A big boost in venture capital is one factor fueling development of construction technology, in addition to changing work environments, as-a-service business models and the need to replace scarce workers, writes Charles Rathmann. Rathmann reviews the state of play in construction tech and how developments such as artificial intelligence and the internet of things are making tech solutions more capable.



Automating production is a lot easier in manufacturing than in construction—particularly in a make-to-stock environment. In construction though, which is characterized by one-off projects with processes and workflows that can vary from one project to the next, remote and changing work environments and rustic conditions, technology to reduce the labor component of projects with automation is having its moment in the sun.

Why now? As-a-service business models, cloud technology and dropping prices for edge computing devices are all factors. According to McKinsey, another factor may be an influx of venture capital cash for construction technology as a whole—up to $25 billion from $8 billion in the five years leading up to 2019.

McKinsey also posits that the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for contractors adopting digital collaboration and process digitization, not only to enable remote work but to help deal with a more competitive bidding environment.

While venture capital investments and contractor adoption of technology for back-office processes like estimating and project management represent a significant portion of the market, more of the construction tech offerings coming to market and being proven in the field operate at the tip of the spear—in production of value against project deliverables.

Innovations in how technology is sold, including as-a-service business models now common in software, are also helping robotics come to market more quickly as risk-averse contractors can get automation and robotics on their projects without a capital expenditure.

Most construction automation and robotics offerings address very specific tasks performed at high enough volumes to make automation viable.