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Author's profile photo Stefan Weisenberger

Future of Construction – Thinking Beyond the Internet of Things and Machine Learning

Don’t get me wrong: there is plenty of potential in IoT and machine learning in the context of building materials and construction. But we jump too short if we limit our vision for digitization just to these two.

Digital Future of Construction – the Bigger Picture

Rajat Agarwal, Shankar Chandrasekaran, and Mukund Sridhar from McKinsey & Company have written an excellent blog on the digital future of construction. They emphasize the productivity gap in this industry compared to overall economic productivity. The construction sector has been slow to adapt process and technology innovation, and is among the least digitized industries. The authors propose 5 trends that will re-shape the construction industries – and its suppliers in building materials.

My favorite one is “digital collaboration and mobility”, and this is closely connected to the bigger picture of digitization. Digitization is not just the Internet of Things but includes equally connecting to people through collaboration and mobile (note the funny green loop).

Smart home?

We live in the inner city of Heidelberg only 200 m from the next supermarkets. Most of the times, we decide in the last minute what we’d like to cook (and what the kids would accept to eat).
Our brandnew fridge has not been allowed to get smart, and connect to our wifi. I still do not see the point.

But we are heavy users of the “Bring! Shopping List” – a collaborative shared grocery shopping list. All of our family members can update the list – until the last second while I already queue at the check-out – where ever they are.

The kids dropped an egg baking a cake while I am already in the supermarket? No problem – update Brings!, and I will get an alert (and will add an additional package of eggs to my live, real-world shopping basket).

So, no internet of things in my home. Rather a collaborative internet of hungry family members.

This type of collaborative works smoothly within one family – or one business. We discussed such scenarios in the context of construction sites with a number of building material suppliers. How could we use people collaboration across suppliers, contractors, site operators – linking live geo-location information, weather predictions, traffic, and react in real-time according to progress (and delays) of a construction project?

Let’s look at a comparable scenario and the solution approach there.

Hamburg Port Authority

Several key elements of this scenario are very comparable to operating a construction site:

Real-time traffic information, geo-fences and geo-location of trucks, communication between site operators (here: port) and drivers – all with the objective to increase efficiency and through-put and minimizing disruptions and delays.

Find out more about the scenario and its building blocks here.

Vehicle Insights & Driver Solution

SAP Vehicle Insights originated from the automotive industry. For the building materials and construction industry several capabilities are specifically interesting:

  • geo-location-capabilities to determine the location of a vehicle – like used in SAP’s own shuttle service app for Walldorf and Rot
  • geo-fencing capabilities that can trigger automated messaging or other processes e.g. when a vehicle enters or leaves the vicinity of the own plants or a construction site
  • insights into the vehicle status e.g. a ready-mix-truck from a moving asset management and predictive maintenance point of view
  • insights into vehicle safety including acceleration or speed.

You could take it even one level further monitoring the health of drivers – as in the SAP Connected Transportation Safety.

DIY Construction Collaboration

Would I share a virtual shopping list with my local DIY-retailer? If they fly in the broken shower head, or the additional bucket of wall paint, by drone – well possible.

If it is delivered only the next day, I rather pick it up myself. Then again, I am not operating a real construction site.

How about you?

What’s your vision for digital construction collaboration? Why not engage in a design thinking & innovation session with SAP to explore your very own digital transformation story?

Start now, and learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Energy and Natural Resource Companies.

Even more hunger to read? Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?

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