At Digital Construction Week 2023, the theme for our Trimble stand was all around Connected Construction – demonstrating how software, hardware and other technologies can work together to connect the digital and physical worlds. Read on as we explore how connectivity and constructible data underpin the breakthrough technologies that Trimble is creating…
Internet of Things (IoT)
In many ways, the IoT is about connecting the digital with the physical (and vice versa), with analytics and data from the field fuelling better and more informed decisions throughout the project. It’s about going beyond connected computers, laptops, tablets and phones and bringing in connected technology on site, such as excavators, cranes and survey devices too.
Data is at the heart of IoT, but it’s about valuable data - not just data for data’s sake. We need to have an understanding of when we want this information, receiving it live and in real-time, rather than after the fact. With IoT (connected devices), it makes having the right data, available in the right format, to the right people, at the right time, easy.
Extended reality technology is a really exciting development for the industry, helping to pioneer new ways to visualise and execute construction activity on site – again connecting the digital with the physical.
With Trimble SiteVision, you can take the 3D model outside and locate it in the real-world, in real-time. Users can consume the model and its data in a variety of ways, whether on a mobile phone and tablet device or even put into the cab of an excavator, so they can see not only the work they’re doing but the context of where they are working, such as any no-dig areas or underground services that have been plotted digitally.
Extended reality technologies can also be taken into the factory with Trimble Connect AR, enabling teams to compare the constructible model with the fabricated components prior to delivery and installation. As well as being used as a means of quality control and assurance, these digital workflows can help teams to futureproof and solve problems before they become real issues out on site.
Fabrication and Prefabrication
Often pipped as the future of the construction industry, offsite and prefabrication processes require constructible designs to add new levels of automation and predictability. This is where Tekla BIM models with constructible and data-rich information can be so invaluable, providing detailed insight and visibility on individual connections, welds and bolts.
That said, this level of detail isn’t just for structural engineers, detailers and fabricators – it’s also just as important for the building services industry. With Trimble Stabicad models, it can be colourised so users can easily identify each of the services (such as pipework and ducts) and how they all intersect and interconnect.
Having this level of detail and visibility not only helps teams to see the wider picture but can also be instrumental in connecting structural engineers and contractors with the MEP teams, subcontractors, etc, ensuring a higher level of coordination and minimising errors being encountered further down the line.
The rise of autonomous solutions represents a truly exciting part of the construction industry. The introduction of driverless machinery and excavators take the power of digital technology to the next level, providing precise and reliable solutions for hands-free or human-free operation. Autonomy goes beyond a machine being remote controlled by someone. Instead, the machinery is programmed with the data and the machine then utilises and runs off that same data.
While this does sound incredibly revolutionary (and in many ways it is), this technology is already quite commonplace within the mining sector, for example. Likewise, the agricultural and automotive sectors are also making significant advances, with Trimble technology helping to power Nissan’s most advanced driver assist system to date.
All of this said, autonomy doesn’t just relate to automatic and hands-free machinery. It can also mean automation of the design process itself, with automated and parametric solutions such as Rhino, Grasshopper and Tekla helping to speed up the process and contribute to a slicker, smarter and greener overall design.
Similar to autonomy, robotics can be described as ‘enabling technology solutions’, helping to free the labour force from dull, dirty, dangerous – or just incredibly time-consuming – tasks.
There are so many amazing examples of robotics in action, from the Trimble RI Robotic Total Station, and HP Site Print, who has partnered with Trimble, to Boston Dynamics’ Spot, combining agile robotic technology with the Trimble X7 3D Laser Scanner.
It’s all about using robotics to do things more efficiently, productively and accurately. For example, a team recently deployed Spot on a surveying job in the Shetland Isles. The robot and scanner were able to be operated remotely from London, saving on the expense and resources of sending a surveyor on a five-day trip to physically and manually survey the site.
Of course, robotic technology doesn’t have to be capable of physically moving around a construction site. For example, they can be used to fully automate the fabrication and welding of structural steelwork, with a robotic line doing all of the manual work required. All you have to do is keep feeding it with high-quality, accurate and constructible data. This data is essential if we as an industry are to use robotics to its best effect.
If we look at all of these aspects (Internet of Things, Extended Reality, Prefabrication, Autonomy and Robotics), sustainability can be seen to underpin them all. By delivering projects quicker, safer and more cost-effective, this in turn can result in a greener and more sustainable way of working for the construction industry. In fact, driving this sustainability focus forwards can surely only lead to more innovation – clearly a positive thing for the industry.
At Trimble, we offer lots of breakthrough technologies that allow you to be doing things better. However, it’s clear that work needs to be done in order to first showcase and demonstrate the value of investing in such technology, before it can become a case of ‘business as usual’. We need to move past the initial observation of “this is really cool” and companies buying technology for the sake of it; instead looking closer at what you’re trying to do with the technology, what you’re trying to achieve and what problems, obstacles or silos you’re trying to fix.
So, regardless of the breakthrough technology a business is looking to adopt, the first step is to improve your data flows. As we have shown, data is the cornerstone of all these technologies – without high-quality, information-rich, constructible data, you cannot move forwards.
For more information on how we at Trimble can help and support you on this technological journey, please visit: https://go.trimble.com/uk-construction.