Big Data can help take the guesswork out of construction processes. With GPS, RFID (radio-frequency identification), NFC (near-field communication), and other connected technologies making their way onto a job, the ways in which the construction industry collects data are changing. Are you working to understand the benefits and challenges of Big Data?

Big Data was the talk of the 2013 Constructech Technology Day last Friday, October 4, with many contractors agreeing Big Data is a big consideration in construction these days. However, the challenge remains: How can you harness Big Data? Many construction companies took to the stage to answer this very question.

A common theme across many of the sessions is the fact there are safe technology implementations that need to be the center of IT strategies. These include ERP (enterprise-resource planning), email, and other core business functions. And then there is the “fun” layer of technology, which includes apps, etc.

Kamryn Babcock, information technology director, The Weitz Company, www.weitz.com, Des Moines, Iowa, says at this ‘fun’ layer IT can to some degree act as a consultancy because of what the cloud brings to the table.

She spoke specifically about how IT can attack baseline business problems, suggesting it becomes critical to engage leadership, the team, and IT. The IT department can help address such challenges by driving down infrastructure costs and reinvesting funds in existing technology.

Level 10 Construction, www.level10gc.com, Sunnyvale, Calif., and Webcor Builders,www.webcor.com, San Francisco, Calif., also took the stage to discuss the changing nature of construction technology with the advent of apps, and how construction companies will need to eventually draw analytics out of the data gathered on the apps. Webcor, for example, builds some of its own apps so it can easily integrate with backoffice software.

At the end of the day, a panel compromised of thought leaders from technology, analyst, academia, and media gathered on stage to discuss the biggest disrupters to the current landscape and the next step forward for construction technology.

While topics such as interoperability, lean, collaboration, BIM (building information modeling), mobile, and even M2M were some of the top areas of discussion, the general consensus was the amount of data on a job is growing and construction companies will need to best determine how data can help solve business challenges.

Overall the next big step for the construction industry is determining how the data that already exists will soon exist can be gathered and analyzed to help make critical business decisions. That has been the objective for the use of technology in construction all along, but is now changing with the emergence of apps, BIM, M2M, and more.