The Evolution of Wearables for the AEC, Part 1

The Evolution of Wearables
for the AEC, Part 1

by JAMES BENHAM, CEO, JBKnowledge Inc. | Sep 4, 2015


Wearable technology devices have been around since long before “wearables” was a buzzword.

I imagine Steve Mann (above), who is dubbed “The Father of Wearable Computing”, was pretty satisfied with how far he’d come on wearables since Edward Thorp’s roulette computer cheated Vegas in the 1960s. I shudder at the thought of what both of these technologists could do with an Apple Watch and the Internet at their disposal.

Courtesy of Bridgit.

Courtesy of Bridgit.

Why did Thorp and Mann care about wearables before they were cool? Why should we care now that they are cool? Wearables, more than any other hardware, allow us to interact with information technology in a very personal way. Wearables break the immersion and sensory boundaries set by flat handheld devices and help us experience and manipulate data in a much more intuitive way.

Before this decade, wearables failed in their application because of connectivity and processing power. Never before have we had the computing power coupled with today’s network infrastructure. And it’s only going to keep getting better.

The microcosm that is a construction site, is in a way like our cities a decade ago – still trying to optimize connectivity and lower cost of utility. But we’re getting there. Services like Google Fiber, 5G Gigabit LTE, and ultra high-speed wifi will make their way to construction sites soon, much like they have already to cities and universities. And with that connectivity will come all the technology that it enables, especially wearables.

Once the barriers of connectivity and processing power are removed from the design and usage of wearables, touch-free computing will make an unprecedented impact on all industries. But I’m here, as most of you already know, to talk about construction.

In a recent survey we conducted of over 2,000 construction professionals, we found that 65% of the companies surveyed are using building information modeling (BIM) software. I’m highlighting this statistic because it reveals the biggest opportunity for wearables in the construction industry.

What better way to use interactive, hands-free technology than to experience 3D structures before, during, and after they are being built? BIM allows for that on a flat screen, while wearables could go 10 steps past current BIM solutions by putting the user inside the model. Wearables have the potential to remove the middle man between viewing and experiencing a building model, giving everyone with a BIM file a first-person experience. (It also gives the country’s balsa wood forests a break!)

In my next post, I’ll talk about some of the most innovative wearable technology available now, and soon-to-be available. Because when the “planets” of connectivity, processing power, and low-cost production align for these solutions, you’ll want to know about them, if not already be using them.

Based in Bryan/College Station TX, the author is CEO of JBKnowledge Inc., a founding member of the Construction Open Software Alliance, an acclaimed speaker and technologist, and a consultant to AGCCFMA, and the MCAA.

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