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Tech cloudburst rains opportunity on all disciplines

Tech cloudburst rains
opportunity on all disciplines

by ROB McMANAMY | Aug 3, 2015

As Chicago last week teemed with hundreds of industry technologists and vendors from around the U.S., gathered for the AGC-IT Forum's annual conference, BuiltWorlds hosted its own star-studded event, Cloud Coverage, featuring industry luminaries from Autodesk, Heitman Technologies, Applied Software, and more. A midsummer night's dream team of presenters told tall tales of a fantastic present and an even wilder, fast-evolving future that technology still holds in store for our industry.

ASTI''s Burroughs

ASTI''s Burroughs

"We are in a very fluid time, so early adopters of technology in our industry will see opportunities much sooner" said Richard Burroughs, president of Atlanta-based Applied Software Technology Inc, a co-host of the event. No matter where your organization may be in its tech evolution today, "You have to say, 'We can be a little better tomorrow.'"

Andy Egan's Weaver

Andy Egan's Weaver

Indeed, a common theme of the evening was our speakers reassuring the masses not to be intimidated and overwhelmed by all the new technology or the seemingly relentless proliferation of new tools and apps. "Change can be scary, but you can't paralyze yourself, thinking, 'Man, we are so far behind,'" said Chris Weaver, director of technology for mechanical contractor Andy J. Egan Co., Grand Rapids, MI. "You've got to start somewhere, so just get in there and start doing."

Because like it or not, everybody else is jumping in, with or without you. Young, old, blue collar or white collar, no one wants to be left behind. 

Autodesk's Scopano

Autodesk's Scopano

"There is a massive convergence going on," noted Stacy Scopano, Atlanta-based senior industry strategy manager for Autodesk. "In 2010, I told construction execs that one day everyone on jobsites would be using technology. I got laughed out of the room. They said, 'You don't know our guys out in the field.'"

Turns out he did. And now that Big Data continues to get bigger, the amount of information already at the fingertips of virtually every worker on a project is just staggering. As a result, with products like BIM360, "What you get now is a single source of truth on a project," added Scopano.

Pope to Pope: Scopano's presentation included this eye-popping tech snapshot from St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. At top is the assemblage for Pope Benedict's installation. At bottom, Pope Francis was greeted by a sea of devices.

Pope to Pope: Scopano's presentation included this eye-popping tech snapshot from St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. At top is the assemblage for Pope Benedict's installation. At bottom, Pope Francis was greeted by a sea of devices.

Still, Scopano said that he does have generational worries about our industry. "We've got a lot of older guys in this industry now who are retiring," he noted. "We have to capture what they know and extract that body of knowledge."

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, we've got to get that next generation to care about our industry, Scopano added. Free websites for kids like Tinkercad.com are already helping, he said.

At present, though, use of the cloud already is revolutionizing interdisciplinary collaboration like never before. "It's being used to bridge the gap between architects and contractors," said Karl Heitman, architect, founder and president of Heitman Architects and its growing subset, Heitman Technologies. "Seeing this industry move from pencils to computers and 3D is really exciting. I'm very optimistic about how all these technologies are blending together and expanding our collective knowledge base."

And that excitement and optimism contihues to be contagious.

"The next five years are going to be great fun," said a smiling Burroughs.

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