Can construction connect more with technology?
Last year, the construction industry was found to be one of the least digitised industries. Alongside the fact that construction labour productivity has not kept pace with overall productivity, it seems the need to invest in technology to keep the industry running is a given. These tools are aimed at increasing efficiencies, reducing cost and ensuring, as much as possible, that projects run on time – so resistance to change seems nonsensical, particularly when this is one of the goals for large builders and developers.
Whilst the construction industry isn’t necessarily known for its connection to technology, there are a surprising amount of tools that have arisen to help those within the sector, such as virtual reality (VR), including 3D building modelling. From 3D walk throughs to sell a property, to 3D VR modelling used to pitch architectural projects, there are numerous benefits to adopting this technology. In addition to the increased efficiencies and reduced costs, it can allow builders to stand out from the crowd when marketing their property to consumers and gain an edge on their competitors.
One such VR process which is widely used in construction is building information modelling (BIM). Using this system not only provides a model; it also offers data management capabilities that can keep everyone on the project team on the same page at all stages of the build, from conception to construction documentation and maintenance.
However, augmented reality (AR) is at a much earlier stage in its adoption, partly due to health & safety concerns, the need for a large data repository and the complexity of tracking constantly moving data. However, the benefits of AR far outweigh the concerns and this is evident by the recent investment of £1m of funding into a consortium from Innovate UK. The investment is aimed at developing an Augmented Worker System (AWE), which will pioneer the use of virtual and augmented reality for the construction industry. With a focus on reducing cost and waste, and increasing productivity, the system will improve the construction process at every stage, delivering “faster builds to a higher quality with fewer defects and more sustainable buildings.”
With construction projects often plagued by problems, working off old school paper blueprints and drawings makes it harder to capture, analyse and share data with the different contractors involved in the process. But tools like these are reinventing the industry, with innovative ideas adding to it at every stage, for example, the smart helmet designed specifically for industrial settings from Daqri which is BIM compatible and allows construction workers to share and view various building elements, data and plans. Not to mention the SmartReality app from JBKnowledge, which allows users to hold a smartphone or tablet over designs or plan files and see 2D drawings projected as 3D models. This offers a unique and exciting way to communicate design intent and such developments in technology allows us to visualise virtual objects and designs in the real world.
It is therefore entirely possible that in the future, these tools will be used to show prospective buyers their future home. The industry is some way from this yet, but it is exactly why continued investment in the construction industry is imperative to ensure it has the capabilities to respond and react to developments and changes. Through programmes like the government’s Digital Built Britain (DBB) and through the development of innovative new technology, planners and architects are given more opportunity to collaborate with contractors, whilst reassuring clients and addressing any concerns they may have.
Steve Mansour is the CEO of construction insurance specialists, CRL.
XYZ Reality receives £20m to develop Assisted Reality
Founded in 2017, XYZ Reality aims to "revolutionise" the construction sector with its Engineering-Grade Augmented Reality (AR) solution, Holosite.
Designed to enable an on time and on budget delivery of construction projects, by eliminating building errors, HoloSite has been available to select customers through an early access programme and has already been used on projects totalling a value of over £1.5bn in the last year.
With approximately 98% of construction megaprojects facing cost overruns or delays and 7-11% of project costs being spent on correcting errors, XYZ Reality’s purpose-built integrated AR solution directly addresses these issues.
With its safety certified AR hardhat, cloud platform and in-built proprietary software, Holosite accurately positions high fidelity 3D design models on construction sites, enabling teams to build it right, first time. The technology system has been used on complex construction projects including data centres, pharmaceutical facilities and airports.
This funding will be used to accelerate the company’s ambition of transforming projects by preparing for HoloSite’s commercial launch in the USA and continuing investment in strengthening research and development. The company is also growing its London team to include key hires across technology, manufacturing, sales and marketing.
David Mitchell, Founder and CEO of XYZ Reality, said developing its engineering-Grade AR solution helping construction teams identify errors in real-time is just the start.
"The next phase is Assisted Reality, where our spatial computing technology will have the intelligence to automatically detect and report issues in the field. And ultimately, the goal is builders building from holograms. Our vision of developing world changing products aligns with Octopus Ventures’ mission of investing in companies that are powering the next industrial revolution. We look forward to building history.”
The latest round of funding is led by Octopus Ventures, one of the largest and most active venture investors in Europe, known for its commitment of investing in companies and founders that are changing the world. Octopus Ventures has a strong track record, spanning investment in health, fintech, consumer, B2B software, and deep tech. This includes WaveOptics, one of Octopus Ventures’ early investments in Augmented Reality, which was recently acquired by Snap Inc.
Rebecca Hunt, early-stage investor at Octopus Ventures, said: "We’ve always invested in entrepreneurs leading industry change and XYZ is doing just that. It's solving a massive problem that costs the construction industry billions every year, using its Engineering-Grade Augmented Reality solution to spearhead a shift in the sector’s approach. The founding team of David, Umar and Murray have deep domain and technical expertise, which we believe makes XYZ uniquely placed to drive this transformation.”
XYZ Reality also announces a new partnership with Mace, for the construction of a hyper-scale data centre in Europe. With speed to market being particularly essential for mission critical builds, HoloSite’s AR technology will have a significant role in supporting an accurate and time effective build for Mace, which last week appointed Jon McElroy its new Managing Director for International Technology.
Mace Technical Director, Stephen Henley, said: “Mace has built a reputation of redefining the boundaries of ambition, always bringing efficiency, innovation and responsibility to our projects. With the implementation of XYZ’s groundbreaking AR system, we continue to be committed to delivering projects faster, safer and better than ever before.”
Five years ago, Heather Bellini of Goldman Sachs Research expected virtual and augmented reality to become an $80 billion market by 2025.
But according to new research by global tech market advisory firm ABI Research, nearly 28 million augmented and mixed reality smart glasses will ship in 2026, while the total global AR/MR market will surpass $175 billion in the same year.
"Major tech players across hardware, software, and services look familiar in the consumer space, contributing to strong and consistent overall growth," says Eric Abbruzzese, Research Director for ABI Research. "Those big tech names, with active investment and product ranging from already available, to announced, to all-but-announced, are creating a consumer AR market that will be dynamic and welcoming rather than struggling and immature."