Tablets have been finding their way into construction Project Managers' hands for a while now. With applications like Bluebeam, ProCore, and PunchPro, the use of iPads and tablets have become more common place and necessary. Currently, many Project Managers have a laptop or desktop PC and then carry an iPad for punch list during site visits.
When Microsoft launched the Surface Pro series of tablet PCs back in late 2012, they began a new trend and a new future for construction project management. What makes the Surface Pro tablets great for construction managers is that it combines the power of a laptop and the portability of a tablet. When in the office, the Surface Pro can be paired with a docking station and run up to 2 additional monitors plus all of your other peripherals like a mouse and keyboard. When out on the job, the Surface Pro can be used just like any other tablet and can run full Windows applications, rather than the small mobile apps, thus allowing for more powerful punch list applications and documentation. With the Surface, there is no need for both a PC and a tablet, as they can be on in the same and can save money in the long run. Microsoft is expected to debut a new Surface Pro 4 in mid-October (people think it will be announced on 10/4 to be symbolic of Windows 10 and the Surface Pro 4). We've already anointed Windows 10 as the non-Windows tablet killer, because of it's ability to convert both Android and iOs apps to Windows with a click of a button and to bring drawings to life with the use of holograms
The Microsoft Surface Pro is great, but as with any great products there is always a competitor, and Lenovo has just announced the new Miix 700, which is due to be on shelves in November of this year. The Lenovo Miix 700 carries the same specs as the Surface tablet, but it does have a slower processor, which may cause performance issues (yet to be seen), but will increase battery life. The main thing that I want to point out about this tablet is that it comes with the option to include Intel's RealSense Camera. We have mentioned these cameras before in an article about Dells Venue 8 7000. This new Surface Pro clone from Lenovo with the RealSense camera included has the potential to be the best construction management computer on the market (even though construction is not their target audience). The Miix 700 has a starting price of $699, which includes the keyboard cover, and is set to release in November.
The Miix 700 includes all of the great features from the Surface Pro 3 and additionally includes the RealSense camera which uses multiple cameras on the back of the tablet to create a 3D image of whatever you are taking a picture of. This allows you to extract additional information from the pictures, most notably the ability to pull measurements from the pictures, after you leave the job site.
It is clear to see how this can be an invaluable tool when it comes to as-builts or even finding a measurement that you forgot to take when on a site visit. This tool is helpful for the Estimator and the Construction Manager. Additionally, the camera software allows you to measure surface area from a photo as well, which is a powerful tool to estimating concrete pours or the amount of material that needs to be ordered.
Below is a video review by PhoneDog, which shows you exactly how the RealSense camera works and how accurate it is. The tablet he's using is the Dell Venue 8 7000, which he admits does not have the best camera.
The Lenovo Miix 700 with all of these features is gearing up to be the computer that every Construction Manager needs to have.
Lenovo Miix 700 (Starting at $699) | Lenovo - Set to release in November
Solar roofs are an obviously popular choice for those interested in conserving energy, but traditional panels are extremely clunky and expensive. Tesla and CEO Elon Musk announced last year that they have solved that issue, which the impending release of Tesla Solar Roof, which look like a traditional roof shingle.
3D printing has had to overcome plenty of obstacles, including materials, mobility, weather, and height. Slowly, but surely, technology companies are beginning to overcome these challenges. A 400 square foot house was recently printed in concrete on-site, in less than 24 hours and in freezing temperatures. Other companies are working on perfecting 3D printed steel for pedestrian bridges. Height limitations seem to be the hardest problem to solve, however.
Remote sites have extreme challenges, like finding enough staff to work the jobs and being able to get materials to the site. Large mining operations have turned to self-driving dump trucks, like this 320 Ton mega machine, for a few years now. But, Lockheed Martin, a giant in the world of global security and aerospace, has a different solution for remote sites.
3D printing technology faces major issues when it is required to leave the shelter of a warehouse and step foot on a construction job site. 3D printers are extremely large, heavy, and rely on precise calibration for accuracy. Even the first 3D printed office building in Dubai, which was completed last year, had to actually have its components printed off site and assembled on site. But, Apis Cor, a 3D printing company, believes it has created the technology to print a full structure completely on site.
Road construction is rarely an ideal place for many things. It’s unsafe for workers, it causes traffic issues, and nearby businesses can suffer from it. One more thing can be added to the list, as self-driving cars are also having a hard time navigating construction zones, as well.
In the construction world, 3D printing technology has traditionally focused on buildings and other static structures, like this 3D printed bridge in Madrid, Spain. Not anymore, though, as the world’s first 3D printed excavator was officially unveiled to the attendees at last week’s CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017 in Las Vegas.
Augmented reality on construction job sites has been a focus of several technology companies in recent years. As of now the clear leaders in the category have been the DAQRI smart helmet and glasses and the MIcrosoft Hololens. Early this year, DAQRI introduced their new smart glasses, which are the lighter and more mobile version of their fully protective smart hard hat. The new DAQRI product is a clear competitor for Microsoft’s Hololens, which is also a smart headset product. Backed by the powerful construction technology company Trimble and in a partnership with the University of Cambridge, the Hololens is getting tested with 2 new concepts specifically for the construction industry: Automated Progress Monitoring and Automated Bridge Damage Detection.
The concept of a bubble has surprisingly inspired many designers within the construction industry in recent years. There’s the inflatable bubble building in Shanghai that is supposed to help air and light quality, the inflatable tunnel that will protect pedestrians and business during road construction in Canada, and even a solar cell that was created to be lighter than a soap bubble. We can now add Binishells to our list.
Construction workers work long hours in some pretty rough exterior conditions a lot of the time and there’s no doubt that fatigue is a major factor in job site accidents. In recent years, we’ve seen a few technological advances that will either reduce worker fatigue or sense it, including robotic attachments, lighter and less vibratory power tools, and camera systems on CAT machines that sense when drivers are closing their eyes too much. Recently, a company out of Australia has been developing a smart hard hat that sensors when mental fatigue has set in.