New Technologies Shape Infrastructure Industry: Comments by Microdesk CEO Mike DeLacey

By Directions Staff

Directions Magazine (DM): The survey reported: “As Microdesk envisioned in its 2013 Industry Predictions, significant strides were made over the past year in terms of adoption of mobile devices for design, construction and facilities management and cloud computing for collaboration and improved workflows throughout the project lifecycle.” Has there been a demonstrated ROI for this movement and adoption of cloud computing and/or mobile computing for infrastructure projects?

Mike DeLacey (MD): The adoption of this technology to date has primarily been by thought leaders and early adopters. With that said, one firm, Skanska, is reporting a 20% increase in productivity of its field personnel. It is early figures like these that lead us to believe we will continue to see fast-paced, wider adoption of these technologies.

DM: What percentage of the industry players have so far bought into new technologies and recognize that they need to, as you say, “adopt these technologies in 2014 [or] face losing project bids and isolating themselves from ‘futuristic’ technologies that by 2020 will be realities”?

MD: Based on our experience at Microdesk, I would estimate roughly 10% of the industry has adopted the newest technologies on a large scale. These include cloud, mobile and other new technologies. Yet, given the efficiency rates that have been reported so far, this small segment is capitalizing on a huge opportunity. This leads us to believe that adoption by a wider segment of the industry will become a necessity in order for the rest to remain competitive.

DM: Regarding this statement: “…we predict the penetration of gamification in the AECO industry to make both professionals and citizens fully intelligent about the buildings they're in and roads they're driving on” … How does this play out with getting information from the design professional to the citizens? Are you envisioning a new platform or interface provided by city managers to engage citizens? What do technology solution providers need to do to deliver “gamified” urban plans?

MD: The technology exists today in the form of new applications including Infraworks and Unity gaming engine from Autodesk. These are applications that allow very large intelligent models to be created, rendered and distributed via the Internet. These tools will allow the industry to communicate and collaborate with the general public in completely new ways, resulting in better projects and a more informed public.

DM: With regard to this statement: “Certain cities have adopted BIM standards to drive improvements in design and management, though the industry is still largely in an education phase” … Which cities do you consider leaders in BIM and what should technology providers do to demonstrate BIM cost benefits?

MD: New York City has clearly been a leader in BIM adoption, with a number of agencies having BIM mandates and/or BIM standards in place, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York City Department of Design and Construction, the New York City School Construction Authority, the New York City Department of Buildings, and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.

The clearest way to demonstrate the value of BIM is to reference industry metrics on the cost savings associated with using BIM in construction. CIFE presented a study of 31 projects across the U.S. where the average savings in construction due to the use of BIM was 10%.

DM: With regard to this statement: "There are both big opportunities and serious challenges on the horizon. We predict that 2014 will be a pivotal year in which the groundwork will be laid for significant breakthroughs, including the possibility of driverless cars on our nation's highways within the next 6 years” … Can you point to something more “near-term” in terms of “groundwork”? What do you predict in the next 24 months? What are these “big opportunities” that can be leveraged? How will highways and road design change to prepare for coming technology advances in cars, energy management/consumption and citizens’ behavior?

MD: One of the major breakthroughs I expect we will see in the next 24 months revolves around Mobile Lidar and software applications that allow for the modeling, analysis and distribution of the images captured using this technology. As the cost of Mobile Lidar comes down and the applications capable of working with this data continue to advance, we will begin to see very accurate 3D models on the scale of entire cities that will allow for more advanced and comprehensive planning, design and construction, plus the ability to more effectively plan for and communicate infrastructure expansions and improvements.

Published Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Written by Directions Staff

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