I started my career in a different era, developing software applications for DOS, Mac computers and Unix systems.
Software development was complex in those days. For example, we had to establish special code to render screens on three different platforms. Things became easier with the introduction of HTML and browsers, but the functionality was limited. Today, while we still have some complexities with multiple browsers and devices, developing software is much easier and faster and delivered at higher quality. The results are a huge proliferation of commercial and proprietary applications. Further, there are now hundreds of thousands of mobile applications that live in the cloud and scale easily as well as collaborative applications that link multiple data sources and services.
The bottom line is, as software matured, development tools simplified and expertise proliferated globally, the software industry changed, grew and made impacts across all industry segments.
Growing BIM Usage
A similar technological transformation is happening in the construction industry. As construction teams leverage and mature their use of technology, more buildings are being developed with innovative architectures at lower costs and with improved safety. Much of this has been reported in a recent McGraw-Hill Construction BIM SmartMarket Report, which includes results showing that use of BIM has grown to 71% from 28% over the last six years.
Most construction firms will continue to spend on efforts to mature their use of technology and realize the benefits of off-the-shelf software, including BIM, project management software and tablet applications. But some firms that have IT capabilities and comprehensive technology visions have invested in their own integration efforts and proprietary software. These efforts have been expounded at ENR's FutureTech events, where I've interviewed chief information officers who have customized Microsoft Sharepoint portals, developed application-programming-interface (API) stores with custom tablet applications and found innovative ways to enable Wi-Fi for remote jobsites.
Enterprise Integration Efforts
On a recent trip to India, I met with Tata Consulting Services (TCS) and learned about its investments to standardize construction-management processes across its high-value facilities and its goal to expose time and cost overruns. While its core business creates software, TCS has plans to construct 20 development centers over the next five years. The company now is developing software it calls Collosseum, which integrates data from multiple data sources, including Navisworks, Primavera and nPulse; provides a custom payment solution that monitors a project's progress in real time; helps in the early detection of risks and cost variations; identifies critical paths and resource-allocation requirements; and furnishes tools for quick decision-making. Garatraju Thammana, TCS head of the Centre of Excellence-Construction, says, "Small delays in the initial phases can have a cascading effect on the remainder of the schedule. The Colosseum solution has been rolled out in four construction projects, and three more centers have been identified for rollout in the coming months."
The next ENR FutureTech Conference, which will take place on March 14 in San Francisco, will showcase other commercial and proprietary solutions. Owners will explain what they want from technology, the hottest construction apps will be presented, and an entire session will be dedicated to "smart cities" and BIM on an urban scale.