Oracle to lead digital revolution in construction industry

A digital revolution has swept through global industries. Telecoms, media, retailing, hospitality, manufacturing, transport, financial and business services have all been transformed as technology creates new ways to produce, distribute and consume their products.

Even construction, the most Biblical of trades, is facing the prospect of disruption as advances in robotics, autonomous vehicles, drones, laser scanning, telematics, augmented reality, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning begin to influence how work is carried out on site.

However, anybody who has witnessed the painfully slow diffusion of building information modelling (BIM) throughout the industry will know that construction is struggling to go digital, no matter what productivity gains may be on offer.

A possible main reason for this is the industry’s extreme fragmentation. But it may also be the difficulty of imagining what role digital technology might play in the stubbornly physical world of the construction site.

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So, how about creating a real building site and using it to demonstrate as many emerging technologies as possible? That was an idea that occurred about a year ago to Mike Sicilia, general manager of the construction and engineering division of tech giant, Oracle.

“We spent a lot of time with customers talking about solutions in conference rooms, but that’s not where they work,” he told GCR. “They work on job sites in harsh conditions. I think there’s something that comes with using the technology on a real site that you just don’t get when you’re sitting around a table.”

This led to the Construction and Engineering Innovation Lab, which opened in the North Chicago suburb of Deerfield on 23 August this year. The site brings together construction practitioners and academics to examine how digital technologies interface with a site’s analogue systems, including human workers.

Confirming his hunch that the industry was keen to see tech at work in the real world, the lab has attracted lots of attention from industry and academia. Sicilia said people turned up two hours early on opening day.

Much of what can be seen at Deerfield is not produced by Oracle, but rather by its partners. For example, it showcases extended BIM software from Autodesk’s Assemble Systems, augmented reality headsets from DAQRI, connected tools from Bosch and  labour productivity systems from Reconstruct as well as Oracle’s “Live Experience Cloud”.

Oracle is in the process of building a second site that will be inside a permanent structure similar to an aircraft hangar, to simulate a site after it is structurally complete. This will open next year.

This approach is in line with the development of a “digital ecosystem”, in which companies offering complementary products and services link up to offer customers a seamless experience. As Sicilia says, the separate systems are bolt-on and modular, so customers don’t have to “stitch together” systems on their own.

It is also a sign of how of how many companies are developing digital products, and how much investment is flowing in to this space. According to Sicilia, there is more venture capital finance available now than he’s seen in his 25 years in the business, which he says is a recognition of how ripe construction is for upgrading.

Oracle itself is a leading investor. It entered the construction space in 2008 when it bought Primavera Systems, a project management software specialist. Sicilia, Primavera’s general manager, joined Oracle as part of the deal.

Oracle then spent $663m  on the Textura cloud-based payment management system in April 2016, and this has since handled more than $500bn in disbursements to subcontractors.

Then in 2017 it acquired Melbourne-based Aconex for $1.2bn, which was 46% above its market value. Aconex writes software, also cloud-based, that allow teams working on building projects to collaborate and share documents.

These moves no doubt reflect Oracle’s desire to increase its revenue, which rose from $11.8bn in 2005 to $37.1bn in 2012, but has stayed more or less constant ever since.

Company founder Larry Ellison wants Oracle to grow by providing the best cloud computing services, and construction would be a huge market.
It is possible that tech giants like Oracle will be able to use the cloud to modernise construction in a way construction cannot manage by itself.

All now-digitalised industries find the way they collect, filter, analyse and discard data assumes a new importance, which is where Oracle comes in. The cloud has the effect of bringing data together regardless of format, thereby overcoming the interoperability problems that have dogged construction IT since the invention of CAD.

The availability of these cloud-based data “lakes” is an essential precondition for the site of the future, in which planning, design, procurement, payment, scheduling, surveying, construction and management are part of a single, digitally integrated process.

“Aconex and our other modules generate a tremendous amount of data, and customers sometimes have a difficult time understanding their own data, because it’s not a trivial thing,” Sicilia says.

“By embracing the Oracle technologies around big data and analytics, which we’re doing right now, we plan in the next calendar year to offer what we think are some pretty compelling analytics that will span all of our modules and also allow customers to plug into third-party modules as well.”

As an example of what will be possible with cloud-based analytics, Sicilia mentions a large infrastructure project in which about three-quarters of the workforce are subcontractors or suppliers. The success of the project depends on the competence and collaborative skills of these firms, and how well they are managed by whoever’s in charge of the work.

Clearly, to control the site, it is necessary to collect a huge amount of information about who these subcontractors are and how well they are performing. So, Oracle will aim to create analytics dashboards that give site and project managers a 360° view of each company working on the job, everything from its financial soundness to the jobs it is pre-approved to do, and combines them with detailed records of its past performance.

In the future, Sicilia adds, machine learning and AI may be able to sift through huge amounts of past data and use it to prevent mistakes.

“This is the right time to be investing in augmented reality and machine learning,” he says, “but I think these things usually take a period of three to five years to become normalised within an organisation.

“We are on year one of a five-year horizon, and this is exactly why we built the innovation lab. We need many customers to come in so that we can have these discussions and get real-time feedback.”



10 construction tech trends to look out for in 2019

The construction industry is under a significant paradigm shift. When we look back throughout this industry’s history we notice some great advancements have taken place. As the end of the year approaches and we look ahead to 2019 there’s no reason we shouldn’t expect more of the same to occur. In fact, here are some of the most noteworthy trends experts believe you should expect to see in the construction industry next year.

Augmented reality

Construction World says that although virtual reality has been an emerging trend over the past few years, it’s quickly growing outdated – especially when compared to augmented reality uses and benefits. This is the ability to visualize the real world through a camera lens. It’s something that’s bound to open many new opportunities for the construction industry even though it’ll come with a cost. For those companies who can afford to start using it now, it’ll revolutionize how they project and build things. This is a trend that will grow much bigger in the next few years. In fact, many people believe that instead of using safety goggles, we’ll start planning and plotting sites before we even break ground.

Construction software and data ecosystem

Real-time collaboration software is already regarded as an essential component of the entire building process. Nevertheless, its impact on the sector is expected to increase substantially in the near future. It goes without saying that data has played an integral role in this paradigm shift in construction.

The emergence of a data ecosystem where all the innovative players of the industry will come together and share data, experience and project knowledge is closer than we might think. And it is no exaggeration to maintain that it’s the only way forward for construction.

The ability to integrate your existing processes and systems into a single fully-connected platform can empower the way people in the industry work. A plethora of software solutions for different functions and disciplines in the course of a construction project can now effortlessly be combined in one place.

The use of digital tools facilitates the accumulation of these valuable bits of information and by extension, the minimisation of delays, rework rates, and communication hiccups between the site and the office.

In that sense, a reliable real-time collaboration software is expected to function as the digital backbone for the construction process from start to finish.

BIM will continue growing

Similar to last year, BIM is again one of the hottest construction technology trends. It comes as no surprise if we take into account that the emergence of an open and highly collaborative data ecosystem is on the way.

BIM technology could be the catalyst for a fundamental change in how we manage, design and develop a construction project. There are many different levels of programming enabled through BIM. 4Dand 5D BIM are two very representative examples in that direction.

From a general point of view, BIM will bring more accuracy to the building process and empower the exchange of important project information between the numerous stakeholder. Moreover, its further evolution is anticipated to make construction projects more productive and affordable by including revolutionary sustainability and safety measures.

It is evident, then, that BIM could function as a game changer for construction and offer a detailed depiction of the project development in an open and highly collaborative environment.

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Increased prefabrication, modularization, and eco-friendliness

There’s been a growing trend towards multi-trade prefabrication. This is something the Multi Trade Prefabrication Conference is now addressing. It was the first ever multi-trade conference that was held for the growing number of construction companies who are implementing prefabrication strategies. A great example of this occurred in Dubai where a 3D office building was printed in 17 days, followed by only two days spent on site assembling it. Many construction industry experts believe we’ll continue seeing this practice grow in the coming years, especially since cost and time are no longer as prohibitive. This doesn’t mean that they’re no longer issues, simply that they’re being addressed in ways that will help propel this industry forward.

Another growing trend is off-site construction (a.k.a. modularization). This trend is similar to prefabrication in that many people see it growing in popularity over the next several years. There are already some progressive construction companies who have started implementing these strategies in the way they run their operations – especially manufacturing companies. These companies use standardized processes to assemble as much as possible off-site before they complete the construction project on site. The benefit here lies in the fact that the standardization cuts down on costs and lead times.

All these processes are very beneficial in the following three ways:

  • They’re quite eco-friendly because when working on construction in a factory you can easily recycle any extra materials.This is much better than what was happening with traditional construction practices – many of which would often be forced to send large amounts of waste to landfills.
  • Prefabrication saves a lot of money because construction companies can get bulk discounts on materials. This also saves them time, which will, in turn, save them even more money.
  • Since all the work occurs in a factory-controlled environment there’s less risk for problems that are typically associated with things like moisture, environmental hazards, and dirt. Additionally, construction workers and the project’s eventual tenants are also less likely to be exposed to weather-related health risks.

Self-healing concrete

Many of the industry’s experts believe we’ll start seeing self-healing concrete being used on roads, buildings, and homes. Since concrete is the most widely produced and consumed material in the construction industry (being used to create buildings, roads, and bridges) many believe that by 2030 we’ll be using about 5 billion metric tons per year. Part of this is due to the urban boom that’s being experienced in China and India today. Currently, the United States already makes up 8% of the total global emissions in this area – a number that’s also slated to rise.


Many construction sites are already heavily dependent on the use of drones. These drones are very beneficial in that they save a lot of time. For instance, surveyors can survey an entire site in just a few minutes, whereas in the past it’d take them several weeks or months. Obviously, this will also save construction companies a lot of money. As drone technology continues rapidly developing in its accuracy and precision of its readings, even less human involvement will be necessary. In the past, many companies were hesitant to use drones because they still needed a controller, but today as the technology grows much more efficient, more construction companies are willingly and openly embracing this technology.


JB Knowledge says robotics is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Industries like healthcare are already investing a lot of money in them. As these robots grow even more precise and accurate, they’ll become a commanding force in the construction industry. In the beginning, the cost of robotics will be high, but it will still be well worth it to at least pay attention to this technology. Eventually, we may witness robots being able to do things like lay bricks and tie rebar, we may even see them complete most of the current man-operated construction projects.

Cloud and mobile technology

Just a few years ago most people either didn’t know or couldn’t explain what a cloud operating system was. Today, this is no longer the case. In fact, most mobile devices can leverage cloud technology from anywhere, at any time. There are many great advantages to this, including storing almost limitless amounts of information that you can then share instantly with the touch of a button. This is much less expensive too – about one-tenth of what sharing old technologies cost. Since the cloud -based business phone system is accessible from anywhere you have an internet connection you can expect it to become a mandatory part of the construction industry in the future, especially if you want to remain competitive.

Advanced uses for GPS

Construction World says while GPS tracking solutions aren’t anything new, they’re now being used in more creative and resourceful ways including:

  • Surveying has been dramatically improved because crews no longer need to use traditional surveying equipment.
  • Data for prospective project sites can be quickly and accurately collected.
  • Project managers are also using GPS in fleet management. Today, each of their vehicles is equipped with a device that is trackable via both computer and smartphones. This lets everyone know where vehicles always are.
  • It’s easier to find lost or stolen equipment because managers can now generate maps that pinpoint the exact location of any of these items.


Many people within the construction industry feel that we haven’t even come close to seeing the end of the growth of GPS technology today though. Not only are applications in autonomous vehicles and wearable technology are on the rise, but we’re bound to see driverless vehicles as well. This will no longer be something we only hear about Uber using, construction companies will also be using them too. In fact, the general public will probably have these vehicles available to them as soon as 2020.

They’ll see it in the form of buses, trains, and trucks but construction fleets seriously aren’t far behind. There are many professionals who are currently working on autonomous vehicles that will make job sites even more efficient. For instance, both Caterpillar and John Deere are currently working on dozers that will have automatic blade control and hopefully they’ll take this even further and create fully autonomous and driverless versions of these vehicles as well.

We’re also witnessing the construction industry borrowing from the mining industry. In specific, there’s one piece of driverless equipment that Tokyo–based Komatsu uses GPS in for moving high-grade ore. As the number of these driverless vehicles continues growing, we’ll have a reliable and powerful guide to automated machinery. We’ll also witness GPS tracking solutions solutions be relied  on for positioning and sensor integration so that they can avoid accidents and make sure everyone is safer.

New effective scanning solutions

Scanning is now creating many cost-effective solutions over the past few years. These have helped the construction industry fully understand in what stages certain projects are.

Wearable technology

While many people may think this is only common sense, it shouldn’t go unmentioned that wearable technology  (e.g. Fitbit’s, 3D glasses, Google Glass, armbands that can communicate with coaches on the sidelines) will become an emerging trend that’s useful in keeping workers safe. This will help keep workers from constantly looking down at their instructions because now they can talk to one another via this technology. Additionally, it can help track where workers are if there’s an accident. This is bound to become mandatory at some point in the future.

Without a doubt, 2019 is expected to be a breakthrough year for the construction industry. A data-driven sector with emphasis on collaboration and real-time communication is hopefully around the corner. Only then, construction stakeholders can hope for higher productivity rates and fewer painful project delays.



How to choose the right forklift for a construction job

Whether you need it for construction, warehouse work, picking the right forklift for the job you need is no easy feat. These things are expensive to rent, and especially to buy. Ending up with a piece of machinery you paid thousands of dollars for only to have it as a glorified 1000 pound paperweight is not something to strive for.

Since there is a variety of technological designs, advancements, and changes, a good forklift has a lot of different characteristics that you need to keep in mind.The following are steps on how to choose the right forklift.

Choice of fuel type

The first element to choose is the fuel type. You have a choice between choosing an electric forklift, or one with internal combustion.

Electric forklifts use lead-acid batteries, which can usually last for one standard shift lasting around 8 hours. With more intense usage, you can get around 6 hours. Now, since the forklift is battery powered, all you need to do is charge it up overnight. It’s very cost-effective, the cheapest fuels source you can get. Furthermore, getting a proper, high-quality electric forklift is a must if you’re working indoors.

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They produce zero emission, meaning there is no health hazard when operating one even in the smallest of warehouses. It’s also, of course, environmentally friendly. They are cheaper to operate, but can much more expensive compared to internal combustion forklifts. In fact, they can cost up to 40% more than a regular one.  Their maintenance costs are also higher.

Internal combustion forklifts operate on gasoline, liquid propane gas, compressed natural gas, or diesel fuel. While they are not environmentally friendly, and let out emission that can be hazardous in an indoor environment, their initial cost is cheaper than electric forklifts. Furthermore, they usually have a much stronger and greater weight capacity (sometimes even ten times more). They can also be refueled quickly, instead of waiting for a battery to charge up. Their reach also tends to be higher than the reach of electric forklifts.

However, their yearly cost for fuel is almost ten times higher when compared to electric types. They are quite useful for construction jobs where you need to lift heavier and larger objects. Still, for some construction sites, electric forklifts are a viable option. In the long run they are cheaper, and can be used for lighter work.

Load capacity

A forklift that can’t lift the loads you need is pretty much useless. Furthermore, if you choose the wrong load capacity, you can damage the forklift, which can lead to injury of the merchandise, and of the operator. And of course, you want to keep your people safe at work at all times.

So, with that out of the way, figure out what do you need to lift? If you’re in construction you may have heavier girders and blocks to move around, while in a warehouse, you only have regular boxes. Then again, you may need a forklift for heavy stuff, and one for lighter, on the construction site. Two big ones would be overkill.

Think how wide the loads you will need to carry are. What is the heaviest thing you will need to lift, and what is the average weight of the loads you have. Furthermore, think whether you need certain attachments and add-ons.

Determine the needed lift height

Next, how high do you need to lift things? The average forklifts have a lift height of between 8 to 20 feet. However, know that if needed, you can get forklifts that can go higher. On one hand, there is no need to get a forklift that can go higher than you need, since then you’re just wasting money. On the other hand, if there is a situation where you actually do need to lift something very high, you will bleed out money until you get the right forklift for the job.

So, what is the typical lift height for your construction site? How high does it need to go? Furthermore, are there any restrictions you need to take into account (like beams or lights)?

What kind of tires do you need

The main thing to think about when choosing the right tires for your forklift is the work environment. There are essentially three types (that can use different materials). You have pneumatic, solid, or cushion tires.

Cushion tires are made from solid rubber, and sit quite low to the ground. They are very maneuverable, great for warehouse work. In fact, they can only be used indoors, due to the damage and issues they can run into outside.

Pneumatic tires are for heavy-duty lifting, so we’re talking outdoor operations. They are wider and longer, and are made out of rubber. Great for gravel, asphalt, unpaved terrain. However, they are filled with compressed air, and can be punctured.

Solid tire on the other hand cannot be punctured, and never go flat. These are for serious construction zones, lumber yards. They are pretty much indestructible, but are also quite expensive.

Remember that if you see any glimpse of real damage on the tires, you should replace them as soon as possible. Check them at least every other day if you’re working on a construction site, random nails and iron shavings get in everywhere.

A forklift is an absolutely necessary part of any construction of warehouse work. Choosing the right one can mean the difference between a long and drawn out project, or efficient and clean work.


Kenyan Government to Use Blockchain in New Affordable Housing Project

Kenya’s government plans to deploy blockchain technology to manage a government housing project of 500,000 units, Kenyan news outlet the Star reported Oct. 15.

Within the affordable housing program the government of Kenya reportedly aims to build 500,000 units by 2022, and assist contributors earning less than 100,000 Kenyan Shillings ($992) as they cannot afford mortgages. According to the Star, out of the 2.48 million Kenyans employed in 2016 only 77,000, or 3.1 percent, earned over Sh100,000.

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The Star reports that blockchain technology will be used to ensure the proper distribution of housing to deserving participants in the program and address issues of graft from both legislators and beneficiaries.

Per the report, the government hopes that the new technology will reestablish public trust in the government’s housing initiatives, following the National Youth Service scandal, in which 40 civil servants and 14 private sector officials were arrested for looting $78 million from the project’s coffers.

Speaking at the second urban dialogue on the affordable housing agenda with the World Bank in Nairobi, Housing and Urban development Principal Secretary Charles Hinga said:

“Kenya will use blockchain technology to ensure the rightful owners live in government funded housing projects.”

The project will reportedly be financed by the National Housing Fund under the Finance Act of 2018, to which Kenyans will contribute 1.5 percent of their salary that will be matched by their employers.

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This is not the first attempt to employ blockchain in Kenya on the governmental level. Recently, Kenyan Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence task force chairman Bitange Ndemo said that the government should consider tokenizing the economy to deal with “increasing” rates of corruption and uncertainties. This move, according to Ndemo, would have the government print less hard currency.

In June, “decentralized liquidity network” Bancor in partnership with non-profit foundation Grassroots Economics launched a network of blockchain-based community currencies in Kenya aimed at combating poverty. The project seeks to stimulate local and regional commerce and peer-to-peer activity by enabling Kenyan communities to create and manage their own digital tokens.
While blockchain- and token-based projects are being implemented in the country, the Central Bank of Kenya’s (CBK) is wary toward cryptocurrencies. In April, the CBK issued a circular to all banks in the country, warning them against dealing with crypto or engaging in transactions with crypto-related entities.

Source:   Ana Alexandre, CoinTelegraph

How technology disruption in real estate is cutting jobs, creating new opportunities


As it happens in other sectors of the economy, technology has penetrated the real estate sector and has disrupted the status quo, contracting jobs and creating new opportunities, especially for the millennials.

In many parts of the world, the disruptive impact of technology in real estate is quite evident and many real estate practitioners and professionals have accepted it as the new way to go.

A recent KPMG survey on 130 real estate decision makers from 36 countries shows that 86 percent of respondents see digital and technological innovation as an opportunity, but there is a snag here. Only 24 percent of the respondents has a clear digital and technological strategy.

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The survey indicates further that 30 percent of firms in Americas and Asian Pacific (ASPAC) think the impact of property technology (proptech) will be significant with 64 percent in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) countries agreeing to that. But only 13 percent felt Blockchain, which is a technological tool that aids registering property, would improve speed of transaction due to technological innovation will have the biggest impact on sector.

In Nigeria, the impact of these innovations is already being felt, though not as deep and pervasive as it is in the Western world. Technology based (online) property platforms like Lamudi which has now rebranded to Jumia Houses,, Real Estate Market, estate intel, etc have brought technology to bear on real estate transactions, making listing, leases and sales a lot easier.

“While using property portals is a common practice in developed markets, it is a relatively new phenomenon in emerging markets where internet penetration remains low but rising fast”, noted Obi Ejimofo, former managing director of Lamudi (Jumia Houses), disclosing that a survey of local brokers revealed that 91 percent of all professionals observed a significant increase in online inquiries while 59 percent of those surveyed cited online listing platforms as their channel of choice to advertise properties.

This shows that as an innovative and transformational tool, technology has taken position in the real estate sector, accounting for the significant changes which increased data availability and information has brought into market transactions and development processes.

“With an innovative tool like Proptech, there is already a movement driving a mentality change with the real estate industry and its consumers regarding technology-driven innovation in the data assembly, transaction, design and management of buildings and cities”, noted Luqman Edu, CEO, Filmo Realty, at the one-day Real Estate Unite Summit in Lagos.

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Proptech is a collective term used to define startups offering technologically innovative products or new business models for the real estate markets. Because of this, the market is already experiencing wave of innovation, investment and entrepreneurial activity.

The implication of this is that there will be job losses because work that five to six people would do manually, technology would employ just one person to do it and do so efficiently at much lesser time. This means too that real estate firms that are not ready to make the switch may not be favoured by the bright future of real estate that will be driven by technology.

Proptech companies are starting to develop solutions that solve problems that the real-estate market wants solutions for, but in spite of its inefficient processes and unnecessary transaction costs, real estate is one of the last industries to adopt technology which is why there is a clash of generations where start-ups (proptech) are generally aimed at millennials while real estate leaders are generally from an
older generation.

Whereas Blochain has the potential to aid land registration, real estate transactions, title ownership, due diligence and building maintenance records without need for human interface and intermediary costs, fin-tech comes in as a platform which supports transactions (sales or leasing) of real-estate; gives more information; is transparent and faster.

This means that in Lagos State, for instance, where land transaction is not only tortuous, but also expensive, the introduction of Blockchain in its land administration will make a clean sweep of the many exploitative ‘tables’ that registration files have to pass through and ‘something’ given.

“Transactions will be direct, properties will be smart buildings, there will be flexible use and flexible ownership of such properties where technology drives real estate”, Edu noted, recalling that in Q4 2016, Trulia, an online property platform, had an average of 140 million monthly unique users and “45 percent of these visitors, in the last 12 months, are planning to buy/sell a house in the next 12 months”.

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There are however, inherent opportunities in all these developments. Apart from the rise and rise of technology firms that offer these products and services, new jobs are being created for people with the requisite skills. Opportunities are also be created for vendors and tech equipment manufacturers.

It is estimated that 3-6 percent of the cost of real estate goes to legal, valuation, structural due diligence, contracts, advisory, and agency fees. Efficient storing of lease information, it is hoped, opens possibility of greater liquidity.

For investors and developers, there are also opportunities that call for increased investment in real estate. “The future of real estate anticipates unmanned, robotic buildings such as in 3D printing and warehousing”, Edu observed, adding, “there will be smart buildings that will be able to run wholly remotely such as in driverless cars and delivery vehicles or bots for logistics and real estate”.

Smart cities which will be driven by technology will integrate multiple information, communication technology and internet of things (IoT) solutions for a whole city. People will be engaged to make all these happen.

Technology has brought the world to a point where people should worry less over basic necessities of life. With crowd-funding, for instance, it does not make sense any longer for property buyers to put down 30 percent equity and take management issues when they can invest in rental cash-flow online.

Chuka Uroko

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