Other than power tools, the construction industry has been historically slow to adapt to technology. We’re seeing some slow and subtle infiltration into the industry, but the most promising aspect is that more and more technology is being designed specifically for the construction professional. There’s a clear market opportunity and hundreds of companies are trying to get their piece of the pie.
If we missed any construction technology that you’re extremely excited about, please tell us in the comments at the bottom of the post!
13. Lightest Metallic Structure Ever Produced
Boeing, famous for their achievements in the field of aviation, has recently created the lightest metal structure ever created, so light that it can sit on a dandelion without crushing it. The design mirrors human bone structure, which is rigid on the exterior, but mostly air on the inside. The Boeing structure uses a lattice pattern to absorb a large amount of energy. It will be interesting to see if the design can be adapted to any construction applications, like safer hard hats and power tools.
Full story: Boeing Develops Lightest Metallic Structure Ever
12. Roads that can De-ice Themselves
Besides school kids and teachers when they get snow days, nobody likes ice on roads. To solve the issue, researchers at Koc University in Turkey have discovered an additive that would greatly reduce the ice buildup when slowly released in asphalt roads. It has currently only been tested in labs, but the scientists believe that the additive could be slowly released over the course of several years, as cars drive over roads exposing more of the additive.
11. Self-Driving Construction Vehicles
Google has been working to perfect their driverless cars for a few years, but the construction industry is actually the first to employ driverless vehicles on US streets. Royal Truck & Equipment teamed up with Micro Systems, a military defense technology company, to create a driverless Truck Mounted Attenuator (TMA) truck, which hopes to reduce human injury and lives. Attenuator trucks are used in road construction to reduce impact from cars running into equipment, which happens more than you’d expect. Those trucks were always operated by humans, putting them at risk. The driverless truck operates on a “lead and follow” design, so it follows a safe distance behind the lead truck.
10. Internet Connected Power Tools
DeWalt Bluetooth Battery and TollConnect App
Companies have worked for years making tools more powerful and efficient, but, as far as connectivity was concerned, there was little to none. 2015, however, was the year of the internet connected tools. First to the market was DeWalt, who created a Bluetooth compatible rechargeable battery (see video above). The battery is able to be monitored and disabled with the click of a button through DeWalt’s ToolConnect application. It’s great to be able to monitor battery charge and usage on a job site and keeps batteries from walking away, as they can be remotely shut down if they leave the Bluetooth range of the site manager.
The second to join in on the connected tool fun was Milwaukee Tool, with the release of their comprehensive tool tracking and reporting software ONE-KEY. With their free software, the user can manage tool inventory, obtain reports from their smart tools which can tell them if the tool needs to be serviced, and control their tools settings, like speed and torque with one click on their smartphone.
Full stories: Milwaukee Set to Release Free and Exciting New Tool Tracking Software “ONE-KEY” & Milwaukee’s ONE-KEY Inventory Management Released: Here’s How to Use It & Milwaukee Now Lets You Customize Power Tool Settings by Using a Smartphone App
9. CAT Fatigue Monitoring System
Driver fatigue is a major problem for the general population and in the construction industry, which is estimated to cause over 1,500 deaths per year. Caterpillar Inc. has developed a tool to be able to monitor a driver’s facial movements to determine if they’re at risk of falling asleep.
8. Roofing Material that Stays Cooler than Ambient Air Temperature
Roofs are notorious for creating awful heat island effect, which greatly increases the temperature inside your building and makes your rooftop units work even harder. Researchers at University of Technology in Sydney, Australia have designed and are currently testing a roofing material that could lower roof temperatures to below the ambient air temperature surrounding it. The material is comprised of a combination of polyesters on a silver layer, which only allows 3 percent of sunlight to be absorbed.
7. On-site Construction Robotics
Aside from self-driving cars being used in construction applications, other robots are making their way onto jobsites and working alongside humans to complete repetitive tasks. Construction Robotics, a New York firm, has created a robot, called SAM, that can lay brick and mortar and a pair of robots in Amsterdam are printing steel for a bridge in Amsterdam. This worries many that jobs will be lost as the robots start taking over, but others find comfort in the fact that new jobs can be created due to increase in technology companies.
6. New Safety Vest That Could Save Lives
Safety vests are great for visibility, but they’re only useful if the other person or object about to crash into you is looking. With increasingly distracted drivers on the road, it’s becoming more important to be able to alert construction workers of an impended impact. Researchers at Virginia Tech have been working on a prototype vest that can not only alarm the person wearing the vest if an object is approaching too quickly, but can also tap into a car’s near field communication system to alert drivers, as well. We’re excited to see the vest in action.
5. Stronger Permeable Concrete
Permeable concrete, which is concrete that allows materials to pass through it, has been around for a while, but recent advances in technology have allowed it to become stronger in order to withstand light to moderate use. Allowing rain water to be absorbed in the soil naturally can greatly reduce flooding and the necessity for large storm basins to collect water runoff. The design of the aggregate sub-base is of utmost importance to the functionality of the product, but it could have great impacts on lightly traveled surfaces like sidewalks, driveways, and outside sports courts. The video above is also pretty incredible to watch, as it shows 1,000 gallons of water basically disappearing into the concrete in 60 seconds.
4. Smaller, Stronger, and More Invisible Solar Cells
One of the major drawbacks of solar cells is that they take up too much space and are so inefficient that they’re not cost effective. Researchers are constantly working on being able to harness the energy from the sun and two great advancements were made in 2015: US Army scientists discovered how to make the solar cells smaller, stronger and cheaper, and an American energy company, Ubiquitous Energy has created a transparent solar cell that can transform windows into power sources.
3. Concrete That Can Heal Itself
Concrete additives have been used for years to control various aspects of concrete design, especially its strength, but none have been able to solve concrete’s tensile strength issue. Due to the material’s rigid structure, it’s easily susceptible to cracking which can cause structural issues, moisture and air infiltration, and other aesthetic issues. Henk Jonkers, a Dutch scientist, has discovered that adding a bacteria called Bacillus would allow concrete to regrow when it comes into contract with moisture. Tests are currently being conducted on real life situations to determine the effectiveness of several different types of self-healing concrete strategies.
2. Bionic Suits for Construction Workers
In the recent past, exoskeletons have allowed the handicapped to do some amazing things, even allowing a paraplegic person the ability to walk upright again. Now, the team at Ekso Bionics has turned their attention to the construction industry, in hopes that their suits can turn a conventional construction worker into a bionic construction worker with super human strength. With the use of counterbalances, the suit distributes weight and can allow the wearer to hold onto an extremely heavy piece of equipment with little to no effort, greatly reducing job site fatigue.
1. The Hard Hat of the Future
Bringing technology on the job site can be a double edged sword, because, while it can be great for productivity and communication, it can also be a major distraction to workers. DAQRI’s Smart Helmet could be the answer to that problem, because it not only combined head protection, but its head up display and interactivity with sensors could make workers more aware of their surroundings than ever. DAQRI also got an industry boost when it recently teamed up with Topcon, a major player in the construction technology field.