coming in with ways to address those skill challenges and give them quick, easy ways to train, not just in general, but to this specific circumstance could be really powerful.

 

Ben Johnson:    

That was some great insights into the future of construction technologies, Donna. Thanks so much for joining us.

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:  

Sure. Always a pleasure.

 

Ben Johnson:    

Thank you so much for joining us today on "A Podcast That Builds", you can get a free copy of the report referenced in today's show at construction.com under Resources. You can also reach Dodge at 877-784-9556. Thanks for listening. We'll see you next time.

 

Episode Links:

Q4 2018 Commercial Construction Index Report