Proptech, Contech and The Future of Construction
The term ‘proptech’ has been around for some time now. It describes innovations in real-estate focussed technology. Usually, proptech refers to startup businesses aiming to use the latest technology to make real estate more efficient.
‘Contech’, in contrast, has attracted less attention and been a little slower off the mark. However, that’s all changing. There is now a similar buzz around contech to that which enveloped proptech a few years ago. At the end of last year, the CAD and software giant, Autodesk, bought startup, ‘PlanGrid’ for US$875 million. Things are moving on.
But what is it?
Arguably Contech can be anything technological that drives efficiency, reduces costs and saves time. There are practical innovations such as drones for surveying, or robots to replace labour or augmented reality for visualising projects. Anyone who’s been to Digital Construction Week will have struggled to avoid the ubiquitous Virtual Reality glasses.
There are also a host of apps. From tools for site snagging to software to simplify implementation of standards, to apps to identify changes in drawings. Automating time-consuming processes has the potential to revolutionise the way we work. It might also significantly improve the way we resolve or avoid disputes.
So what’s the fuss?
The value of construction worldwide is set to exceed US$24 trillion by 2021. But productivity in the industry has fallen behind the rest of the economy. Across the construction sector, companies are looking to reduce waste, save time and improve profit margins.
We all know how risky contracting can be Investing in the latest technology was not high on the agenda for many firms for some time. However, these innovations are becoming more and more affordable. No longer are technological innovations the preserve of the huge multinational corporation. The cost and complexity of software development is reducing. In turn, saving time and effort is becoming more and more accessible.
And what’s the challenge?
The biggest challenge seems to be the sheer volume of applications available. The contech market, much like proptech, is becoming crowded. There are a wealth of tools and applications which make choosing and identifying the right tools bewildering.
Fortunately, there are forums to help you work out what you need and how to choose it. Besides the useful videos at the B1M (referred to above), there are a range of other sites and services.
The UK BIM Alliance (we’ve managed to get this far through the article, and that’s the first full reference to BIM!) have produced some useful guides to ‘going digital’ – what it means and how to go about achieving it. Their website isn’t the easiest to navigate, but under the resources section, you should find some useful publications.
We’ve also found a useful forum for Construction Technology. Glimpse: www.glimpseofthefuture.com brings together a variety of ConTech solutions at each of their events. They showcase the various uses and benefits of different tools. Each speaker has 15 minutes to highlight the benefits of their solution.
Later in the year, the interestingly titled two-day event, ‘Digital Construction Week’ takes place in mid-October. Based in the Excel exhibition centre in Docklands, the event showcases all manner of services and products. The show includes anything from 4D modelling and scanning to the latest legal views on BIM.
Whatever solution you employ, we’d encourage you to find out what’s out there. You might find it surprisingly cheap, and the benefits will likely far outweigh the costs.