October 1, 2019

The construction industry in the digital age - Monica Ioannidou Polemitis

The digital era is the most important period of history for humankind after the Industrial Revolution. This is the era, where is what everything, is happening right now. So how did we get here?

The construction industry in the digital age - Monica Ioannidou Polemitis

You know, we're living at an age where having a fully charged mobile phone is very near having oxygen; for many people. We are living in an age where we are always connected, where internet is dominating our lives and is very important in all aspects of our everyday lives. And we say that we live in the digital era.

The digital era is the most important period of history for humankind after the Industrial Revolution.  This is the era, where is what everything, is happening right now.  So how did we get here? From the 1970s until the early Millennium, before 2010 there had been some kind of linear progress when it comes to the internet.

Every year and every decate, we witnessed some kind of progress, but it was only after 2010 where we have seen, what we call, an exponential growth. A really big progress. In the 1970s the core computing and the framework was set up. In the 1980s computers were mostly used as word processors. In the 1990s, we started using computers for communicating between us. Most of you, judging from your faces, you were born in that decade.

You may not remember, chats having started at that period of time with dial-up connections and not broadband. So in 2000, we saw that the search of Internet Explorer, Yahoo, and all the search engines that provided a new window to the world, but from 2010 everything exploded. Mobile became first, so every everybody right now is catering towards consumers having an image through their mobile phones instead of a personal computer.

We saw the ability of the machines to process huge data and we saw the search of us, consumers, producing huge amounts of data as well. So right now we say that we're living the digital age and we are expecting that from 2020 we're going to see a faster and bigger change. How is this changing our everyday lives. In earlier decades we could very happily stay at a Hilton or Hotel chain, when we went abroad, who would told us five years ago that we would be perfectly happy staying in somebody else's house. We would order a taxi if we wanted to move around and who tell us that we would be very happily to get into somebody else's car to drive us around.

These things were unheard of only a few years ago. Terrestrial TV is non-existent anymore. We use, Netflix we use Hulu, we shop online instead of going to shops. We order our food online and if we want the loan we can choose not to go to a bank. We have peer-to-peer lending. So the business landscape is changing as well.

This is what we say in my world, that we live in an ever-changing global business environments and businesses have to adapt and we say that they can adapt or die innovate or die and even traditional Industries are not an exception and the construction industry that you have most interesting in, is one of those examples that have been slow to adapt to all these changes.

It's a very traditional industry nevertheless, I'm going to talk to you about a few technologies that are starting to become adopted in the construction industry and helping it move to the new digital age. This is just evidence that the construction industry is very slow to to move to the new age.

Only one percent of IT is spent on new technologies in the construction industry. There is a huge pressure right now for the industry to to adopt new technologies. What is innovation in the construction industry? Innovation in the construction industry has to do with the fact that right now, when buildings are being built, there is an ecosystem of players around it that have to collaborate that have to exchange information and they themselves produce a lot of information as well. At the same time when the construction is completed then you have a whole new set of actors having to do with the maintenance of the buildings.

Innovation in the construction industry is more or less related to these aspects of having an ecosystem in place.  Security is one of the key elements that can be, lets say, enabled and improved when it comes to the adoption of innovation the Internet of Things, for example, makes us able to get enough information from the rea life environment and feed it into software that can give us real time information and also by processing this information to give us results and help us understand what is going on in the building.

Think for example, and I was only a few minutes ago, discussing the examples of helmets and having chips in helmets that can give you information on where a worker or a construction worker is actually wearing the helmet or what the actual weather conditions around that work are.

Is there a lot of dust that prevents them from working is there too high temperature? Do we need to take preventive actions? So this is an example of how the internet of things and getting information from various sources works in the construction industry.

Predictive Analytics is also another element, when we gather information, Big Data from a construction, then this information helps us to analyze this information, get valuable lessons, also to order to address the current situation, but also to address future situations as well.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have seen a lot of applications for training. In all Industries, including the shipping industry and the construction industry virtual reality can provide a safe environment for workers to become trained, without the risk of injury and the risk of an accident.

So for example by creating virtual worlds where we can train our construction workers how to handle the different scenario in the construction during the construction phase, then we will be able to take them to real life and minimize risk.

Finally I want to mention, and this is my last slide, by the way, the Technologies of Digital Twins, which for me go hand-in-hand with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Digital Twins is the concept of creating, Let's say, a replica of the actual building. So creating a virtual building, which is exactly the same as the physical building.

This enables us, by using sensors, to get real-time information about the physical building in a virtual environment. Both during the construction phase as well as the after construction maintenance phase.

It allows us to monitor that construction, take into account the situation that is in front of us, and also when we have these big data feeding into our software through the Digital Twin, then we enabled the machine to be able to learn and take corrective actions up to the degree that we allow it.

This is why I said that artificial intelligence and machine learning is closely connected to the concept of digital twins. During the maintenance phase we can get valuable data about temperature in the building. So if for example, we have a retail store, that has different amounts of people in different numbers of people, in need, in different times of day, then if we have a digital replica of that store of that retail store, then we can adjust, we can tell the the software, to adjust the temperature based on the information, it's getting from the actual building.

For example, If we have more than 10 people and the temperature rises up to X number of degrees when we give the authority to the machine to lower the temperature in be with the ACs. So this is a table of interventions that we can make with digital twins.

I don't want to go deeper. I am at your disposal for anything more that you need and if you need anything you want me to elaborate on specific technology, I would be happy to do it. But the message I want to give to you is that, you need to be ready as new professionals to deal with the new developments that are happening in the industry and in general in the economy.

Thank you very much.