Technology has radically shifted how organizations do business, form partnerships, relate to customers, and succeed in today’s consumer marketplace. Digital adoption has provided companies with major opportunities to market products, reach a greater customer base, and speed interactions and decisions. However, much of these opportunities are dependent on leveraging the ideal technology and using it wisely.
Experts predict that within 10 years, companies that fully digitize their workplace can speed workflow and generate substantial cost savings. For example, the engineering and construction (E&C) industry is already taking advantage of digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and robotic devices.
These technical discoveries help companies improve their processes and fundamentally modify how buildings and projects are developed and engineered. Here are three of these digital technologies:
- Virtual reality (VR)
Immersive VR provides an immersive experience in a simulated world. It’s developed using a mixture of computer graphics, wireless tracking technology, HD projectors, headsets, polarized glass, and other features. For example, using 3D sound effects provides a more accurate experience so that the virtual environment feels real to users. Eye and head tracking typically uses laser pointers, led lights, or mobile sensors to ensure an accurate experience.
The aim is to create an artificial world that users can recognize and virtually walk through in real-time.
VR is well-established in the video game industry but is expected to hit several markets in the next couple of years. In the automotive industry, for instance, Ford’s Immersive Vehicle Environment allows engineers from different countries to work and simulate auto designs and assembly work.
Similarly, engineers who use 3D modeling and VR as part of the design process can experiment more freely and test different models without the cost of physical assembly.
Virtual tours also let architects, builders, and even potential new homeowners “walk” through floorplans and home construction plans. Google’s Daydream even takes users on incredible adventures in virtual reality, letting them explore the world from the comfort of home.
The world of 3D virtual design and manufacturing is a fast-growing industry. According to recent statistics, the global VR and AR (augmented reality) market is expected to grow to $209.2 billion by 2022. The number of VR startups has increased by 14% in less than a year.
Although construction has always been a manual labor, robots are developing to automate the process, and particularly for tedious tasks. For example, “cobots” or assisted robotics — where a robot and human work concurrently on a project — is expected to advance and speed construction and engineering projects.
The benefit of automation is efficiency, speed, accuracy, and long-term costs savings. It may also offer employees better health by helping with repeated stress injuries.
In terms of engineering, robots can offer similar benefits. One company, KUKA, recently developed a mobile robot for semiconductor production. Semiconductors are, of course, critical for industries such as smartphones and tablets or automobiles and aerospace. The company created what it labels “the world’s first solution from a single source for the automated transfer and handling of semiconductor cassettes.”
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
For robots to be successful, the integration of AI — machines that can work or react similarly to humans — is necessary. The most promising applications for AI are in production systems that provide predictive maintenance, quality management, and supply-chain optimization.
AI can also help organizations sort, manage, and make sense of overwhelming amounts of data from factories or machines and turn it into actionable response suggestions.
By implementing AI to the connectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT), devices can essentially communicate with one another and streamline processes. IoT enables the transfer of data over a network without requiring human interface.
However, large amounts of data require a computing environment with the capacity to handle it. Managing data also requires storage and response solutions. Studies should that about 70 percent of captured production data goes untouched. That means AI users, ultimately, still need to determine what data is relevant based on AI inputs and how that data is used and processed.
Nevertheless, AI is one of the fastest-growing emerging technologies with a market expected to reach $70 billion by 2020.