Of all the technology innovations to hit the market in the last few decades, one of the most transformational technologies in recent memory has been the advent of the cloud. Cloud technology has completely changed the landscape of many different industries including, more recently, the construction industry.
Nearly everyone in the business world is very familiar with the term 'the cloud' by now, but for those of you who haven't had the chance to dive in to this ground-breaking technology yet, here's a quick (non-technical) recap:
Life Before the Cloud
Prior to the cloud, businesses were forced to invest in an IT infrastructure in order for local servers or computers to host their core business applications and data. This meant deploying dedicated hardware to host and run your mission-critical applications. This also meant hiring an IT team to manage, troubleshoot, and upgrade that infrastructure over time while business processes continued to evolve.
This essentially meant that your data was stored locally and, in order to access that data, you would need to pass through some specific channels. For example, if your data was stored on the hard drive of a computer, you may only be able to access the data from that specific computer. Or if someone outside of your local network needed access to the data, you would need to store that data on a server local to your network and provide the employee, who is external to your network, with secure access into the network in order to retrieve the data from the shared location.
Not only was this setup complex to manage but it was also prohibitive for an employee trying to do their job. The employee would need to understand the IT process involved just for them to simply have access to the information they need to perform their work.
What made this worse was scale. The bigger the company, the more local architectures the IT team would need to manage and the more training employees required.
Enter Cloud Technology
So what's the big deal with the cloud?
With the cloud, instead of happening locally, all processing, storage, and data handling is done remotely via offsite servers or data farms. The cloud has basically helped us break free from the chains of localization.
All your applications and data can simply be accessed through an active internet connection. Employees no longer have to jump through hoops to access critical information.
Better yet, the cloud has enabled the emergence of third-party cloud service providers, with Amazon, Microsoft, and Google all taking leading positions in this market. This means that companies no longer have to manage their own server infrastructures but can simply pay a cloud service provider to manage their business applications and data on the provider's server hardware. Cloud service providers are responsible for managing their own hardware, so customers can also completely eliminate these IT costs moving forward.
The cloud has allowed companies to never have to think about running local servers ever again. That's another big headache removed. Phew!
Unfortunately, construction was late to the cloud party. But the good news is companies have now realized the many benefits of the cloud for construction and have adopted cloud-based technologies in waves. There's no looking back from here.
With that, I want to list out 5 reasons why construction needs the cloud:
Construction is a field service industry, requiring personnel onsite to complete the core work involved and deliver service to clients.
So what's one thing every single field worker shows up onsite with nowadays? A smartphone.
The rise of the cloud has coincided with the rise of mobile devices and these two trends have essentially depended on each other. After all, some of the world's biggest companies rely on this combination of cloud and mobile technologies as the key enabler for their business, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Netflix, among many many others.
In construction, workers and managers travel between different jobsites and the office constantly. As a project manager, executive, or business owner, you want to receive real-time updates at all times to proactively manage risks and ensure a smooth project delivery.
The cloud lets you access construction software and data from anywhere and any time. All you need is an internet-connected device like a laptop, phone, or tablet. The cloud has connected the field and the office together like never before.
In the old days, jobsite information had to be captured manually, such as by writing things down on paper or calling them in. This type of manual data capture resulted in wasted time, delayed productivity, and even incorrect information when things weren't recorded correctly. Often times, managers would only find out about mistakes until after it was too late, watching that bottom line shrink in front of their eyes.
With the cloud, workers and managers can upload and share information, files, progress updates, and more with ease. That data can be accessed by anyone else within the organization from anywhere.
All that real-time data can then produce rich and actionable analytics to help managers predict project outcomes and manage risks far in advance. This constant data feedback loop between the field and the office will continue to improve the company's overall productivity across nearly every area of the business.
In addition to mobile technologies, the cloud has also powered the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT refers to the billions of physical devices around the world that are now connected to the internet, all collecting and sharing data. Pretty much any physical object can be transformed into an IoT device if it can be connected to the internet to be controlled or communicate information.
In construction, drones and robotics onsite can be connected to a cloud backend for companies to control and receive data.
Pair that with software automation such as CWA and now your cloud technology becomes the foundation for the fully automated future construction has always needed.
Here's one quick example of the power of complete software and hardware automation in construction. With CWA, the software will know when workers have completed their shifts onsite, automatically record their time tracking data and trigger the drone onsite to fly around and start snapping progress pictures completely on its own. As each image is captured, the data can be stored in a folder or even sent in an email for managers to access whenever they'd like. When the drone is finished, it will simply fly itself back to home base and wait for further instruction.
The possibilities are endless but one thing is clear, none of this will be possible without the cloud.
When projects are completed more efficiently, companies end up incurring less costs through reduced labour hours, less rework, and more. This means less costs and higher profits with each job.
Furthermore, when projects take less time to complete and require less resources, companies can take on more work in a given amount of time. Cloud-powered automation can assist your team in completing work quickly and you will always have access to all the project data far in advance allowing companies to make bidding decisions with more accuracy and speed.
Maximize your team's output, and you will maximize your profits.
Storing data on local servers can make it vulnerable to system damage and data theft. The local hardware can also become a single point of failure, so if anything happens to the hardware it can take everything down with it. Any events like this can be disastrous for a construction business.
In contrast, cloud service providers strive to implement advanced security procedures and standards to keep client data safe on the cloud.
Virtually every industry has been comfortably migrating infrastructures to the cloud over the last decade+, including industries with the highest levels of sensitive and privileged data such as healthcare and financial services.
Take Amazon for example. Amazon invests very heavily into their AWS security, employing waves of world-class engineering and security experts to manage and maintain such a mission-critical infrastructure. After all, some of the world’s biggest companies run on AWS.
I think Amazon, Microsoft, and Google may know a thing or two about security.
The construction industry is one of the best use-cases for cloud technology out there. The cloud is helping construction increase mobility, productivity, automation, profit, and security. The benefits are simply undeniable at this point.
For any companies that have still not adopted the cloud, beware of the risk that your competitors will very likely leapfrog you very soon. Time to make the switch as soon as possible, don't wait!
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