Back in the 1930’s, boffins predicted that “simple” things like building and cleaning would be done by robots before the end of the century. That just showed how little they understood about either. In fact, on-site work of any kind is still too complex for robots, even though they are very good at brain surgery and running the Bank of England.
Nevertheless, innovations are coming fast. Here are a few you might encounter within a year.
Special clothing is compulsory on construction sites, but site-wear could get a lot more special.
Exoskeletons to give workers extra strength have been available for a few years; Ford workers already use them. They are a lot smaller than the monsters in Terminator II – more like skin-hugging prosthetics – and their price is steadily falling. They will greatly reduce back injuries from loading and unloading transport vehicles.
Everyone likes smart boots, but SolePower’s are a whole lot smarter – they generate electricity. On a large site they could be useful to power sensors, communications or GPS.
To help bring smartwear to construction companies Manchester University is developing graphene, which is ideal for creating thin flexible circuits. In the past, devices have been bulky because of their batteries, so generating power on the move could be an important breakthrough.
Faster connections will allow site workers to access project schedules, construction plans and specifications at any time, even BIM models. Updating BIM in real-time with alterations made onsite is very important, so you can expect to see 5G used on major projects.
5G can also be used for the tele-remote operations used by many crane operators. In the future, it might provide links to a central AI that can make complex decisions such as service routing. Among innovative construction companies Manchester has P&W, who already provide event-driven surveillance solutions and management software.
Circular economics, which constantly recycles materials instead of sourcing new ones, is making big waves everywhere. Modern construction generates billions of tons of waste. New ways to divert it away from landfills are inevitable.
Recent suggestions include ways to develop construction materials from organic waste, re-process roofing tiles, and build durable roads from recycled plastic.
Smart wearable tech might also soon be employed to monitor the project’s carbon footprint.