Geo Week News

January 4, 2022

AEC technology trends that will define 2022

Strategic automation, 5G support and a distributed workforce will change the AEC industry in 2022.

The AEC industry is going into 2022 with great anticipation; finding new ways to overcome unexpected challenges, innovating solutions to decades-old problems, and finding new applications for emerging technology. 

What’s on the horizon for 2022? Keep a lookout for these AEC technology trends this year, and explore more by attending Geo Week next month! 

1. Distributed workforce and better virtual collaboration  

Working with information-dense models of huge construction projects has always been a computational challenge, but became much harder when the pandemic kept AEC professionals at home on personal computers instead of in the office with the high-powered system built for modeling. Thanks to the availability of the cloud, many firms were able to adapt and have the processing workloads taken off their own machines. 

But the cloud is only the first step towards enabling better collaboration and workflows when a team is distributed. Developers have been finding ways to engineer 3D models to "stream" in more efficient ways, so that any stakeholder with an internet browser can see them in full detail. This means that the model will not have to be simplified or downscaled to be shared - which can make for a more accurate examination of the model. 

Others have designed new ways of being able to view architectural models, whether that's through virtual reality walkthroughs or putting a building on a conference room table in a room that doesn't even exist.

In 2022, we’ll be hearing more about how new tools and add-ins have been put into action for real-world problems, and see new ways of collaboration both internally and externally with stakeholders. 

2. Strategic automation in AEC workflows 

Don’t worry, we have not quite reached the age where robots are going to be able to perform every aspect of construction and facilities management, but automation is becoming more mature, and this will certainly continue into 2022.  

The tasks in construction workflows that are low-hanging fruit for automation fall into one of two categories: a) repetitive work that takes too much personnel time or b) dangerous, but necessary work that puts humans at risk. For the first scenario - robots are great at repeating tasks, and never get tired. Using automation to complete those tasks can also free up the worker to do more skilled work. For the second scenario, it is all about relative risk.

For example, UAVs are able to fly in places that would be difficult or impossible for humans to reach, which can broaden the reach of critical infrastructure inspections, mine prospecting and more. For construction, UAVs can also capture repeated scans or photographs of a project site to track progress without taking up the foreman's time, and ensuring that all areas are captured in the same way each day.

Look for more automation on the horizon as AEC professionals continue to map out where their time is most valued, and most safely spent.

3. 5G-supported handheld tech for reality capture, safety, and more 

While the idea of bringing a smartphone or tablet to a construction site for reality capture or other monitoring/measuring might have seemed laughable, the improving hardware, and coming growth of mobile device connectivity via 5G are poised to make mobile devices another tool for the AEC toolbox. 

Like it or not, smartphones and tablets have begun to find their place in work applications. In some places, clipboards are being replaced with tablets, and a mobile phone is a lot less bulky to bring into the field than a laptop. For AEC professionals, we're seeing a parallel in the number of apps and tools that are meant for mobile devices, and this will continue to grow in 2022. From productivity and tracking apps tied to larger-scale software suites to photogrammetry and reality capture abilities, these devices are beginning to move from play to real work.

In addition, mobile devices may provide the glasses-free alternative for augmented reality, using the device itself to reveal layers of additional information anchored in the real world. 5G will provide more connectivity in hard-to-reach places, which can also make the streaming data possible even at the jobsite.

4. Interoperability becomes a priority 

In 2021, several organizations have begun to talk about interoperability and standards. This may be the year where many software companies consider coming together to create one format or framework that can serve the needs of many building models and digital twins. 

For example, the Digital Twin Consortium was founded with the sole purpose of providing a framework for consistency across digital twin technologies. 

In 2020 there was also some backlash against the proprietary nature of some AEC software licenses, and this has also driven software companies to envision new models, add plug-ins to ingest other filetypes and to think about the bigger picture rather than keeping their content behind a locked gage.

Partnerships between companies - including those between Esri and Autodesk, and Bentley and NVIDIA - can also help bring the formats to a place where they can be easily exchanged across them.

5. Augmented reality gets its chance to shine 

While the idea of putting some kind of geeky virtual reality headset on may feel like the far-distant future, augmented reality has the benefit of being able to be used on sometimes less obtrusive devices, and even via mobile devices or tablets, as mentioned earlier.

But what is the value of augmented reality for AEC? By overlaying important information onto the real world in 3D, and being able to experience information in situ, for example at a construction site, everyone gets better information. It can also be used to lay the plans or locations for pipes or other components onto construction sites - helping to ensure clashes don't happen. 

Visualizing projects in 3D can be key for stakeholders as well, especially those who are not trained in interpreting CAD drawings or schematics. 

By augmenting reality with additional information, the AEC industry may further its path towards embracing digitalization.

If you’re interested in learning more about these advances at Geo Week 2022, use the link below to register or see more of the AEC-related conference sessions here.

Register Now    Learn More

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