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The Future of Construction Technology, According to StartupAUS

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For an industry that once existed in the realm of ‘bricks and mortar,’ construction is in the midst of a major digital shift. This shift is not only pioneering a rethink of what construction is capable of – by way of drones, robots, and virtual reality – but also having significant positive impact on the Australian economy.

A recent landmark report released by Australia’s national startup advocacy group, StartupAUS, outlines the varied implications for construction technology in Australia. 

The report, entitled “Digital Foundations: How Technology is Transforming Australia's Construction Sector,” unpacks the primary trends of new construction technologies, as well as its economic impact.

Jobsite has spoken with Alex Gruszka, COO of StartupAUS, to take a deeper dive into the report.

Construction Technology Has Hit Critical Mass

According to Gruszka, construction technology is not yet a commonly discussed industry vertical within the Australian technology scene more broadly – but it should be.

“Australia’s VC ecosystem is starting to pay attention in a big way. In 2016 and 2017, construction technology has accounted for 8.9 per cent of total VC investment in Australia, or $99 million worth,” he says.

“We estimate that digitisation in the construction sector could lead to a year-on-year value increase of $25 billion for Australian companies within the next decade.”

This boost to the Australian economy has also been bolstered by a burgeoning interest in the community to get behind the evolution of construction technology. Gruszka notes the first Construction Technology Summit has roughly quadrupled its participation levels from 100 stakeholders in 2016 to more than 400 in 2017.

Key Trends in Construction Technology

The report identifies many different solutions currently offered in construction technology. However, these technologies all boil down to the same four factors, according to Gruszka.

“The report focuses on the digital solutions offered in the planning, design, and building phases of construction projects,” says Gruszka. “These technologies include cloud-based management software, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, Building Information Modelling (BIM), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, Virtual Reality (VR), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and digital marketplaces.

“These technologies all ultimately aim to do one of four things – increase safety, decrease costs, improve speed, and improve quality.”

More to be Done to Cultivate Construction Technology

Gruszka notes a significant conclusion of the report were targeted actions that can be taken to increase the likelihood of Australia producing high value companies in the construction technology space.

These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Federal and State governments leading by proactively incorporating adoption of new technology for large infrastructure projects
  • Government and industry supporting and expanding events focused on identifying technology opportunities
  •  Developing a consistent set of standards around technology adoption and use, with support from the government

Head in the Cloud

Looking ahead, the report noted that construction companies failing to integrate digital solutions into their operations will simply be unable to provide the same level of value. Of the digital solutions providing the most value, there was one technology that was clearly leading the charge.

“One clear trend is that cloud computing is the future for construction,” Gruszka says.

“It works well for siloed operations. It works well across multiple physical sites. It works well with subcontractors, contractors, architects, tradespeople, and everyone else who contributes right across the value chain.”

Gruszka also explained that the report looked into the need for the construction sector to mimic the advanced manufacturing sector in the way it moved into the future.

“We expect the requirement for technical staff will grow rapidly, data and analytics will take on a much more significant role (including ‘rich’ data like photo and video along with AI elements) and knowledge-sharing across the value chain and supply chain will be a priority,” he notes. 

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