“The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life.” —Bill Gates.
In the era of ‘Smart Everything,’ the Internet of Things (IoT) is playing a pivotal role in bringing about a fundamental tilt in the lens from which we view the current world order. In the way our generation can never imagine getting back to feature phones, it is implausible to envision a future that is devoid of ‘smart’ phones, homes, cars and factories. As nations across the globe make advancements in the deployment of smarter technologies and data-driven processes to improve operations of their cities, some dramatic changes aimed at shaping the ‘cities of the future’ are still under way. The construction industry across the globe is leaving no stone unturned and is getting smarter by the second. It is no surprise that connectivity, digitalisation and automation are having a substantial impact on major construction and infrastructure projects across the globe. As we witness a paradigm shift towards ‘smart cities and infrastructure’ in India, it will become inevitable for companies to invest in smarter construction technologies and best practices that can be linked to every stage of the value chain.
This must begin from R&D and span across subsequent functions such as manufacturing and design of construction equipment, spare part development, logistics, and entail IoT-based integration in all possible dimensions. It must reach out to important stakeholders such as engineers and architects, who will be the visionaries of these smart cities. These stakeholders will have to harness a well-networked ecosystem of ‘smart construction equipment and devices’ that can inevitably reduce budget outlays, increase efficiencies and balance all of this with an environmentally-sound future.
In fact, construction equipment manufacturers have already started the revolution by introducing innovative designs and scalable technologies that deliver flexible equipment for improving operational efficiencies, and also reducing installation and starting-up cycle times. These designs have reduced changeover cycles and optimised energy costs, whilst meeting complex electrical, mechanical and environmental requirements. More importantly, these designs have delivered worker safety and equipment protection. Achievement of the end goal will be to deliver innovative solutions that align with improving manufacturing productivity, decreasing energy usage and delivering better performing products that are now in sight.
With volatile global crude oil prices, delivering fuel-efficient machines and vehicles involved in the construction, infrastructure and mining process is playing a decisive role. Construction machinery and equipment manufacturers have continuously evolved their engine and hydraulic technology capabilities so as to enhance productivity and lower fuel consumption and emissions. Component manufacturers have been innovating their products to achieve this and also to ensure recyclability as a pathway towards sustainable growth. Companies will have to develop engineering solutions that enable these benefits while subsequently reducing costs.
Logistics continues to remain an integral area of the construction and development process. While the implementation of GST has played a crucial role in reducing transport time and alleviating other bottlenecks, ‘smart logistics’ is paving way for the future of all construction activity in India. GPS tracking systems and Big Data Analytics is now being used to monitor movement of vehicles and to study the loading and demand patterns.
With the use of embedded sensors, connected devices and analytics technologies on construction equipment, construction firms of the future will be able to intelligently exploit rich data asset base and optimise to deliver new opportunities for revenue.
Construction and infrastructure development entails use of vehicles, machinery and tools for almost every phase of the job. Managing and monitoring of these assets on a daily basis can become complex and cumbersome. In such a scenario, IoT can allow construction companies and construction equipment OEMs to collect data for all of their assets, and the amalgamation of this Big Data can provide opportunities that drive efficiency and supplement bottom line.
Going forward, construction and realty players must look at adopting newer technologies that deliver faster and efficient construction methods. The use of precast technology is one such example that can ensure quality and speed of construction, while addressing issues like labour shortage. The use of precast construction can help save up to 60% of the time taken for similar projects using conventional construction methods, while bringing down costs by 10-15% in the long run. Technologies such as 3D printing that can print concrete structures at high speeds will transform the way complex structures will be built in the future.
An urban development challenge for governments globally will be to create self-sustained cities that mitigate the impacts of population influx, while maintaining a balance between social, environmental and economic opportunities. They will have to usher in solutions that can be delivered through smart planning, design and construction, and further underpinned by smart technology. This renewed mission will be reflective of a paradigm shift in our vision of the future growth of urban infrastructure. And like all fundamental changes, it will present newer opportunities as well as challenges for all the stakeholders, including the government, municipalities, private sector and citizens themselves.