Fiber to the Farms

Rural development loans and grants are being used to bring broadband Internet access to farms and small towns across the country. With many businesses and schools depending on remote work rather than in-person contact because of the COVID-19 pandemic, having Internet access is vital, not a luxury.

Nineteen recipients of a total of $75 million in federal grant funds under the Mississippi Broadband COVID-19 program, which is designed to help residents and businesses in unserved or underserved areas of the state get fast, reliable internet access in 2020, are required to match 50% of the overall cost of their individual project. This cost sharing approach will make the project a community partnership with the companies involved while allowing the companies to recoup their investments from long-term Internet access fees.


AI: Slowed but not Stopped

AI—Artificial Intelligence (or Augmented Intelligence)—has been a buzzword for decades. Every day we hear of things being augmented with AI: autonomous cars, for example. But is AI really growing and being implemented in practical, useful applications?

Apparently so. Worldwide revenues for the AI market, including software, hardware, and services, are expected to total $156.5 billion in 2020, an increase of 12.3% over 2019. While this year's growth is somewhat slower than previous years due to the economic impact of COVID-19, IDC (ntl. Data Corp.) believes investment in AI will recover quickly.


USDA Loans and Grants

The Rural Development Program at the Department of Agriculture can be a funding source for small towns that have infrastructure plans but no capital. There are two programs, loans and grants, each with its own requirements and funding sources. Eligible borrowers include public bodies, community-based non-profit corporations, and Federally recognized tribes.

Direct Loans require repayment terms not longer than the useful life of the facility, the applicants’ authority, or a maximum of 40 years, whichever is less. Interest rates are set by Rural Development, and once the loan is approved, the interest rate is fixed for the entire term of the loan. Interest is determined by the median household income of the service area and population of the community. There are no pre-payment penalties.


Hey, Dude, Where’s My Truck?

Fleet owners at every level are concerned about theft of their vehicles. Insurance costs, replacement costs, and lost time are making vehicle tracking technology more and more interesting to fleet managers and construction companies of all sizes. Vehicle tracking systems combine tracking the location of a vehicle with a software interface that further displays various vehicle data.

Several factors, such as growing traffic congestion, concerns regarding vehicle safety and security, and the need for higher operational efficiency are anticipated to drive the market growth according to Grand View Research in a new report. The systems are also suitable for several applications in the GPS segment, such as tracking and mapping devices, sea vessel and air navigation, as well as ground vehicle tracking.


COVID-19 and the Future of Work

With the almost sudden switch to remote office work during the initial stay-at-home mandates, COVID-19 took many businesses by surprise. Few outside the high-tech area were ready for the change-over or had protocols in place to respond quickly. Employees found themselves at home, on the Internet, and on their own. For many, it was a learning experience in how to set up their home computer to emulate the office system they were familiar with in the past (the past meaning 2019 in this case).


2020 Constructech 50: Companies that Serve Construction

Your construction company has been disrupted. Projects were halted. Workers were furloughed. New safety procedures and processes were required. Companies that recognize this are taking proactive steps to determine what’s next—and how to move forward. Central to this is technology. Digital transformation, AI (artificial intelligence), 5G, the IoT (Internet of Things), biometrics, AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), blockchain, robotics, and more have never been more important than they are today.

Beyond the need for technology due to a change in business, the numbers are also pointing us toward digital transformation. CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Assn.) Emerging Technology Community lists the top three technologies today as AI, 5G, and the IoT, while Grand View Research projects the AI market will reach almost $391 billion by 2025, and ResearchAndMarkets predicts AI and IoT devices market will surpass $105 billion in North America alone. Reports also show that the global cellular IoT market is expected to climb 18.54% from the end of 2019 to 2025. Add in the fact that the pandemic is accelerating the need for digital transformation, and the outcome is going to be ramping up for the IoT on the construction jobsite.


Infrastructure, Healthcare, and Transportation

Keeping workers safe, whether from injury or illness like COVID-19, will always be foremost in any company’s agenda. Applying technology will often aid management’s efforts in safety and using the artificial intelligence capabilities of some technology can improve the efforts. As the pandemic ebbs and flows, healthcare facilities are strained, new hospital projects are being expedited, and long-range planning for other infrastructure projects move forward to ensure the environmentally positive movement of needed resources.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, utilities and infrastructure operators are using technology to enhance emergency work, keeping communities safe while protecting workers from unnecessary virus exposure risk on priority field work. One approach is represented by products such as Urbint, a field risk management platform that predicts and prevents threats to critical infrastructure and the workers who maintain it.


Advancing the 3D Building Lifecycle

Here at Constructech, we have reported on the value of being able to move data through the construction lifecycle of a project—from design, to construction, and ultimately maintenance and management of a facility. Ideally, BIM (building information modeling) data is generated and shared with everyone throughout the entire project. Now, a new cooperation will help enable a 3D building lifecycle.

Pointfuse and Leica Geosystems, a Hexagon company, announced an agreement to streamline the use of reality capture data. The streamlined workflow provides a solution to capture and convert point clouds into deliverables that drive every stage of the building lifecyle, from design to construction, operations, and maintenance.