Future of construction: drones, exoskeletons, and digitization


Outlook for the future of construction: drones, exoskeletons, and digitization

Digital technology and robotics will reduce road construction costs by 30%. And it will happen within 30 years. At least according to research by McKinsey. We were so curious that we found other interesting research and predictions about the future of construction. According to some studies, a major digital revolution will occur within the construction industry in a few years.

The direction of digitization will be determined by startups and big players

Construction is a conservative industry, which is not only true in our country, but almost all over the world. The Speedinvest incubator research presented data that showed that thanks to digitization, labor productivity jumped in all sectors except construction – for example, by 20% in production, but by only 2% in construction.

But when Speedinvest asked the biggest global players in the construction industry how many processes they want to deal with digitally in the coming years, 80% of companies said more than half.

At the same time, these companies believe that startups will play a crucial role in the digitalization of the construction industry by bringing new technologies to the industry. Large players will then start using them, and the rest of the industry will have no choice but to switch to them as well. This was also the case, for example, in logistics.

Exoskeletons – the transformation of a builder into a Robocop

This special suit serves as protection (it saves, for example, the muscles and joints of workers) and at the same time increases productivity – workers in the exoskeleton work with less effort and harder. The market for exoskeletons has been growing by 48.4% year-on-year since 2019, and according to forecasts will reach USD 11.4 billion by 2027. For example, construction companies in Britain, which have long struggled with a shortage of workers, are looking forward to the greater availability of exoskeletons. HILTI, for example, is currently developing an exoskeleton for workers on construction sites.

The golden era of drones

Drones have found a purpose in many industries in recent years, and are now also beginning to appear in construction. For example, they can handle:

  • building inspections – used to look for defects in places where the human eye cannot reach,
  • safety control on-site – monitor compliance with safety processes,
  • virtual guide – for example, investors will use drones to view the building from the comfort of an office chair.

Drones are increasingly penetrating the construction industry and their golden age is yet to come. In its studies, PwC estimates that by 2030, British companies will invest GBP 42 billion in drones (this is roughly the same as the Czech state budget for the whole year 2017). While until now drones functioned more on construction sites as passive observers and supervisors, in the future they may perform more of the work tasks.

Internet of things and smart tools

Construction sites generate a lot of data, but companies hardly work with it at all – they don't even capture most of it. This should change IoT (internet of things) technologies, which use sensors and wireless devices to collect data. For example, in production or agriculture, IoT devices are already a common part of operations (even in the Czech Republic) – they monitor the productivity of machines, and working conditions such as temperature and humidity, or detect movement and serve as safety systems. 

The IoT has huge potential for the construction industry, which is also confirmed by KPMG research, according to which 95% of construction companies think that IoT-related technologies will fundamentally change the construction industry in the coming years.

With IoT data, companies realize what they need to change to work more efficiently and cost-effectively. In Stavario, for example, we are working on a smart sensor that monitors the use of machines and tools on the construction site. Among other things, the sensor monitors the load of machines and tools and sends data directly to you, from which you can easily find out 

  • whether or not you have too many machines and tools, 
  • whether it is more advantageous for you to own or lease them, or 
  • notify you in good time of any necessary service checks.

Cloud software – the future has already arrived

One of the first signs of digitization in the construction industry is cloud tools, which replace paper attendance systems, site diaries and warehouse records on the construction site – they allow you to manage the entire construction project agenda in one place, electronically, and from any device. This is exactly how our Stavario. works.
These tools are already common in the West. For example, a McKinsey study describes the construction of an American tunnel involving over 600 suppliers. Among other things, the cloud construction management tool accelerated their reporting by 75% and document transfer by 90%. As a result, the tool allowed the company to save USD 110 million (the total project cost was USD 5 billion).

Digitization is coming

Digital transformation brings endless possibilities to overcome the limitations of human labor. The described technologies will enable construction companies to work more efficiently, economically, and safely. According to forecasts, the digitization of the construction industry is inevitable. The biggest players, such as Skanska and Metrostav, have already jumped into it... The only question now is when will the rest follow?