As blogged on IEEE SPECTRUM, the construction industry can be a mess. When constructing any building, there are several steps you must take in a specific order, so a snag in one step tends to snowball into more problems down the line. You can’t start on drywall until the plumbers and electricians complete their work, for example, and if the drywall folks are behind, the crew working on the interior finish gets delayed even more.
Developers and general contractors hope that by adopting Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to cut costs, build faster, and use a limited labor pool more efficiently, they can turn the messy, fragmented world of building construction into something more closely resembling what it actually is—a manufacturing process.
“We’re looking at the most fragmented and nonstructured process ever, but it is still a manufacturing process,” says Meirav Oren, the CEO of Versatile Natures, an Israeli company that provides on-site data-collection technology to construction sites. The more you understand the process, says Oren, the better you are at automating it. In other conversations I’ve had with people in the construction sector, the focus isn’t on prefabricated housing or cool bricklaying robots. The focus is on turning construction into a regimented process that can be better understood and optimized.
Like agriculture—which has undergone its own revolution, thanks to connected tech—construction is labor intensive, dependent on environmental factors, and highly regulated. In farming today, lidar identifies insects while robots pick weeds with the aid of computer vision. The goal in agricultural tech is to make workers more efficient, rather than eliminating them. Construction technology startups, using artificial intelligence and the IoT, have a similar goal.
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