Data is the innovation gift that keeps on giving

David Glennon is group head of digital engineering at Mace

Innovation in construction and consultancy is frequently linked to big machines, cleaner practices and new toys such as robotics, but there is a key concept that runs throughout all innovation in our sector: data.

“Intentional data-gathering efforts are proving enduringly beneficial across the industry – often in ways we never imagined”

To truly innovate, we need to absolutely understand the challenge that we are trying to solve – and the options available to us to fix it. The only way to gain this level of clarity is through the harnessing and analysis of information.

But the value of data does not stop at its original or first use.

Innovation in motion

As a sector, construction has come a long way on its innovation journey. Everywhere you look on construction sites there are new solutions built into methods and processes, improving the way we work. All these solutions are formed and developed through the scrutiny of information coming from the application of data.

Increasingly, intentional data-gathering efforts are proving enduringly beneficial across the industry – often in ways we never imagined.

Enduring benefits of digital storage

The data that we capture, as an industry, is giving us greater clarity than ever before, and the information we can extrapolate is no longer used for just its original purpose. Historically, data would be captured, filed away, and sometimes forgotten about, but we are now able to store data electronically for ease of reference.

With data being more accessible, it is now commonplace for it to be reused in other ways, increasing the value of making the effort to capture it in the first place.

The easiest example of this is a photograph taken of a site. The original use of the image may have been simply for record keeping. But now that image can be used over and over again as verification of a site, to track progress of the development or to document correct installation of a particular construction method.

Even more impactful could be the reuse of data relating to health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues – or data relating to the sustainability benefits and carbon savings made on particular schemes.

This digital databasing of evidence and data could go even further. As an industry we have hoards of data and information – but often this is kept exclusively within a business. If we were to collaborate more widely, sharing knowledge between organisations, then the benefits of data could be realised more quickly across the sector.

Embedding AI into tools

Artificial intelligence (AI) is witnessing a boom in both popularity and influence. The construction and consultancy world can, like many other industries, use computer-generated intelligence and problem solving to bring untold benefits to clients and projects.

These advanced insights could be used to predict budgets and project timelines more accurately. They could even be used to identify potential sticking points or challenges on the horizon, providing solutions to increase the chance of project success.

Historically, this kind of insight was only available to us by scouring old archives of project files and lessons learned documentation – but now it is available to us through the click of a button.

Innovation made simple

Innovation is about finding new ideas for significant and positive impact. Good innovation is understanding the challenge and replicating success to double down on positive impact.

In our industry, it remains vitally important that we continue to innovate. By doing so, we can continue to provide best value for our clients, ensure the safety of our workforce and play our part in the global fight against climate challenges.

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