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Prepare to be disrupted

09 January 2018

An app that allows you to see through a wall to the services within it; a house 3D-printed on site; robot surveyors; things that would have seemed like science fiction a few years ago are now a reality. Chris Coxon, Head of Marketing at Eurocell, looks at the acceleration of disruptive technologies.
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There has never been a time when so many emerging technologies have threatened to disrupt the status quo of the building industry. In 2018, we could see the pace of change quicken further as innovators find ways to combine new technologies to create unexpected outcomes. Just get ready for that automated building site…

Here are a few of the stories from the past couple of years that caught our attention because they point the way to a changing future:

  • Using 3D-printing – and the first time this was done out on site – a Chinese company Huashang Tengda created a 400m2 villa in Beijing. The results were perhaps not beautiful, and the process was certainly not without human input, but never-the-less this was a milestone moment
  • In the US, Israeli 3D-imaging sensor company Vayyar Imaging is offering Walabot DIY, which uses technology originally developed for breast screening. Walabot requires a special sensor which attaches to an (Android only) smartphone, combined with an app, which allows the user to see into walls
  • The internet of things is another area which continues to offer huge potential: all those devices, all that data. One firm exploiting this potential is Lucid who rolls out further developments to its BuildingOS system which connects to hundreds of different building technologies and utilities, and then uses analytics to process the information so that trends or behaviours can be identified
  • Facilities management firm Mitie now has a fleet of drones, equipped with high-resolution or thermal imaging cameras, which will reach parts of high-rise buildings which were previously inaccessible or would have been very costly to access. Drone surveying is a fast-growing business; automated processing of the data that the drones collect will add a further dimension
  • Last, but by no means least, Lenovo launched the world’s first smartphone to use Google’s Project Tango platform, the Phab 2 Pro, which allows augmented or virtual reality to be overlaid onto the real world. Visualising remodelling or refurbishment is an obvious use; apps have just started to appear. We can expect much more to come out of Project Tango

So exciting times, but potentially daunting too. Disruptive technologies, by definition, cause huge change, creating new roles and destroying existing ones.

Whatever the type and scale of business you work in, from large manufacturer, down to small installation teams, it’s important not to ignore these new technologies. If your team is big enough, give someone the role of researching these new ideas and working out how they could help – or threaten – your business. Smaller firms may be able to employ experts on a freelance basis, or join forces with other small businesses to share resource.

I will leave this subject with the help of a Chinese proverb: “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills”; so let’s wish for more and happy building, even if disrupted, throughout 2018.

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