Imagine a robot dog coming to rescue the construction industry. That’s the case with Spot. The headless, yellow dog is a four-legged solution to help capture data on construction sites and deliver real-time data. Spot is helping change the construction industry overall, improving communication hiccups and saving money for production teams.
Spot was created by Boston Dynamics, which builds canine and humanoid robots. This automated dog helps with routine inspections and helps capture data safely. In other words, Spot can capture data without risking lives. Construction workers and engineers don’t always want to get close to high-pressure oil and gas environments that can create a huge risk for people working nearby.
Spot can be controlled from afar, sort of like a drone, but on the ground, through a tablet app. The machine has built-in cameras and can carry up to roughly 30 pounds of inspection equipment for remote data captures. It has a rechargeable battery, can head out on autonomous missions and is hooked up to wi-fi.
Image provided by Zepth
Prasoon Shrivastava is the founder and CEO of Zepth, a construction industry solution provider that is bringing Spot to construction sites around the globe. Zepth’s Zepth360 enables project teams to transform the data Spot finds into deeper insights about the project that help make decisions in real time, which improves performance.
Zepth360 is the visual progress reporting module by Zepth, recording progress over time using 360-degree images and supporting high-resolution 2D images captured by Spot.
The combination of hardware and software improve how construction sites are documented. Inefficient communication is one of the biggest obstacles in the construction industry today. Information travels from project managers to designers, contractors and suppliers. This game of telephone leads to delays and financial losses.
Shrivastava told Leverage.com about the future of construction in 2022 and beyond, and why Spot is changing the game.
Leverage.com: In which ways is the construction industry outdated?
Prasoon Shrivastava: Historically, the construction industry has been very slow to adopt new technologies and digital tools, which has led to information being fragmented as it passes project managers, designers, contractors and other stakeholders.
How much delay has the construction industry experienced during the pandemic?
According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 60% of firms say future projects have either been canceled or delayed due to the pandemic. With a tighter squeeze on time, money, and resources, it’s vital that the AEC industry adopts project management tools that help avoid project delays and mistakes at all costs.
How did the idea of Spot come about?
Well, according to a report by Council of Tall Buildings, by 2057, almost half of the construction jobs could be substituted by robots, complementing and assisting the workforce to create a positive and productive net impact. Zepth is making intelligent construction technologies and management accessible and when we got acquainted with one of the most agile commercial robots: Boston Dynamics’ Spot, it was a no-brainer partnership for us.
What will it change for construction?
Spot has done wonders when it comes to automating data collection and analysis for connected job sites. This robotic integration is a step forward in minimizing errors as they happen, while also increasing automated, real-time information sharing for all collaborators. With Spot and Zepth360, project managers can collect site data from autonomous Spot missions and generate automated visual progress trackers to reduce the time and efforts to capture data and manage site progress. And its terrain-agnostic capabilities support the dynamic nature of construction, meaning it can bypass obstacles and maintain its defined path for routine inspections, regularly and repeatedly. It’s also able to access hazardous and hard-to-reach areas that humans would otherwise be unable to survey.
How is the monitoring more sophisticated than how monitoring is working right now in construction?
Construction projects require collaboration between a diverse range of people both onsite and in-office. Zepth provides a common data environment for all team members to manage and share information while also streamlining the construction process with modules for project financials, quality and safety, document management, and powerful analytics. The platform facilitates effective coordination of activities through secure communication and follow-ups. The aim is to decrease project costs, increase profits for contractors, expedite completion, and reduce contract disputes. This is a vast improvement with the widely manual monitoring practices that are currently in place.
How does it help with inspection and remote workers?
During a time when lockdowns forced us all to work apart, it’s the ultimate time for technological advancement. With so many construction projects shut down, digital collaboration tools were quite simply the only way to keep job sites open and projects moving forward. So, with hybrid working here to stay, digital collaboration is essential in unifying the field with the office. Not only that, but it also gives firms access to the best of the best employees, no matter where they live in the world.
How will technology be vital in recovering the construction industry post-pandemic?
It wasn’t until a global pandemic put a temporary halt on construction progress and in-person working that the industry recognized the need to catch up on digital transformation. With tighter resources post-pandemic, the devil is really in the details as any small mistake can be detrimental to a project. Effective communication, analytics, monitoring, and reporting are crucial aspects for completing and delivering the project efficiently and on-time. Construction projects are widely known to experience delays of around two to three years for large-scale projects, owing to complexities arising from lack of reach and management.
Digital transformation and automated technology can change this. In the planning process of a project, comprehensive budget preparation tools can be used by project managers to capture all cost items with greater detail. Through their collaboration and workflow management tools, these solutions can map any budget changes, approvals, inputs and revisions.
What tech trends do you see coming in 2022 for the construction industry?
Delays in projects due to ineffective communication and budget hiccups are some of the biggest challenges the industry is facing right now. We will see an increase in the adoption of project management platforms to future-proof construction projects, as even a single-day delay could result in a massive butterfly effect. In the current downturn, extra costs, missing resources, and delays are the last things that companies would want to face as they can translate into colossal ROI losses ahead.