New technologies including drones, autonomous equipment, IoT, collaboration software, AR/VR as well as 3D printing are revolutionizing the Construction industry. On May 15, the Global Open Innovation Network held a TechMeeting in San Francisco and invited key opinion leaders and stakeholders to discuss the transformations happening in this sector.

The event kicked off with a panel discussion between:

  • Allen Preger, Partner at Building Ventures
  • Audrey Bascoul, Strategic Program Manager, R&D at Katerra
  • Hédi Calabrese, Construction Analyst at Winnovation
  • Elissa Flandro, Bay Area Chapter Leader at Society for Construction Solutions
  • Benjamin Price, Associate Venture Manager at Saint-Gobain

The discussion started with a focus on Artificial Intelligence and its applications within the Construction industry. Hédi Calabrese explained the difficulty to navigate among the multitude of startups, some offering specialized, narrow AI, and some offering comprehensive, strong AIsolutions. Amongst Winnovation’s promising finds, Hédi Calabrese talked about Alice Technologies for scheduling, and Lili AI for project management. The panel then discussed some additional applications within the Construction industry including generative design, automated equipment, risk mitigation and new materials development.

Artificial Intelligence, however, is not the only technology pushing the Construction industry forward, and Elissa Flandro shared some thoughts on two software companies: Building Connected and PlanGrid. These companies illustrate the changes happening within the Construction sector as startups tackle outdated, paper-based processes. Both companies were acquired by Autodesk in December 2018. These acquisitions take place at a time when capital is massively flowing through the Construction industry: in the first three quarters of 2018, Construction tech startups have raised about $1.3 billion in venture funding, 124% higher than the $563.5 million raised in all of 2017[1]. Admittedly, most of that was raised in the first quarter alone with Katerra raising over $860 million from Softbank, River Park Ventures, and FourScore Capital.

Katerra, founded in 2015 in Menlo Park, combines technology and modular construction to create large-scale prefab buildings. The company is now looked upon by many Construction companies and Audrey Bascoul, Strategic Program Manager, R&D at Katerra, was with us and accepted to share some insights about the company’s remarkable success. One of Katerra’s first moves was to get into massive data collection. In addition to sensors and digital project management tools, the company spent a lot of time looking at how workers were installing its products, how long it tookthem to complete each task, and broke down each step of the process. These observations, coupled with the collected data, allowed the company to improve its processes and the product itself.

Finally, Ben Price shared interesting information on Saint-Gobain’s vision. Being early in the value chain, the company has the ambition to drive innovation from the top. Thus, the company is working on implementing sensors that would be collecting data from the factory to the job site. Another promising opportunity as a materials company is to develop connected materials to be used in connected homes and connected buildings.

Alike Winnovation and Saint-Gobain, many corporations from the Construction industry are now engaged into digitalization, with the ability to tap into a rich and diverse startups ecosystem to find relevant solutions. Following the panel discussion, we invited some of these startups to present their solution:

Fieldwire

Fieldwire keeps all project data organized and accessible both online and offline, so crews on-site are always looking at the latest set of drawings and can record, track and share critical information (photos, punch lists, RFIs) overlaid on each plan directly from their mobile device. Tasks can be created, assigned, and updated all from the field in real-time, and Fieldwire’s notification system makes sure that everyone stays updated on progress through both email and mobile alerts.

Bumblebee Spaces

The company multiplies usable space by using modular robotics systems to store and retrieve objects in the ceiling. Combining this with AI, sensor fusion and contextual awareness, Bumblebee Spaces safely and intelligently organizes your life, making space for what matters. Using smart robots and an AI stack, the company increases usable space and reduce footprint by storing, managing, and retrieving objects on-demand in your ceiling.

Buildup

Buildup is a task management and punch list software that helps to substantially improve product quality upon completion, reduce costs and shorten the construction timeline. Used by owners/developers, general contractors and subcontractors, Buildup helps to communicate issues/tasks among everyone at both the jobsite and in the office to save time, minimize project delays and reduce cost overruns.

Nightingale Security

Robotic Aerial Security can monitor and measure construction progress and protect against theft of parts, tools and raw materials.

3D Robotics

3DR makes advanced drone technology easily accessible to the construction, mining, and surveying industries for use in data analysis. It helps users in land mapping and site scanning services collect accurate aerial data of the jobsite, turn drone photos into maps, models, point clouds and provide comprehensive onboarding and ongoing support, enabling clients to take better and informed decisions related to construction sites.

Holobuilder

HoloBuilder offers reality capturing solutions for progress documentation and construction project management. Making use of 360° imagery, computer vision, and AI, HoloBuilder is the fastest and most insightful solution to document construction projects. HoloBuilder’s customers include 59% of the Top 100 General Contractors in the United States. Its investors include Brick and Mortar Ventures and Tandem Capital.

Knowify

Developer of a business management software designed to assist in tracking bids and managing invoices. The company’s SaaS based platform has inbuilt cost and tenure estimation tools to create bids and contracts, track timing, plan budgets, create comprehensive cost estimates, schedule and optimize resources, monitor bills payable, prepare and track invoices and create service tickets and schedule technicians on work orders, enabling commercial subcontractors to reduce manual errors, save time and automate accounting and administrative tasks through a paper-less procedure.

Kenzen

Developer of a health analytics platform intended to predict and prevent avoidable health conditions. The company’s wearable vital sign and sweat-analysis system continuously monitors parameters that are needed to detect heat-related injuries, enabling workers and at-risk individuals to conduct real-time sweat biomarker analysis and obtain personalized health insights and notifications to help them stay safe in the most strenuous scenarios.

Tread

Developer of a construction management platform designed to hire equipment operating subcontractors easily. The company’s platform uses data analytics to keep construction moving and serves as a bridge between heavy equipment operators and construction companies, enabling users to record and measure equipment usages in real time and save extra costs.

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[1] Mary Ann AZEVEDO, “Construction Tech Sector Funding Rises As Prescient Raises $50M More” in Crunchbase News, October 24, 2018. Available at: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/