The Third Wave of Digital

As the world of civil infrastructure enters a new wave of data-led digitisation, we’re seeing a shift in the consumption of technology within the sector. In a traditionally digitally laggard industry, the pandemic has disrupted traditional business models and jolted construction into picking up the pace of digital adoption. Companies have evolved and business models have accelerated their usage of digital tools to help deliver projects in new ways.

By necessity, teams have been forced to innovate and find new ways to interact with the physical environment, working and collaborating digitally—from video-call site meetings to making use of online collaborative platforms.

Prior to the pandemic, the industry had mostly been slow to adopt the latest digital methods. According to Mckinsey, Construction is amongst the least productive industries globally. Many construction companies are yet to realise the benefits which digital technology can bring to the sector.

The pandemic has created an urgency to implement digital solutions and has compelled the industry to turn a corner and utilise the benefits of digital in the day to day running of projects. When meetings could not be held face to face on-site or printed plans be collectively scribbled over, instead, digital solutions have had to ensure some level of business continuity.

Now more than ever, the necessity for technological adoption in construction has never been stronger. Has the Pandemic triggered a next wave of data-led digital transformation and, in turn, the next wave of civil infrastructure?

The Three Waves of Digital Transformation

Over the past half-century, the digital world has experienced three waves of digital transformation. This was outlined by Sensat CEO, James Dean, who explained in his NextGen session with the Financial Times, “the first wave of the internet was very much about digitising human information, where websites were relatively rudimentary, broadcasting static information such as finding an email address. By the early 2000s, the second wave of digital saw the explosion of social media sites which digitised human behaviour and brought about algorithms that can understand the way that we behave, with companies like Facebook and WeChat leading the way. As we ride in on the third wave of digital, we look toward digitising the physical world we live in, starting with offline, physical sectors.”

The third wave is about creating new ways in which we can interact with this data about the physical world around us. This will be a catalyst for disruptive digital transformation and has the potential to transform traditional, outdated, construction business models.

5 Benefits of the Third Wave of Digital Transformation for the Construction Industry

Here at Sensat, we believe the construction industry is now beginning to understand the potential of digitisation. Being at the forefront of digital innovation will allow the industry to be more agile and increasingly competitive through increased productivity, saving time and money.

Here we list the top 5 Benefits of the Third Wave of Digital Transformation:

1. More accurate decision making

Through the digitisation of the physical world and utilising data-led methods, decisions can be made using higher-quality data visualisation and more accurate data analysis. Making decisions based upon data, as opposed to intuitive decision making on-site, allows judgements to be more informed, which in turn will increase the performance of a decision.

2. Faster and more accurate data collection methods

Traditional topographical surveys of construction sites are surveyed in a manual process, taking months to collect by hand. This slow process is unconventional for the fast pace experienced by construction sites which change so regularly. Often by the time a complete data set is collected manually, it would be out of date, or unreliable to make decisions on.

Through innovations, such as our topographical data capture through drones, data can be collected faster than ever before. Through utilising photogrammetry or LIDAR, data can be collected and processed in a number of hours instead of months. This means you can access up to date, accurate data more frequently. Regular scans can be delivered to enable your team to discuss plans, track progress and identify issues much closer to real-time than through slower, traditional methods

3. Improved collaboration

As with other industries, an obstacle in construction is that much of the data collected is siloed – held in isolation by the business or division which collected it. Unfortunately, many stakeholders view data as something that is proprietary which shouldn’t be shared with one another. However, through the adoption of smart, digital platforms like Sensat’s, departments can work collaboratively to see the bigger picture of projects, sharing data between departments, and breaking down the barriers of geography and department. Through collaborating and reducing these barriers to sharing data sets, projects can save both time and budget whilst making decisions using a more holistic view of a project.

4. Better Safety

Improving safety on construction sites is always a high priority in any project. A focal safety goal involves identifying, interpreting and managing potential worksite risks. The ability to monitor a construction site from a distance is a big step forward to a safer and more efficient building process. Construction sites are complex with assets constantly moving. Regular monitoring is essential because stakeholders need to know the status of each moving piece, and how a project is progressing. With the help of new data capture technologies such as drones, and the development of visualisation platforms, project managers can now keep track of project progress with higher efficiency.

Drones can monitor huge areas much quicker than traditional manual methods. When processed in the right way, drone survey data can even be used to detect hazardous conditions and notify project managers when risk increases or when workers are straying from the proper protocol.

By utilising drones and BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight), drones can fly over dangerous or difficult to access sites, mitigating the risk of having to send a team to an area unsafe for humans. Additionally, through the digitisation of construction sites, teams can work remotely, reducing the number of people on-site to only those who are essential, which in turn helps to reduce unnecessary risks.

5. Improved stakeholder engagement

In large projects with multiple stakeholders, it can be difficult for information to be relayed throughout a project team. Making use of easy to use, intuitive data sharing platforms will allow for everyone to access real-time updates regarding the site.

Data captured and visualised by Sensat

Embracing the Third Wave of Digital

According to a Causeway’s ‘Digital Front Line’ report, 81 per cent of companies will be taking greater leaps to improve their business digitally over the next 12 months, and taking a more digital and holistic approach to the entire asset management lifecycle will future-proof a business with data-led transformation.

These five benefits only briefly touch upon some of the advantages the third wave of digital brings to the construction industry. The adoption of digital tools will help bolster productivity and circumvent inefficiencies, directly impacting the bottom line, and help managers to deliver on time and budget.

The digitisation of the physical world has an exciting role to play in the construction industry and will play an increasingly important role in the coming years. The pace of past slow digitization in the industry is, maybe, behind us.

For more information about the third wave of digital transformation and navigating in a post-Covid era take a look at our latest industry insight paper.