The construction industry has long been stuck in analogue. Clunky hardware, paper and pencils and manual tools have been, and continue to be, the foundation that builds our cities. While data and the internet have powered the 21st century, the construction industry has been slow to adapt, costing stakeholders billions of dollars globally due to construction inefficiencies and design errors. Despite the fact that emissions from manufacturing building materials contribute more than 11 percent of global emissions, environmental impacts are oftentimes relegated to an afterthought.
As cities look to recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is even less room for the industry to make these mistakes or ignore another looming, once in a lifetime crisis: climate change. In order to recover stronger and build a more resilient future, the industry is looking to emerging startups who are creating new solutions to build our cities in a way that is more efficient, effective and sustainable.
That’s why at URBAN-X we invest and support startups reimagining city life. Our portfolio includes companies from around the globe improving the built environment. Using innovative technologies such as IoT, AI and robotics, these startups are taking age-old construction practices and improving them to better align with the needs and technology of today.
For instance, many tools have emerged for us to build buildings better. By leveraging machine learning and AI, Versatile offers a holistic view of a construction project and transforms any construction site into a smart, data-collecting field for project improvement.
Using innovative technologies such as IoT, AI and robotics, these startups are taking age-old construction practices and improving them to better align with the needs and technology of today
Through IoT sensors mounted under the hook of a crane, Versatile constantly collects and analyzes data on the progress of the construction process. It then improves the process by empowering site managers with actionable insights they would previously spend countless hours searching for or never being aware of, including information on materials, redundancies, construction progress and crane utilization.
Toggle, on the other hand, uses robotics and automation to assemble rebar for prefabricated concrete — the world’s most ubiquitous building material. To achieve this, Toggle has developed new hardware, software and services that work in conjunction with industrial robots and other steel fabrication equipment to increase safety, productivity and precision in the rebar fabrication assembly process. This innovative application of technology in construction allows the company to deliver steel reinforcing products at lower cost and faster speed.
As the country’s roads and bridges continue to crumble, we must also look at new construction innovations that maintain the infrastructure that lets us get from Point A to Point B. RoadBotics uses advanced AI and computer vision to produce detailed maps of road infrastructure problems.
These issues include things like potholes and utility patches, but RoadBotics also helps communities unlock effective preventative maintenance strategies -- just like you perform maintenance on your car to help it last longer and prevent major fixes later, the same is true of roads. By using AI, RoadBotics reduce the use of asphalt and concrete, to the benefit of the environment, all while achieving better road infrastructure for everyone.
We can also find exciting technologies when looking at the design within our buildings. Sapient, for instance, has developed an autonomous energy management system that senses and learns human behavior in order to eliminate wasted energy in buildings. The Sapient web application collects energy data through smart devices and controls power delivery at each individual socket for every plugged-in piece of equipment throughout a building. The result is significant reductions in energy consumption, electronic waste and carbon emissions.
By working with and embracing innovators who are rethinking how our buildings, roadways and bridges are built and designed, we see a new path forward for the construction industry. Our potential is only limited by how quickly we can align new policy, and build new partnerships to bring groundbreaking solutions to market.