The implications for the future of the infrastructure and urban development (IU) industry: scenario 1

Technological advances in IU are creating a virtual world focused on residential and recreational spaces, necessitating digital transformation.

Building in a virtual world

Technology is continually changing the world. The likes of cloud technology, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) already play an important role in various industries. As these and other technological advances become more refined, the more they fuel economic growth and replace the need for most forms of manual labour.

So, how will the IU industry look in the future? Below is a look at how the virtual world is anticipated to change the game.

The change in building and transport requirements

Even in a virtually focused world, general IU output does not lessen. There will be less need for office, commercial, and public assets. However, there is an increased demand for both residential and recreational buildings.

For instance, if people are remaining at home instead of venturing out to a shared workspace, there’s a reduced requirement for offices. The same is also applicable to the commerce world – the growth in people shopping online will only increase, which means high streets will only see a decline in physical stores.

As the economy increasingly relies on automation, this also means people will spend more time in their houses and pursuing leisure activities. Along with an added need for residential assets, an amplified demand for recreational spaces like fitness centres, theatres, swimming pools, and arenas will be strengthened.

Added time for travel and holidays also means an added requirement for transport. This includes passenger transport infrastructure, like cruise terminals and airports, and personal mobility, such as robot taxis, hyperloops, and drones.

Running IU with robots and interconnected intelligent systems

Throughout the IU value chain, digital technologies will replace manual work, which will all be connected with refined data systems. Employees will generally be restricted to highly skilled experts who specialise in areas such as robotics engineering, AI, and algorithm programming.

With AI-based systems that reduce time, resources, and the possibility of errors, there’s a significant reduction in human input. AI systems can optimise building plans, for example, as they can factor in everything, from usability to cost to flexibility, and balance all elements to match the owner’s preferences.

During the construction process, AI-based engineering and design systems will direct a range of robots. These include bricklaying robots, autonomous trucks and excavators, drones, and 3D printers. Employees will only be required to set up and maintain robots and also to manage and supervise construction projects.

The increase in software players

With a construction industry that is built around robots and interconnected intelligent systems, it is essential for data to flow seamlessly and for interoperability across different assets. If not, it can lead to inefficiency and data losses – the type that can seriously hamper the profitability of projects.

It’s important for activities to be implemented across the IU value chain. This ensures that all necessary information can be effortlessly shared across each project phase. In an IU industry that is connected in this way, software providers who offer integrated services are those who benefit. However, for those who don’t play a part in standard data systems, they are at a disadvantage in the future. Not only can they fail to process data via upstream activities, but the data they develop has less value for downstream activities.

The increase in the prevalence of software is going first to impact design and engineering firms. Their current process involves bringing in experts and replacing them with software products. Instead of paying an expert by the hour, the software delivers the same output instantly and at no extra cost. Firms that embrace the switch to software early are in line to gain the most from the transition. They can fine-tune their engineering algorithms and AI-based design, which helps with O&M and construction activities.

Opportunities for new businesses to emerge

Due to the continued technological advances, new opportunities will open up within the IU industry for businesses to sell services and data.

Because of the massive amount of data that will exist in the future virtual world, this can be utilised to create new revenue streams. Construction equipment OEMs, for example, could learn from their equipment operating in the field. Using real-time usage data, they can help their customers increase uptime for their equipment. In addition, equipment pay-per-use models could also be established, which would assist the OEMs in developing a higher-margin, stable aftermarket business.

Data could also lead to O&M businesses selling advanced services like predictive maintenance solutions. Via elements like lights and sanitation, they can embed data-collecting sensors within a building’s infrastructure. Once this data is gathered and passed through an asset’s BIM system, it can be used to diagnose issues that may lead to breakdowns. Facility management robots can then be directed by the system to complete preventative maintenance, which helps to minimise any downtime from the measured asset. With this type of system in place, O&M organisations can sell maintenance contracts to clients.

These points are only scratching the surface. As the virtual world approaches, more and more opportunities will present themselves to those who adapt to the ever-changing nature of the IU industry.

The need for digital transformation today

The IU industry already has one foot in the virtual world. Integrating activities and using digital technology allows a wide range of tasks to be simplified, refined, and automated throughout every project step.

Yet, a full digital transformation can be a challenge for small and mid-sized companies. This isn’t down to just cost, either. There’s also the task of implementing digital technologies seamlessly without disrupting current operations.

Instead of going it alone, it makes sense for companies to use a specialist software provider – like us at HeadChannel – with experience crafting bespoke software solutions. Along with being able to develop a full digital transformation for the present, we can also provide development on demand, ensuring your business stays ahead of the curve for the virtual world and beyond.

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