When we think of the current technological advancements, we usually envision the fields of communication, electronics, and scientific experimentation. As time goes by, however, tech developments have begun to influence the construction industry in many beneficial ways. New, revolutionary breakthroughs in automation and machinery are changing the way manufacturing and manual labor work.

The construction business doesn’t typically interweave with technology, and this is one of the gaps that scientists and researchers are now attempting to bridge. The successful series of scientific advances that have been made are leading towards multi-purpose construction material, new electronic devices to perform testing and tools to make regular assembly work much easier. Tech has permeated the construction trade, and we’re glad it’s here to stay. This article will reveal 10 amazing new technological contributions to the construction industry and how they’re changing the world as we know it.

1. Autonomous Dump Truck

Dirty jobs – who loves them, right? If Komatsu’s cabless dump truck has anything to say about it, automated haulage might just become a worldwide trend. The company has successfully been constructing and commercializing autonomous haulage trucks since 2008 and since then, more than 1 billion tons of overburden and minerals have been transported. The benefits of using an autonomous dump truck include increased productivity and time-saving. The need to make K-turns at loading and unloading sites has been completely eliminated. Having a driverless haul truck also means having increased capacity and much more evenly distributed weight on the vehicle. We definitely hope to be seeing more availability of construction vehicles like this in the near future.

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2. Wearable Technology

Everyone knows that a construction site can be a dangerous place; which is why hard hats and special clothes are always required when on-site. But significant technological inventions are working to change that. In fact, researchers theorize that as more advancements are made, the manufacturing area is only going to get safer. Some examples of wearable technology that are becoming benchmarks of safety are belt clips and equipment tags that are designed to track where a worker is at any given point in time, what piece of machinery he/she is operating, and will even give a notification if an accident occurs.

3. Adaptable Concrete

In terms of volume, concrete takes first place for the most-used construction material on the planet. But it has its flaws – a fact that scientists in Singapore are trying to change. Concrete is a mixture of aggregate which is crushed stone, sand, or gravel mixed with cement and water. The main problem though with concrete, is that it cannot bend and it tends to crack when faced with drying shrinkage or thermal contraction. What the geniuses over in Singapore have invented is a special type of material intended to be concrete-like but with improvements. The final product, called ConFlexPave, is made of a mixture of hard materials and polymer microfibers. This makes it fifty times more flexible and forty times lighter than normal concrete.

4. Smartphone with Thermal Imaging

Working in underwater construction can be challenging; Given the obstruction of visibility, inability to use electronics at certain depths, and difficulty maneuvering in an unnatural element. The world-famous company known for construction machinery and equipment, Caterpillar Inc., has created a smartphone that eliminates some of these challenges. The Cat S61 is the newest phone in its line-up and comes equipped with full waterproof technology up to 3 meters, thermal imaging camera for visualizing heat, and is temperature-resistant and drop proof.

5. Mechanized Glove

Back in 2012, NASA and General Motors developed a special robotic glove, aptly named RoboGlove, to assist astronauts when performing mechanical repairs. The glove uses pressure sensors to increase grip strength by employing artificial tendons that are triggered when a user attempts to squeeze something. This technology is now available for commercial use. So we’re bound to see immense practical applications for the super-glove in the near future.

6. Solar-Powered Roads

Perhaps one of the most thrilling and exciting additions to our list is the prospect of using solar-powered roads. It might seem like a fantasy but tech startup Solar Roadways operating out of Idaho say that’s not the case. In fact, they’re already in the middle of testing out their 30kg glass panels on a sidewalk at the Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway, Missouri. If these solar-powered roads become a reality, it’ll change our lives. What it means for us is that our roads will have the ability to melt ice and snow, can possibly integrate with traffic signaling systems, and might even be able to generate different colors.

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7. Electrified Concrete

Meanwhile, in Nebraska, Professor Chris Tuan is cooking up an ingenious way to remove ice from roads – without human intervention. It looks like he’s finally made a breakthrough. His invention is a special type of electrified concrete which has the capability to generate heat. How could it possibly do that, you ask? Well, because it’s not pure concrete. 20 percent of it is actually carbon particles and metal fiber which will be able to heat up via steel rods jammed through the mixture. It’s a pretty cool idea and if Professor Tuan can get a working model in place, you can be sure that we’re going to be seeing clear roads during snowstorms soon.

8. Construction Industry: Virtual Reality

When you think of VR technology, you might think of a geeky gamer alone in his room, exploring a fantasy world with his friends. While this statement may have been true five years ago, today it just isn’t. Virtual reality has begun to take over the world and its next target is the construction industry. Companies like Winter Construction use VR tech to immerse potential owners and stakeholders in the environment of a planned construction. This allows the viewers to really get a good perspective on the outcome of the building plans.

9. Self-Healing Concrete

If you thought adaptable concrete was awesome, you’ll love the self-healing concrete. It literally does what its name implies – it “heals” itself if cracked. It is able to accomplish this because it’s actually a bio-concrete. During the mixing process, healing agents and bacteria capsules are actually added along with cement and water and baked into the concrete. When the cement cracks, these tiny capsules will break and produce calcium carbonate which fills up the crevice. Unfortunately for us, self-healing concrete is still in the trial stage. But we certainly hope that the science will be perfected soon.

10. Surface Clinging Drone

It sounds like something from a science fiction movie, but it’s not. In fact, drones have been used for years during construction to perform manual labor, gain visibility from high vantage points, and gather statistical data on structural integrity. Just recently though, a new type of drone was created by Japanese company PRODRONE. While most airborne drones can’t hover close to a building while fending off heavy gusts of wind, for the PD6-CI-L inspection drone, it’s a breeze (no pun intended). It does this by using negative pressure to cling to the sides of buildings.

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Written by Sunshine Jean