Digital transformation in construction during COVID-19

Digital transformation in construction during COVID-19

COVID-19 has negatively impacted many areas of construction and engineering, but there has been a clear positive outcome: digital transformation. Keep reading for the latest innovative technologies due to COVID-19.

Businesses throughout the UK continue to struggle with the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic. Although the situation seems to be slowly improving, we are still far short of ‘business-as-usual.’ This challenging situation has fostered the development and implementation of novel solutions. In fact, two-thirds of construction companies in the UK have rolled out new technologies designed to keep sites operational.

Health & Safety has always been at the top of the UK’s construction agenda. With more than 97% of construction sites across England and Wales fully operational again, keeping employees safe and healthy has become the number one priority for contractors. Several social distancing measures have already been implemented, including staggering shifts. But some companies are trying to go the extra mile when it comes to COVID-19 protection measures.

AI at the forefront of digital transformation

A clear example of digital transformation leadership is the construction safety software provider Smartvid.io. This company is the creator of Vinnie, the construction-trained AI engine. According to the company itself, Vinnie is trained on millions of examples of construction-specific photos, videos, and other data.  Vinnie is always learning to find new indicators of risk with new capabilities (and improvements to existing ones) being released continually. Before COVID-19, Vinnie was used as a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) compliance detection tool with guidance for equipment like gloves, hard hats, glasses, and high-vis clothing.

The digital transformation in construction during COVID-19 was the catalyst for the evolution of Vinnie. On April 6, Smartvid.io released a new application for Vinnie, capable of determining when workers on construction sites have not been practising social distancing. Josh Kanner, CEO of Smartvid.io, said:

‘Using any cameras that Smartvid.io can connect to, Vinnie will be able to work as a virtual safety inspector and determine the distance between any two workers.’

According to the company, Vinnie can predict one in five safety incidents with 81% accuracy. The more data contractors share, the more Vinnie can improve on its accuracy for safety measures and predictions modelling. Of course, Vinnie can only work where there are cameras. Also, Vinnie does not include facial recognition, which is how the company ensures individuals’ privacy is respected in compliance with the GDPR.

Digital interactives are gaining momentum

At the heart of digital transformation in construction during COVID-19 we also find the digital interactives. These are becoming more and more popular, as they represent a more engaging way of delivering important information. One positive outcome of the pandemic is that it is making people think outside the box to find more innovative tools.

Digital interactives are a great tool to deliver information related to complex engineering projects in a simple way. They allow people to access the information in a visual manner but also to dig into deeper details if they need to. Visualising projects with digital interactives make it easier for people to understand and remember complex processes. One of the companies leading the way of digital interactives is Bristol-based communications agency Popcomms. One of their fields of specialisation is construction. Damjan Haylor, managing director at Popcomms, said:

‘The human brain processes visual information 400 times faster than the spoken or written word. So, we’re more likely to take that information in, and more importantly, to remember it.’

Progressive Web App technology is at its heart

The company Popcomms recently developed a digital interactive sales tool for Tensar. According to Popcomms, their digital interactive ‘helps clients save time in meetings, create a powerful first impression, give the sales teams confidence, build trust with customers and reinforced their position as leaders in their field.’ We could try to explain it further with words, but following the concept of digital interactive, an image – or video – is worth a thousand words:

To power the best digital interactive experiences, companies like Popcomms use Progressive Web App (PWA) technology. This technology delivers high performance regardless of device or network condition. PWA technology powers platforms like Instagram, Uber, and Spotify.

Although PWA’s are still relatively new, they are already starting to gain momentum. They combine the best attributes of responsive websites and native apps. In fact, one of the main advantages of PWA tools used for digital interactives is that they work offline.

Digital public consultations – transforming construction still further

Another good example of digital transformation in construction during COVID-19 is a virtual public consultation tool launched by AECOM. This world-leading infrastructure company decided to boost digital transformation during the pandemic. Kevin Carlson, AECOM’s global lead for Digital Transformation said last April:

‘In the face of unprecedented challenges, it was critical that we create a seamless digital environment to visualize projects, meet virtually and bring communities together in partnership with our clients around the world. Over the next few months, we will continue to focus on bringing new collaborative experiences, driven by our global expertise in digital delivery, to the marketplace.’

The digital interactive tool simulates a public consultation room. In the virtual environment, stakeholders can ‘move around’ and interact with information from the comfort of a smartphone. This innovative tool allowed the company to hold public consultations with no risk of spreading the virus. The virtual events can contain virtual reality, videos, plans and pop up banners. The digital interactive allows for live feedback and saves stakeholders’ reaction for later analysis. There is also a chat function with experts answering questions remotely as visitors look at the material, designed to simulate an in-person event. You can have a glimpse of the digital interactive in the video below, or you can join a demo public consultation in this link.

There is so much potential for digital transformation in construction. From the hottest fire comes the strongest steel and so it seems COVID-19 is becoming the right catalyst for change.

What other digital transformation tools have you seen during the pandemic? Share them in the comments below!

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