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Op/Ed

How are smart cities impacting the construction industry?

(OPINION EDITORIALS) The movement towards smart cities will change the construction industry for the best – creating more connected, collaborative, and efficient cities.

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There are few innovations in recent years as impactful as the digital revolution. The world is now on the verge of what might be the ultimate expression of mass digitization: the smart city. Interconnectivity and data have proved themselves in the business world, and now they’re moving into the streets.

As the world’s metropolises start diving into the IoT, some questions emerge. The smart city movement will spur a ripple effect of changes across many industries and aspects of daily life. How will these changes affect the construction industry?

Construction is one of the world’s largest industries, generating more than $1 trillion in the U.S. alone. Since smart city technology relies on new infrastructure, this shift will undoubtedly touch this massive sector. Here’s a closer look at how.

The smart city revolution is boosting construction.

The smart city movement is still in its infancy, so some changes will take a while. Others are more immediate, like the impact on construction revenue. One of the first effects smart cities construction companies will notice is a surge in new projects.

For areas to experience the full advantages of smart cities, they’ll need new infrastructure. All this infrastructure has to come from somewhere, so construction companies will see an increase in available opportunities. This industry boom could last for several years, as cities gradually adopt more and more smart infrastructure.

Not only will the number of construction projects increase, but these new opportunities will also be profitable. By some estimates, global smart city spending will approach $124 billion this year. Singapore, New York, Tokyo and London alone may account for as much as $1 billion of that spending.

Construction will change to meet new needs.

A more long-term change, and a more substantial one, is that the role of construction will shift. Digitization has changed what people do across various industries, and now that movement is coming to the building sector. As smart city development gradually becomes standard, construction companies will start to look more like technology businesses.

By its very nature, smart city technology requires a marriage of construction and computer sciences. Consider the ambitious Toyota Woven City project, where they’re building a small-scale smart city to test new technology. Woven City will see architects work alongside scientists and researchers to create the infrastructure necessary for things like self-driving cars to function.

The connected city movement is changing what it means for infrastructure to be functional. As a result, the industry will have to shift to fit this new definition, becoming IoT experts as much as architectural ones. This shift won’t take place immediately, but the sooner companies can morph, the better.

The industry is becoming more collaborative.

Given this technological metamorphosis in the industry, construction companies will have to embrace collaboration. The most prevalent instance of this collaboration is the one between builders and data science companies. Construction companies can’t expect to become data experts overnight, but they can reach out to data professionals.

Some businesses have already started to adopt this approach. PCL Construction is now teaming with CopperTree Analytics to incorporate data-gathering and analysis technology into their infrastructure. PCL is not a data analytics company, but by collaborating with one, they can offer the services the cities of the future need.

As new technology allows for more collaboration between companies and clients, residents will have more of a say in planning. Urban development, especially smart city development, ultimately serves the people, so construction businesses may collaborate with residents more. The public may have access to platforms where they can discuss the kinds of infrastructure they need.

A smart city could improve urban construction.

Construction companies themselves can experience some of the advantages of smart city technology. This movement isn’t only making businesses shift in the present, but will also improve them in the future. More connected city infrastructure in an area could make things easier for construction companies working on nearby projects.

Pittsburgh employs an AI-based traffic light system that reacts in real time to redirect and optimize traffic flow. This system reduces travel times by 25% and shows the potential for helping with things like in-city construction. Networks like this could redirect traffic around construction zones, reducing construction’s impact on traffic and improving safety.

With more data points in the city, crews could get a more cohesive picture of each site’s conditions. Data on traffic patterns, population and weather could help companies optimize their plan and maximize both safety and efficiency. As construction companies install more connected infrastructure, they can benefit from it.

When will this all take place?

It’s all but a guarantee that the smart city movement will cause substantial changes for the construction industry, but when these shifts will start to emerge, may not be quite as clear. As with any prediction, there’s a lot of uncertainty involved, but some changes are already taking place.

The industry will evolve as smart cities become more common, which won’t take long. The urban population has grown by 40% in the past decade alone, and this trend will likely continue. With more population in cities comes a heightened need for connected infrastructure, driving these industry changes.

As mentioned earlier, some construction companies are already starting to adopt collaborative, data-driven approaches. Within the next 10 years, this will likely become a standard throughout the industry, which will coincide with the changing role of construction. The COVID-19 pandemic may slow some of these trends, but only by a couple of years at most.

As cities change, so will construction.

In some form or another, the construction industry will change because it cannot remain stagnant and still sustain smart city development. Every sector always evolves to meet the needs and demands of the market, and construction’s market is moving toward connected cities. As urban development takes on these new tasks, the face of the sector will shift in response.

The construction industry is dynamic, which benefits us all. In the coming years, the sector will be more collaborative, more data-centric and more profitable than ever.

Megan Ray Nichols is an editorialist at The American Genius, and is a technical writer who's passionate about technology and the science. She also regularly writes at Smart Data Collective, IoT Times, and ReadWrite. Megan publishes easy to understand articles on her blog, Schooled By Science - subscribe today for weekly updates!

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Op/Ed

How any real estate pro can become more assertive

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Being assertive is not the same as being bossy and while most people tell women to be more assertive, lack of assertiveness isn’t gender exclusive. Here are a few tips how to make your presence known.

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assertive broker meeting negotiation team

Merriam-Webster defines assertive as “disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior.” I believe assertive behavior is the balance between being passive or aggressive.

You aren’t demanding, but you’re not dismissing your needs either.

Women are often told that they need to be more assertive, rather than passive, and men need to be less aggressive. I’m more of the opinion that assertiveness isn’t gender-specific. I believe every person needs some assertiveness training.

While I may not be an expert in assertiveness, as a freelancer, I have learned to be more assertive. Here are a few of my observations:

  • To be assertive, I had to stop feeling as if my work was unimportant. Call it confidence or self-esteem, but it was a definite turning point for me. I stopped using the word, “just.” I didn’t apologize for bothering people. I simply began stating what I needed to get the job done.
  • I defined what assertive meant to me. For me, it was the ability to stand up for my opinions and needs. This didn’t happen overnight, but it took practice. One of the key things I did was to try and be more assertive in other places, like when I volunteered. That gave me the confidence to stand up for myself in my work.
  • I use “I” statements. “I need to take next Monday off.” “I need more information about this project.” “I cannot do that this week.”
  • I’ve found that part of being assertive is taking the other person at their word and not holding a grudge. Don’t read more into their emotions than what is being discussed. Just because my co-worker hated the last idea I had shouldn’t stop me from exploring new ideas with the team.
  • It is very difficult to change old behaviors. I have mentors and coaches that I talk to about my successes and failures. This has helped me figure out what I’d do differently if I had the chance. Trust me, it isn’t easy to be introspective about the time you blew it, but it’s been very beneficial in all the areas of my life.
  • I’ve apologized when it was appropriate, but I don’t beat myself up, either. The other day, I missed one part of an assignment. In the past, I would have not taken any more assignments as punishment. Instead, I apologized that I missed it and fixed the assignment. Then, I took another block of work and moved on. It was freeing.

Being assertive isn’t easy. But it is very rewarding.

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Op/Ed

How your mentors can push you and to new heights

(EDITORIAL) Moving up in your career can be dependent on your drive to be better, but improving does depend on who you choose to teach you.

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Remember when you were younger and were encouraged to join extra-curricular activities because they would “look good to colleges”? What if the same were true for your career?

While applying to a university may be a thing of the past for you, there are still benefits to having extra-curricular activities that have to do with your career. Networking is a major piece of this, as is finding mentors who will help point you in the right direction.

These out-of-office organizations or clubs differ for every industry, so for the sake of this article, I will use one example that you can then interpret and tailor towards your own career.

The Past President of the national Federal Bar Association, Maria Z. Vathis, is someone who has taken the extra-curricular route throughout her entire career, and it has paid off immensely. Working as an attorney in Chicago, Vathis joined the FBA shortly after beginning her legal career and now is the Past President of the almost 100-year old organization.

She started working her way up the ladder of the Chicago Chapter of the association, and eventually became the president of that chapter. At the same time, she was also becoming involved in the Hellenic Bar Association, and would eventually become national president of that organization, as well.

“Through these organizations, I was fortunate to find mentors and lifelong friends. I was also lucky enough to mentor others and to have opportunities to give back to the community through various outreach projects,” said Vathis. “As a young attorney, it was priceless to gain exposure to successful attorneys and judges and to observe how they conducted themselves. Those judges and attorneys were my role models – whether they knew it or not. I learned how to be a professional and how to work with different personality types through my bar association work.”

Finding people in your industry – not just in your office – can be of great help as you go through the journey of your career. They can help you in the event of a job switch, help collaborate on volunteer-based projects, and help collaborate on career-advancing projects (like writing a book, for example).

And all strong networks often start with the help of a mentor – someone who has once been in your shows and can help you handle the ropes of your new career. Most importantly, they’re someone who you can seek advice from when you’re faced with someone challenging – either good or bad.

“I have been unbelievably fortunate with my mentors, and I cherish those relationships. They are good people, and they have changed my life in positive ways. I still draw on what they taught me to help make important decisions,” said Vathis. “My career success is due in large part to the fact that my mentors took an interest in my career, had faith in my abilities, and supported me while I held various positions in the organizations. Not only is it important to continue having mentors throughout your career, but it is important to recognize that mentors come in all shapes and sizes. You never know who you will learn something from, so it’s important to remain open. Also, after you become seasoned, it is important to give back by mentoring others.”

When asked why it’s important to be part of organizations outside of the office, Vathis explained, “To build a book of business, you need to be visible to others.” She also stresses the importance of putting yourself out there for new affiliations and challenges, because you never know where it may lead.

If you’re unsure of how to start this process, try asking co-workers and other people in your professional life if they have any advice or recommendations of organizations that can help advance your career. Another simple way is to Google “networking events in my area” and see what speaks to you. In addition, never be afraid to reach out to someone with a bit more experience for some advice. Take them out to coffee and pick their brain – you never know what you may learn.

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Op/Ed

How calendars can stop your procrastination, boost productivity

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) As the old method of pen-to-paper planning comes back in style, see how its use can help you with time management.

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My favorite part of writing for this publication, by far, is the fact that it always has me keeping my eyes and ears open for inspiration. The simplest comment from a friend can snowball into an idea that becomes beneficial to others.

Such was the case this past weekend when my best friend, Haley, stopped by to help me unpack my new house. Haley is a graduate student, pursuing a master’s in interpersonal communication, and is a much smarter version of myself.

We got to talking about what was on tap for Haley’s final semester and she told me about a workshop she’s creating for the graduate school on the topic of how using planners/calendars helps with time management. The girl has an affinity for pen-to-paper planners, and has created an organizational structure for her daily life through their use.

Naturally, I thought, “hey, sometimes I attempt to give people advice on time management and planning, let’s bounce some ideas off of each other.” Haley then gave me a rundown of the bullet points she’s planning on covering for her interactive workshop.

1) Take everything as it comes. As a new task pops up, put it down on your calendar (whether paper or electronic) so that you don’t forget to do it later.

2) With these tasks, schedule deadlines for yourself. It can be tough to be self-motivate and have tasks completed by your own assignment. However, putting them down in writing will help you stick to productivity.

“Only work on something if you’re being productive. If you stop being productive, you should take a step back and work on something else for a while,” says Haley. “This is why my personal deadlines help because it makes me work harder but I still have my own time.”

3) Schedule out your week starting with events that you cannot change. Start by writing down your work schedule, then appointments, meetings, etc. Then schedule in tasks that have more flexibility in time.

4) After doing this, take all of these tasks and prioritize what must be completed first and assess how much time each task will take. Be sure to give yourself an appropriate amount of productivity time for each task.

5) For bigger projects, considering breaking them down a bit. “For bigger projects I break it down into steps, normally using a concept map to understand the core aspects of my task and what needs to be accomplished within each of those to make it more digestible,” says Haley. “Once I have the pieces, I place the pieces into my weekly schedule of events I cannot change.”

All of the pieces of this puzzle come together to create a calendar that will help you juggle every aspect of your life and boost your productivity. By implementing these ideas in my own planning, it has definitely helped me to become more of a self-starter.

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