tech

Cutting edge technologies to aid India’s construction space

Technology is poised to impact the construction industry like never before. From cloud-based collaboration to robots and IoT, here’s what the construction space is betting on.

From wearable tech and roads made out of recycled plastic to connected construction and blockchain, futuristic technologies are coming to the construction industry.
From wearable tech and roads made out of recycled plastic to connected construction and blockchain, futuristic technologies are coming to the construction industry. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

The volume of construction output is predicted to grow by 85% to $15.5 trillion globally by the end of this decade. India along with China and the US will drive the segment by accounting for 57% of the overall growth, according to a PWC report.

Even as India is witnessing rapid urbanization, the construction space is now looking at cutting edge technology solutions such as robotics, cloud, and artificial intelligence among others. Already, a number of start-ups and legacy companies have entered the space to leverage the imminent growth.

One of many startups in this space is Delhi-based Tracecost which has developed a cloud-based project management automation suite for the construction industry in India. The company uses a mobile application for efficiency in work allocation, team collaboration on projects, and monitor team performances.

"Tracecost uses technology to predict the outcomes of projects using data you already have, such as the planned start and end date of various phases of the project (and, if you have them, estimates about any backlogs) to learn the completion rate of the team and predict the likelihood of delivering on time. Estimates are always uncertain, so you can put in upper and lower bounds for how long tasks will take (or the software can model it). You also need to put in some information on the source of risks. We believe in not blaming the last person holding the problem, but figuring out what is going wrong," said the company co-founder and CEO Prabh Paul.

Even the tech giants such as IBM are interested in the construction industry. "IBM's approach to helping the construction industry is to adopt a 'digitalized world' that includes solutions in the Engineering Lifecycle Management for Request For Proposal (RFP) requirements management, traceability, change requests and compliance adoption, and Enterprise Asset Management & Asset Health Insights which includes predictive and prescriptive maintenance, to better manage the lifecycle of assets," said Rohit Pande, Country Head - Internet of Things, IBM India/South Asia.

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According to JCB India MD & CEO Subir Kumar Chowdhury, technologies such as robotics, the internet of things (IoT), data analytics, and telematics are being hugely adopted by the construction equipment manufacturers today to develop NEXT-Gen machines, thereby consistently disrupting the space.

"Smart devices, along with machine embedded sensors tied in to construction equipment management software have recently been witnessed to be giving a clearer picture of building progress and real-time status reporting. Such integration is not only enhancing operational efficiency but also providing important data that can be examined after handover to become a part of operational management," he explained.

Estimates show that from 2019 to 2023, the global construction market's growth will be about 2.7 per cent. India is expected to have a higher growth rate than the global market.
Estimates show that from 2019 to 2023, the global construction market's growth will be about 2.7 per cent. India is expected to have a higher growth rate than the global market. (Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)

Modern tech in construction

Building information modeling (BIM)

The technology involves the development of accurate and detailed 3D structural models which help a better visualization of a project.

"They allow developers to design even functional characteristics such as plumbing and wiring before the work starts. These models help companies test the constructability of a building in advance to make sure that errors and wastage is minimised, thereby reducing the risk of a project going off-budget or off-schedule," explain Gurjot Bhatia, Managing Director, Project Management, CBRE.

Internet of Things

An increasing adoption of data-driven technology in construction will encourage the companies to invest more in IoT devices.

"Embedded sensors on a connected worksite create huge opportunities for collecting and managing data on safety, material performance, and operational workflow, just to name a few. Smart devices and wearable construction technology, as well as sensors and on-site cameras can be tied in to construction management software and give a much clearer picture of building progress and real-time status reporting," explained Sunil MK, Head AEC, India & SAARC.

"IoT shall find increasing acceptance within the industry. For example, once the construction of a building is over, and it is ready for occupation, industry professionals can use IoT and 6D models to efficiently manage and maintain the building. The virtual model can be used to develop an annual maintenance plan or easily locate parts that require maintenance, through live reports generated by sensors," said Paul Wallett, Regional Director, Middle East and India, Trimble Solutions.

"IoT can also play an important role in the maintenance of critical building equipment like HVAC, elevators and escalators. Sensor data can monitor patterns in key stress indicators, such as temperature or vibration patterns. If abnormal patterns are detected, building maintenance can be triggered automatically to intervene before an actual failure happens. This can reduce the total expenditure on both preventive and unplanned maintenance, and help keep the occupants happy," he added.

Players today are rising to look at technology to help deliver and manage projects and mitigate risks, says Chaitanya Seth, Partner - Advisory, EY.
Players today are rising to look at technology to help deliver and manage projects and mitigate risks, says Chaitanya Seth, Partner - Advisory, EY. (Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

More

The industry players are also betting big on 5G, which is gradually rolling out worldwide. Faster connection along with technologies such as AI and BIM, the industry could become more efficient. Blockchain is also likely to see some use in the industry which is becoming more data-driven.

"Blockchain is one of the most disruptive technologies to touch construction because of its power to record, enable, and secure huge numbers and varieties of transactions, holding everyone who touches it accountable. On top of that, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) provide vital geographical data that planners, designers, and engineers should always consider throughout the construction-planning process. With the help of blockchain, GIS, and connected construction workflows, this data can be retained much more reliably," added Sunil.

"Data Visualization is set to gain predominance over interpretation as penetration of the technology increases across user bases. I hope to also see VR becoming a standard for all construction projects - with an HMD  (Head Mounted Device) available at every project site to plan, foresee and troubleshoot. Perhaps, in the long run, HMDs can replace computers entirely," said Gautam Tewari, co-founder of SmartVizX .

The challenge

Chetan Singh, Principal designer, founder, and CEO - ArchChat, points out that the Indian construction industry is still an unorganized sector while technology platforms and tools are mostly employed for large projects where PMCs are involved.

Another cause for low technology adoption in the Indian construction industry is the unwillingness to use paid tools," he added.

Aakrit Vaish, CEO, Haptik, also agrees that the construction sector is unorganized and fragmented as compared to some other industries.

"It's because a large number of Indian companies are still family-driven. But, as the size and scale of operations grow due to the fast-changing economic paradigm, it would be imperative for companies to adopt new technologies that help them secure a competitive edge over their counterparts," he said.