Looking to bolster development of new technologies for construction and give industry players a place to test new products, Oracle has created a Construction and Engineering Innovation Lab. Located on the campus of the former Textura headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., the 15,000-sq-ft initial phase of the facility is designed to resemble an “in-progress” construction site, ready to be rigged with the latest in sensor and automation technology for testing and demonstration.
“Every single day, companies reach out to us with new solutions they want to integrate. And we believe in the open ecosystem,” says Burcin Kaplanoglu, senior director for industry strategy and innovation at Oracle’s Construction and Engineering global business unit. “But we didn’t have a place to test these technologies: We don’t have construction sites. So this is a place for customers to be able to test out technologies with us, and for us to test out technology integrations.”
The initial phase of the Innovation Lab is modest—a few steel beams, a gravel floor and a double-wide construction trailer with displays and internet access. But the idea is to create a blank slate construction site where different technologies can be demonstrated and elaborate sensor networks can be deployed.
“There are thousands of companies out there with solutions, and we want to figure out a way where we can capture all the data from these solutions and find the best ones that work with us,” explains Kaplanoglu. “Really, the goal is to have that test data in our platforms and have one place to manage it all.”
Oracle has submitted designs to the town of Deerfield to expand the facility, encasing it in a multistory hanger with a viewing platform overlooking the mock jobsite. But for some industry figures at the launch, the basic site already is useful.
“In this industry we don’t develop in the physical world, so any time we can go into the physical world and innovate, it helps advance the solutions to our jobsites,” says David Wilson, chief innovation officer at Bechtel. “This facility here can bring a lot of partners together to explore, experiment and discover before we launch the technology on a real jobsite.” Wilson notes that while Bechtel runs its own pilots, having a space where different technologies can be tested together without disrupting real jobsites is a plus. “I want to see how things like data collection, AR, VR, how all that will mesh with the drones and the robots, so we can collect and distribute that data to the workforce.”
The growing use of connected devices on jobsites and the internet of things was a major driver for building the lab, says Mike Sicilia, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Construction and Engineering. “IoT is coming into our space in great numbers, so it’s not uncommon now for drones, sensors or wearables to become end users of our products, providing data to our project management systems,” he says. “The real devil of a problem is how do you police, monitor and secure all of those different devices just like they were real end users?”
“This is a place where we’re really going to find out what works and what doesn’t work,” says Kaplanoglu. “It’s a chance to assess what’s valuable on site.”