Tech Trinity: Three worldly predictions for 2015

Tech Trinity: Three worldly predictions for 2015


This article first appeared in Construction Executive TechTrends.

Three major technology trends are gaining momentum that construction professionals need to address in 2015. 


Smartphones and tablets on the jobsite are currently providing unprecedented and ubiquitous access to up-to-date project information, providing the environment to reduce errors and increase efficiency and effectiveness. Apps, 3-D visualization and real time data are just some of the next generation tools that construction professionals are enjoying in the field.

 Digit Group's Doherty

 Digit Group's Doherty

2015 will increase the velocity of information with the introduction of “things” that will contribute to project communication, coordination and collaboration. The FCC’s recent commercial exemption for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly called drones, for use on construction sites will bring enormous benefits in the form of increased safety, security and operational efficiencies to construction jobsites throughout the United States.

For example, a jobsite worker can attach a smartphone to a drone and send it to a hard-to-reach area of a building under construction to record pictures or video of a problem area. The worker can then have a hands-free video conference with an architect or engineer to discuss the problem (which will be visible to all parties) and find an appropriate solution, saving time and money.

In addition to drones, the use of sensor technologies continues to gain momentum in the form of location awareness for people, equipment, materials and tools. Sensor technologies such as iBeacons are providing inexpensive and easy-to-use solutions for jobsite access to information in an automated manner. For example, an iBeacon on a construction site recognizes an active project-specific app on a worker’s smartphone and automatically “checks in” the worker as he enters the active site. Upon leaving the site, the iBeacon “checks out” the same worker, providing an accurate accounting of who is onsite or offsite, increasing worker safety and project security.

Data, documents and multimedia communicating among objects to relay proper and accurate information to a person is The Internet of Things (IoT). With I0T, an object represents itself digitally and relates to a person, other objects and data. IoT is an important movement that will affect every aspect of every project from design, fabrication and construction to facility management in 2015.


As the pricing of Computer Numerical Control (CNC)-enabled machinery continues to fall and the training of construction professionals to use these machines increases, the use of digital fabrication, both offsite and in the field, is becoming commonplace, providing better quality and increased profits for firms that use this production and procurement methodology. It is already being used in the homebuilding industry. Digital fabrication is in its infancy, but 2015 promises to be when the tipping point begins and DigiFab becomes not just a novelty, but rather a core function of how work gets done on construction projects nationwide.


The gaming industry has developed sophisticated graphic technologies that allow developers to create virtual worlds that act as the “stage sets” for their customers. These virtual worlds provide a rich visualization experience that immerses “gamers” to play alone in a story or with multiple players. The AEC industry has adopted gaming technologies and is quickly discovering a solution that emancipates their design and construction data from the expert system authoring tools, such as BIM, and allows their data to become “open” and flexible to be used in other ways.

Because of gaming technologies’ levels of detail for 3-D visualized objects and the ability to place objects in a highly accurate geospatial manner, the use of gaming technologies is exploding in AEC. Many AEC professionals are using gaming engines, such as Unity and Unreal, to package their designs to easily communicate with all project stakeholders, taking advantage of these gaming engines’ use of simple navigation commands on a computer, tablet or smartphone. Because gaming technologies do not alter the data, provide a multiuser experience and in most cases are free, gaming in the AEC industry is here to stay. With gaming engines, AEC data moves freely between software programs through free technology standards such as Collada.

Distributing AEC data into various facility management software solutions is no longer a laborious effort and provides tremendous value for building operators. A lasting effect of this new process is that authenticated data is now associated with a physical building, providing the opportunity to have buildings communicate with each other. Some are calling this the Internet of Buildings while others call it Smart Cities. 2015 will bring discovery and opportunity for the industry, propelled by these technology trends.

A co-founder of the AEC Hackathon, the author is president & CEO of the digit group inc. and a senior fellow on the Design Futures Council. He also is a BuiltWorlds member.

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