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What’s Trending in AEC+Geospatial in 2020

The digital disruption of the AEC industry is underway, with technology transforming how construction projects are planned, designed, engineered, operated and maintained. BIM, AI, Digital Twins, modular construction, Robotics, GPS and other technologies are bringing forth a data-driven revolution. 

The Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry is known to have struggled to stay relevant in a technology-driven world. The sector brings together seemingly separate entities to facilitate technology adoption and exchange of information, to bring a project to fruition. Over the past years, owing to growing population and rapid urbanization, digital technologies are being adopted to transform how physical assets or built assets are planned, designed, constructed, operated and maintained. “We know the growing population is inevitable, and as is a world with more automation,” underlines Andrew Anagnost, President and CEO, Autodesk Inc.

Global technology trends have made it impossible for the construction industry to stand still. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution around the corner, the construction technology (ConTech) has witnessed several disruptive innovations. Thanks to the ubiquitous digital connectivity, geospatial data and cloud computing, the construction sector is undergoing a seamless integration of technology infrastructure, undoing decades of conventional practices. Further, transformative innovations have enhanced investments, leading to a sharp uptick in adoption of ConTech by the AEC industry.

What’s Trending in AEC+Geospatial in 2020?

Building Information Modelling (BIM)

The ConTech space represents an elite group of geospatial, BIM/CAD, project management and smart technology companies catering to design construction and building management segments. In a fragmented and complex industry like AEC, the ConTech ecosystem is expected to make a substantial impact. Today, most of the AEC firms have successfully transitioned to BIM, from conventional 2D drafting packages of CAD. BIMs’ 3D intelligent model has a transformative effect and changes the construction process from bottom-up to ensure effective collaboration.

“BIM today is on path-breaking advancements to solve trivial issues by producing a central data model to influence AEC landscape. The biggest game-changer is that the information in the BIM model can evolve and change as the asset is modified,” says Keith Bentley, Chief Technology Officer, Bentley Systems. The new face of BIM and real-time design is Cloud collaboration, necessitating a Cloud-based repository of high-resolution imagery with animations. In the AEC community, Cloud democratizes access to knowledge, tools and technologies, to create a robust collaborative environment across the construction lifecycle to support project coordination and management for efficient design, construction and operation processes. Thus, ConTech companies are undertaking strategic efforts to combine advanced technology ecosystems to connect people and data across the entire value chain.

Cloud-level Collaboration

Cloud-level collaboration creates a win-win situation for all stakeholders, reducing the need to duplicate information from design-to-construction. “Despite the tremendous challenges construction companies face to connect huge volumes of data and people, no one has delivered on the promise of unified construction from design to operations — until today,” feels Jim Lynch, Vice-President and General Manager, Autodesk Construction Solutions, while unveiling the Autodesk Construction Cloud at AU 2019 in Las Vegas, USA. “With Autodesk Construction Cloud, we’re introducing a new era of connected construction and offering unrivalled integration between headquarters, office and field teams. We have never been more dedicated and clearer in our mission to empower designers, contractors and owners to meet the world’s rapidly expanding construction needs while helping to make buildings more predictable, safe and sustainable.” To measure efficiency and anticipate project risks, connected construction brings all stakeholders together on a Cloud, so that the construction process is no longer disjointed.

Digital Twins

One of the other transformative tech evolutions of the construction industry is Digital Twins, which provide an intuitive and immersive environment converging digital context and digital components over asset lifecycles. “For the construction and infrastructure industry, a Digital Twin is a digital replica of an infrastructure asset that enables visualization of the asset across its entire lifecycle, track changes and perform analysis to optimize asset performance.  Digital Twins are the backbone for a lot of decision-making in the construction sector,” emphasizes Keith Bentley.

While rapid technological advancements stimulate innovation in BIM and facilitate its adoption in construction projects, in the near future, Digital Twins will take the centre stage, advancing rapidly beyond BIM to create immersive experiences. “The broad acceptance of BIM has substantially benefited AEC professionals and projects over the last fifteen years, but now, with Cloud services, reality modelling, and advanced analytics, we can advance BIM through Digital Twins,” says Santanu Das, Bentley’s Senior Vice-President, Design Integration. With Digital Twins, there exists the potential of exploiting engineering and geospatial data locked in a BIM model via drone surveys and reality modelling to simulate the value of engineering data in both project and asset performance.

Integrated Geospatial and BIM solutions aka GEOBIM

Engineering and Construction (E&C) firms are also realizing the benefits of an integrated BIM and geospatial (GEOBIM) lifecycle approach to construction. GEOBIM solutions present a massive incentive for the AEC industry to enhance productivity and transform project design and delivery. “The Crossrail project in London, which was the largest engineering project in Europe at the time, adopted a full-lifecycle BIM+Geospatial approach with targets of 20% savings on design and construction and 40% savings during operations and maintenance,” highlights Geoff Zeiss, Principal, Between the Poles. Today, complex construction assignments implement reality capture using LiDAR scanning in the planning phase to present an accurate representation of the construction site. Further, the scanned data is georeferenced and migrated into the BIM model for design, build and construction phases of a project.


In the age of automation, drones provide highly reliable and precise information to boost BIM adoption. Drones capture high-resolution imagery which is combined with GIS and BIM in a common data environment to increase productivity and efficiency and a better understanding of the project. “With drones, you can get-up-to-date images as often as you like. While they aren’t helping the actual labour process (yet) – they’ve still got a huge role to play in the construction industry, and that role is growing. Drones have helped revolutionize the planning stages of construction, along with land surveying and data capturing,” says Pae Natwilai, CEO, Trik.

Artificial Intelligence

In the realm of the E&C industry, Artificial Intelligence is transforming construction to ‘artificial construction’, leading to real-time virtual reality construction models and reduction in errors. Innovative startups such as Alice Technologies, Airsquire offer unique value propositions – providing construction planning platforms with an AI engine to optimize the E&C process. “Today, we see a lot more data being collected on construction project sites, and AI is being used to cut through the noise in Big Data and filter out the key issues for our customers,” explains Kyle Tan, CEO and Co-Founder, Airsquire.

It’s not only startups that are concentrating on AI in this sector. Large software companies such as Autodesk, Nemetschek Group, etc. are going mainstream with AI technologies (Machine Learning, object and image recognition) in construction modelling workflows. At the AU 2019 conference, Elizabeth Hausler, CEO, BuildChange, cited the use of Revit and Dynamo to automate the construction process in building disaster-resistant homes and schools and to assess whether structures can be retrofitted. Hausler said, “The tool uses photos that the homeowners have taken on their smartphone and uploaded to our Cloud. It analyzes building materials, the height of the building, the type of roof. All that data then tells us whether it’s possible to retrofit the home. Through automation, we’re scaling our efforts and scaling our impact.”

Don’t miss out on high-level conversations at #GWF2020!

The past year has been a big year for technology innovation in the construction industry and it’s not expected to slow down. If you want to know more about the big trends and directions in the AEC industry in the field of Geospatial and BIM – you should not miss Geospatial Media’s global forum – Geospatial World Forum 2020. The Construction and Engineering program being held on the 8th and 9th April will initiate thought-provoking discussions and advocate for technology innovation and practices in the AEC industry. The conference will discuss the latest trends and directions – while simultaneously bringing forth discussions in disruptive technologies and how is the AEC industry catching up. 

Other than Construction and Engineering Program, the conference shall highlight the value of geospatial technology in digital economy and its integration with emerging technologies such as 5G, AI, Autonomous Vehicles, Big Data, Blockchain, Cloud, IoT and LiDAR in various user industries, including digital cities, construction & engineering, defence & security, telecommunications, and business intelligence.

To know more please visit www.geospatialworldforum.org

We will soon release another set of AEC Industry Technology Trends – Stay Tuned!