We are familiar with the concept of AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) as applied to robotics, often in a “coming in the future” format. But the future is coming sooner than expected if companies like Volvo have a say. And an enabler will be the growth of 5G communications.

The Volvo Construction Equipment division has demonstrated a fully autonomous, battery-electric prototype, the LX03, of what they claim is the first real-world example of a self-learning concept wheel loader with the brains to make decisions, perform tasks, and interact with humans. It is also the first time ever a LEGO Technic model has been turned into a real machine. While not commercially available, engineers expect that valuable insights from the LX03 will feed into applications for today and tomorrow.

We are constantly reminded of the importance of the cloud in contemporary computing. This is especially important in construction because many processes in construction are fragmented, resulting in lost productivity, rework, and a lack of transparency. The construction industry lags behind many others with only 1% productivity growth over the last 20 years. This is significantly lower than the 2.8% experienced for the total economy.

One of the significant emerging disruptions that will drive change in construction is the digitization of products and processes. The ability to link technologies, tasks, processes, and multiple stakeholders—such as general contractors, subcontractors, designers, engineers, and owners—across the construction project workflow can transform and significantly improve productivity, quality, safety, transparency, and sustainability.

Construction companies have become aware of and concerned about the potential attacks—digital, physical, and natural—on infrastructure, especially utilities, both while they are under construction and while operating. If you are responsible for the security of the site before, during or after construction, that can weigh heavily on your decisions.

As construction companies employ advanced technologies using the cloud and internet, connecting offices and jobsites becomes more important. Communications, in other words. To better streamline communication channels across the construction value chain, Koch Industries partnered with High Alpha Innovation to create PLOT, a startup construction-focused communications platform, and most recently led the startup’s pre-seed round.

PLOT is led by Cofounder and CEO Chris Callen, an experienced construction-tech founder who has spent decades observing the processes — and shortfalls — of how construction teams interact. “Construction technologies, whether built from internal or external perspectives, have often focused too much on documents and processes rather than teams and the people within them,” notes Callen. “In building PLOT, we’ve expanded our focus to the lifeblood of a construction site — the workers and their teams — who have never had a software built to fully address their communication needs.”

Many software functions work better in the cloud, where the data is always current and can be accessed from anywhere. Construction companies that depend on Corecon Technologies, cloud-based construction estimating, project management, and job-cost software suite will now have added ability to capture information from all aspects of a construction project’s lifecycle, with new data views and APIs offering access to information across the entire system.

In the early days of consumer computing, once the monster was let out of the academic cage and allowed to roam free in homes, offices, and factories, there was a flurry of companies that became known as the TLA group: three letter acronyms. IBM and DEC were the leaders but SUN (actually Sun Microsystems, but usually known as just SUN) was also part of the club.

Today, TLA most often stands for two letter acronyms: AI, (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning), AR (augmented reality), VR, (virtual reality), and several others. Shorthand for some of the more advanced technologies, these TLAs are growing together into a coalition of confusion. What are they? How do they interact?

The AI (artificial intelligence) market has been growing in value across industries as software developers find ways to incorporate it into their offerings. What AI can do to benefit construction has been a concern for decades and one answer is now available: automating estimating and takeoffs.

A startup in Florida, Togal.ai, has applied AI to estimating and recently concluded beta testing among several general contractors. In reports on the tests, a contractor explained that Togal.ai found a way to automate take-offs in a way that will allow teams to focus on scoping, pricing and value engineering.

Motivational speakers, driving their audience to a fear pitch, will often tell them they are warriors for the cause. The image of fierce warriors is often raised by military groups—think Marines in boot camp—and can be a great moral booster in that environment. Apparently, that ethos can also be translated for use in construction.

Conti Federal Services, a construction and engineering firm specializing in complex critical infrastructure, disaster response and recovery, and environmental remediation projects, uses an in-house developed management tool called Warrior Lean to deliver projects on-time and on-budget.

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