By Alison Mitchell, Executive Director, Sensor City

DigitizationDigital technology is transforming industrial processes at such a rate that it’s being described as a fourth industrial revolution—and construction is among the industries with the most to gain.

A World Economic Forum report last year found that the adoption of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics can provide a $100 billion boost to industry and society, and with the number of connected devices in the world set to increase from 6.4 billion today to 20 billion by 2020, the gains will only increase.

For the construction industry, the benefits are obvious. Digitizing the industrial process through the introduction of artificial intelligence, sensors and more sensitive analytics can help firms streamline the R&D process, reduce the cost of prototyping and bring products to market more quickly.

This increased efficiency at the design stage opens up the possibility for construction firms to introduce more personalized and specialized structures, due to the reduced economies of scale.

How Industry 4.0 Is Impacting Manufacturing 

The construction industry need only look at the manufacturing sector to see how the new industrial revolution—dubbed Industry 4.0—is taking hold.

In Liverpool, which is leading the introduction of Industry 4.0 in the U.K., Sensor City is at the heart of this change, helping startups develop technology that manufacturers can use throughout the production process.

From monitoring data such as light and temperature to detecting faults in prototypes or in products in the field, we support firms in developing and applying technology to make the entire manufacturing process more time-efficient, cost-efficient, and resource-efficient.

This opens the door to digital prototyping—the use of virtual reality (VR) to produce a “digital twin” of a physical product that can be prototyped, tested and altered far more quickly and cheaply.

At Manufacturing Live, the U.K.’s biggest manufacturing forum, which took place in Liverpool, there were countless examples of how manufacturers are integrating this technology into their industrial processes.

Liverpool John Moores University and the Virtual Engineering Centre at Daresbury are leading on the construction of these digital models, while Sensor City and the wider manufacturing ecosystem in Liverpool are helping deploy this technology among manufacturers, from global firms to SMEs.

Digitizing Construction 

Construction firms are already working to apply similar technology to building information management (BIM) systems, by producing interactive 3D models which everyone involved in the project, from the architects to the site managers, can work off. The knock-on impacts of any change to any part of the project immediately become apparent.

Liverpool John Moores University has even developed smart houses, which enable companies to test out products and ideas on sensors in a physical environment which affects different build standards in the U.K.

Firms can also use augmented reality (AR)  to gather and analyze data on products being used in the field—enabling them to identify faults or efficiencies in their equipment and pinpoint how their suppliers can tailor products to be more suited to their needs and working conditions.

The change taking place in Liverpool, with digital technologies being adopted throughout supply chains, illustrates the direction in which industries including construction are going—there’s a reason the Royal Institute of British Architects set up their northern hub here.

With such significant efficiency gains for those willing to adopt and embrace sensors and other digital technology, it’s something that the construction industry is increasingly keen to explore.

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