COVID Conferencing

With the growth of remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, teleconferencing and videoconferencing have blossomed as the default methods of keeping in touch with the office staff. Zoom and Skype have become household—and office—words. But the stay-at-home rules are changing, and people are returning, slowly, to their workplaces. Will that put an end to the growth of online conferencing?

According to Gartner, global end-user spending on cloud-based web conferencing solutions will grow 24.3% in 2020.  Workplace restrictions spurred by the coronavirus pandemic will expand the cloud conferencing user base throughout 2020, but growth will taper off in 2021 as the lasting effects of a remote workforce render conferencing services commonplace.


Viewing Safety in All Directions

Safety on the jobsite requires more than hot vests and steel toed boots. Vehicle traffic, both delivering and working trucks and equipment, needs to be respected. Drivers must have visual contact with any obstacle and every person in range when moving their vehicle. Since every vehicle has blind spots, adopting technology to give the driver a clear view makes sense.

SmartDrive Systems, a company focused on video-based safety and what they call “transportation intelligence,” provided The Silvi Group  with a video-based safety program across its fleet after Silvi evaluated two other programs. The program includes fully managed service and proactive coaching.


Meeting COVID-19 Challenges

Construction that continues during the current COVID-19 pandemic can be made safer by following certain logical protocols such as “social spacing” or “social distancing.” Companies are also finding ways to keep their employees and customers safe from infection spread by using technology.

For example, Black & Veatch, an engineering, procurement, and construction services firm, developed a geospatial tracking tool to safeguard field services and construction crews during the current COVID-19 health crisis. The rollout of its app, BV Safe Contact, comes when essential power, water, and telecommunications services are in high demand, making large infrastructure projects more critical than ever. Because project work must continue, protecting the health and safety of these highly distributed field teams against the threat of COVID-19 is of great importance.


Collaboration 2020 Style

COVID-19 and the resulting orders for stay/work at home for many occupations has led to a reassessment of how business can operate. Jobs that were office-restricted are being seen as office-optional and workers who can function productively at home are being allowed to do so, even as restrictions are being lifted in many states.

What does this reevaluation of work suggest for the near future?  IDC (Intl. Data Corp.) forecasts that, by 2021, the contribution of “digital coworkers” will increase by 35% as more tasks are automated and augmented by technology. IDC also predicts that, by 2024, enterprises with intelligent and collaborative work environments will see 30% lower staff turnover, 30% higher productivity, and 30% higher revenue per employee than their peers.


W. Gardner Connects Its Jobsite

In March 2017, W. Gardner, a company focused on land clearing and earthwork, was born. The company started clearing one lot at a time for small homebuilders, and then that grew into clearing acres for subdivisions and commercial parcels. Today, the company has positioned itself to meet the expectations of today’s owners and developers and does basically everything on the surface or below the surface. It is a company of dreamers and tech enthusiasts—a factor that helps set the company apart and accelerates its business.

Just a few months after the company was launched, it brought on Elliot Jones, whose background was as a project manager, to serve as president and oversee all business operations and the overall construction management process, ensuring that the day-to-day operations meet or exceed the expectations of the clients.


Project Compliance in an App

The cloud may be the buzzword du jure, but the interface with the data in that cloud is still a PC or, just as often, a smartphone. Tracking the work on a project requires getting and analyzing data from many sources and storing that information for later reference and compliance needs. SkillSmart, a SaaS (software-as-a-service) tech company in Germantown, Md., has developed InSight, a scalable, cloud-based system for capturing both workforce and business data for construction and government project compliance reporting. It allows general contractors and developers to use the same platform, reducing the cost of multiple platforms, removing time consuming duplication of data entry, and increasing the reliability of the data.


BIM at Home and in the Cloud

Leveraging Microsoft 365 technology and office tools, Bentley’s service extends the reach and accessibility of BIM (building information modeling) and infrastructure engineering data to facilitate collaboration and design review for all project stakeholders. As a cloud service accessed through a web browser, ProjectWise 365 eliminates the need for generic technologies such as PDF. ProjectWise 365 cloud services enables a common BIM collaboration environment that avoids the data silos, coordination delays, and other limitations found with network drives, file-sharing services, and email.


Response to CARES Act: Rentals

The CARES Act—Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act—was recently passed by Congress and signed by the president. It is intended to stave off economic collapse in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and includes hundreds of specific sections devoted to industries and economic entities in its 335 pages. Among the provisions are a number that offer relief to renters of apartments and challenges to rental property owners and managers. The NMHC (National Multifamily Housing Council) and the NAA (National Apartment Assn.), reacted to the bill’s rental sections by noting that it included funding to U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development programs, expanding unemployment benefits and substantial tax relief. However, NMHC and NAA identified three areas where the legislation, falls short and will be detrimental to the stability of the rental housing market.


AI and Construction

Artificial intelligence gets a lot of play in the tech world these days but real-world applications are limited. Autonomous vehicles, facial recognition, search engines and a few other advanced uses get the publicity while applications for field like construction are under the RADAR. Technavio has been monitoring the AI use in construction and finds this market is poised to grow by $1.13 billion from 2019 to 2023. Their recent analysis offers three future scenarios (optimistic, probable, and pessimistic) and includes consideration of the COVID-19 impact. Technavio has been monitoring the AI use in construction and finds this market is poised to grow by $1.13 billion from 2019 to 2023. Their recent analysis offers three future scenarios (optimistic, probable, and pessimistic) and includes consideration of the COVID-19 impact.


AI Deals with COVID-19

Construction, accepted by most states as an essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic, must accept the responsibility for keeping its practitioner safe and healthy. Several approaches to this include the use of AI(artificial intelligence) in various ways. According to Microsoft, 85% of Americans already use AI. Smart assistants in our homes, song recommendations from music streaming services, and even spam filters on email are all powered by AI. At its most basic, AI is a powerful automation tool designed to augment what people can do. To take advantage of this technology, we need a good understanding of its capabilities.