What's the future of construction software?
A realtime, digital twin of your construction site.
Construction software should do three things really well: shorten, simplify, and document work. Unfortunately, construction software solutions are traditionally sprawling, complex, and clunky, filled with dashboards and thousands of file trees.
Why? Because that’s how software is built for other industries. It makes sense to organize a CRM solution, accounting software, or marketing platform into numbers, charts, and files; it’s the best way to present conceptual data. Construction, however, is a physical process that takes place in the real world. Construction software should reflect that fact. How? By digitizing one of humanity's oldest tools, the map.
Maps are essential to tactically thinking about any physical location, and because of their power, they have shaped much of history. A world map won Columbus the funding that led to his arrival in America, the Waterloo Map helped the British defeat Napoleon, and a series of top secret maps helped ensure the allied victory on D-Day.
The fact that we still use maps today is a testament to their organizational importance. Not only do we still use them in 2017, we use them constantly. Google maps alone has over 1 billion monthly users.
Organizing a construction site into files and folders doesn’t make sense. Organizing a construction site by location does. Maps are the only way to effectively manage a physical project. That’s why place-based construction software is the future of construction.
How Will Place-Based Software Transform Construction?
A long list of problems have contributed to construction’s declining productivity rates over the past few decades. However, two issues have caused more than their fair share of trouble: owner-contractor disputes and poor tech adoption. In the short term, place-based construction software will overhaul them both.
In the long term, it will create the foundation that allows for all the data inputs from a connected site to form a digital twin of your construction site, a living map that can be monitored and controlled from anywhere.
Resolving Construction Disputes with Software
Owners and contractors often live within a culture of mistrust; it’s why the construction industry is notoriously litigious.
Construction is a black box to most owners, meaning they can easily be taken advantage of, and there are some unscrupulous firms who might do so.
On the other side of the coin, honest contractors have to jump through an unnecessary amount of hoops, documenting everything to prove they’re operating by the book.
One part of the issue is owners don’t have a simple, understandable view into their project. The other part is that documents are up to interpretation; people don’t always believe written words. This is where digital construction maps can revolutionize dispute resolution for construction.
With a simple overhead view of a job site, owners can easily interact with their project to better understand what’s happening and why. It encourages trust by providing transparency, helping eliminate the black box of construction. If owners feel like they are in the know from the beginning, they are ultimately less likely to raise a dispute.
Additionally, If a project is automatically documented by place, you don’t have to rely on the interpretation of written documents to win a dispute. Should a dispute arise, you will have incontrovertible photographic evidence, accurate measurements, and geo-referenced blueprints, eliminating uncertainties and bringing issues to a speedy resolution. There will be no searching through files and folders, just a simple map and facts.
Technology can definitely solve construction’s trust issues, but there’s a bit of a catch-22. Construction also has a tech issue; the industry is notorious for its laggardly tech adoption. Fortunately, the right software can also help overcome this challenge.
Simplifying Construction Tech Adoption with Software
For firms to successfully adopt new technology, two things need to happen. One, the new hardware needs to be reliable, tested, and cost-effective, a process that can take years. Two, software needs to be available to make use of the hardware. No one will adopt new hardware if they can't easily use the data it produces.
Hardware is a means to an end, the end being improving construction through the data it creates. Part of the reason construction has struggled with adopting tech is because the software industry hasn't developed solutions that make technology available or profitable for construction.
With the increasing amounts of data produced by an explosion of new IoT sensors, drone scanning tech, and self-guided machinery, software really has only two options if it wants to be effective for construction: continue to add more dashboards, charts, and spreadsheets, or rethink how this is information is collected and displayed. That’s why place-based software is the future of construction.
Laying the Foundation for Construction’s Future
To think tactically about construction, owners and contractors need a bird's eye view. It's the only way to intuitively understand which areas are on track, which areas have issues, and how planned construction lines up to the real world. With the explosion of new technology coming to construction, files and dashboards just can’t do that anymore.
The foundation of construction's digital future will be this shift from dashboards and numbers to a tactical map. As digital construction maps become the new frame of reference for projects, we will slowly see them develop into the ultimate tool: digital twins of construction sites.
What's the difference between a digital map of construction and a digital twin? Realtime data streaming that provides live updates of site progress without human input. It will give the ability to monitor and control construction from anywhere with unprecedented precision. Place-based software is the key to unlocking this future.
As construction software breaks down the barriers to new tech, improves project outcomes, and reduces the financial burden and delays of project disputes, construction will finally reverse the productivity decline of the last couple decades.
Over the next weeks, our blog will focus on how technology will transform construction in the next decades. We'll explore how new hardware and software will shape construction's future, and ultimately lead to the creation of the world's first fully automated job site.
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