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Construction Technology: An Interview with National Conference Keynote Speaker Damon Hernandez

By CSI HQ posted 09-02-2021 02:27 PM


Damon Hernandez, President at SIMLAB, and co-founder of IDEAbuilder, a high-tech building company that uses immersive technologies and robotic manufacturing to build structures more efficiently, will be a keynote speaker at the CSI National Conference in Nashville on Friday, September 24th.

Here, he discusses the current trends in construction as it relates to technology and the intersection of traditional CAD (computer-aided design) and shares some examples on how modern technology is impacting the future of construction.

What are some of the key ways technology is changing our industry, and what do you envision will be the key trends for the future?

When I look at key technological trends, what I really want to show people is that the future is what you begin to make right now. I think the industry is evolving by the number of mobile applications we’re seeing for work-related communication. There’s a plethora of those, including for payroll, professional networks, and LinkedIn. So, one thing that will continue to change the industry now and in the future is the ongoing use of mobile applications.

The next thing, of course, is 5G connectivity and connected job sites. That’s going to be very interesting. More smart tools and the productivity applications around those tools. Something else really enhancing the industry is the gathering of data, almost too much data. And I see 3D for all types of communication is another trend that will continue to change the industry – for fabrication and assembly.

Why is what you're presenting at the conference such an impactful topic right now?

Mobile applications put information and potential innovation into every worker’s pocket. Not just people in the office, so it’s democratizing innovation for job sites. This is going to make for a better-connected job site. For example, if you have someone who has a shoulder injury and his job is to screw things above his head all day, the drill can detect how long he’s been doing that and let you know when you need to assign him to something else that may not aggravate the shoulder injury.

There are hybrid applications that will know where the worker is on the site, what they are they doing, and what tools they are using, which is where we’re going to see better use of AI. Artificial intelligence, computer vision, and a lot of these other technologies will help people better understand data, which is very impactful to the industry. Solutions providers can help manage schedules or safety precautions with spatial context. When looking at 3D for all types of communication, we’re starting to see it’s gone beyond just visualization now.

Do you hear when you’re talking to people, hey, this is real time, and will impact the person who's on the site?

Yes, and I think that came from the personal experience that anybody can walk in and say, this is how things are going to be great in the future. I don’t want someone to walk away knowing what ingredients are going to be in the kitchen in five to 10 years, but what are the ingredients in the kitchen now, so they know what to use. That’s what I really try to target. I mean anybody can be a futurist and talk about jet packs to fly around and paint the wall and whatnot, sure. But that to me is of no value. What I like to say is, here are the tools that are available, and if you do want to include these technologies, then here’s the opportunity, and here’s where they might fall short.

Why is this important to you?

Well, this industry impacts everyone who lives or works in a house or building. So, coming from a tech background, you see buildings go up, you see cities being built and you're just like oh, well they obviously have everything figured out. Then when you get involved, you see where you could almost take someone from 2000 years ago, throw them on a job site and they could kind of figure out the tools.

I’m super passionate about how technologists and people who care and can contribute, give built environment professionals super tech powers. You don’t make ingredients, but you do cook. I make ingredients. So, if I can understand what you’re hungry for, then here’s the ingredients I can provide you, then you can go from there and make better meals.

What are the key challenges and opportunities?

The challenge, as always, is that marketing departments of technology solutions are usually better than the applications themselves. So, the sales pitch, as far as the actual deliverable, can be a challenge. Several years back, when people were trying technology X, and a marketing team over promised what X could do, people didn’t try a different vendor. They just said X isn't ready for me, then threw it off to the side. So, managing realistic expectations of what technology can do, that’s a challenge.

The other is, how do you beta technology in a work environment, on a project? That’s hard to do, because you’re trying to stay on schedule, on budget, and if you bring a new piece of technology into the process, that requires some onboarding internally.

So, a lot of it is implementation?

One hundred percent. But I think the next one is the most important, and that’s just cultural. It’s the challenge of getting people to understand the value of the technology, then also being open to it. Which I’ve seen start to soften. It’s not why do I need to use this? It’s more, how do I use this? Or what’s the best way to use this? But the people are still the challenge.

Some of the opportunities of course are that as built environment professionals get more engaged with those who are developing the tools, they’re going to get better tools. I see that some of the more successful applications come from people who were in industry. There are a lot of opportunities for built environment professionals who want to either start their own thing or get involved with people who are integrating solutions. That's exciting, because there’s more opportunity for better communication and collaboration of the data.

Is there anything else you’d like to share to welcome people and listening to you in Nashville?

Yes, it would be to welcome them to come learn about what new tools you have in your digital toolbox, and to see it’s not as freaky as you may think. I invite them to come and get engaged and learn how they can empower the people under them to evolve and be exposed to new technologies. I think technology is the meteor that’s coming, and people have a choice of being either a dinosaur or a mammal. If you don’t have long until you’re out of the industry and don’t care, that’s cool. Stay a dinosaur. But if you want to stay relevant and go along with evolution, come and find out about some cool technology and how it’s being applied today. Then it can help you build a better future - for yourself and the industry.

Learn more about Damon and his presentation, and read interviews from Keynote Speakers Curt Moody and Nancy Novak.