UK Construction Week: Building a smarter, more connected future
By Mat Daly, Construction Sector Specialist, O2 UK
I took to the stage at UK Construction Week against a bustling backdrop of stands run by the biggest and most forward-thinking brands in the construction industry.
It was, in fact, a pretty good microcosm of the UK construction industry today – a thousand different voices and hundreds of different techniques and ground-breaking pieces of technology, all crammed into one room.
No one could have left the event believing that the construction industry isn’t ready to embrace the latest technology. The energy in that room indicated an industry not on the brink of change, but deep in the weeds of the most transformative era in its history.
Of course, it was difficult to speak to any attendees, or spend time at any of the talks, without getting an idea of the issues the industry is facing. Those issues could be summed up in three points:
- In January, output in the construction industry fell at the fastest rate in six years
- Over-60s are the fastest-growing age group in the industry, while the number of under-30s in construction is reducing rapidly
- The government has set new targets for constructors to reduce lifecycle costs by a third and cut build times in half
And if there’s one thing I took away from UK Construction Week, it’s that the technology that will help address those issues has already been developed. From Augmented Reality, to autonomous drones, assistive exoskeletons, and 3D printers.
So, with all this incredibly exciting tech around, what’s missing? Why are so many companies still facing the same problems?
Connecting a fragmented industry
If you ask anyone in construction what’s held the industry back from making the same advancements as, say, the manufacturing industry, you’ll get a couple of different explanations.
They’ll talk about fragmentation, the difficulty of bringing disparate groups of contractors, sub-contractors, planners and architects together and getting them to think, invest and communicate as one.
They’ll talk about technology that’s smart, but not designed for construction, or that works perfectly well independently but doesn’t fit naturally into their existing processes.
‘I look at problems with connectivity in mind. I see the importance of building strong links between people and devices.’
Two years of constant conversation with constructors and industry experts has led me to conclude that there’s one issue underlying a lot of these obstacles. Even though the technology’s there, there’s something vital missing on most construction sites.
If constructors want to actually see results from their technology investments, their new tech needs to be connected. It needs to fit into and upgrade their processes, so that each piece of new tech has a knock-on affect on every other piece of the puzzle.
My work with O2 in the construction industry means I’ve come to appreciate the importance of building strong links between people and devices. And I’ve seen implementing technology that enables connectivity deliver incredible results for our clients.
What can O2 do?
And because connectivity lies at the heart of everything we do, we always look at the big picture first. We don’t just upgrade devices, we upgrade processes. And we do that across four key areas:
- Mobility – We can equip your people with ruggedised devices for even the toughest construction environment, supported by the latest collaboration tools, software and secure connectivity.
- Communications – Instead of installing phone systems and video conferencing suites that never get used, we provide digital, mobile-optimised tools that help people collaborate, even when they’re on the move.
- Insights – We use smart technologies and IoT to gather useful data from your people and equipment, then help you feed that data into your existing processes. For example, we’ll help you monitor the performance of your vehicles and predict when they’ll need servicing, so you’re never caught short because of a breakdown.
- Connectivity – We give you the platform you need to be productive and collaborative on the move with one platform for fixed, mobile, voice and data services – we call it O2 Gateway.
It’s not about pushing flashy new tech that makes big promises and delivers; it’s about giving constructors the tools they need to lay the groundwork for better working.
Want to talk construction and connectivity? Drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org, or give me a call on 01235 433 507 to set up a meeting.