Tuesday 20 February 2018

Major Innovation Survey - Disrupting the future - CBI Industry Report

Last year I was interviewed by the CBI on emerging technologies and the construction industry as part of their Innovation Survey. I received a hard copy of the resulting report a few days ago and it was nice to see a quote from that interview included...
CBI Report on Disrupting the Future
The report focuses on the three technologies that the survey suggested would have the biggest industry impact in the upcoming years.
It's a free report that gives an introduction to each subject, then insight into likely adoption patterns, opinions, case studies, barriers, recommendations and tips. Download now for free to have a read:
Disrupting the Future - CBI Innovation Report
Some bits and pieces that I highlighted from the report are below:

  • Adoption of technology is essential to raising productivity, spreading properity and opening-up new paths for growth.
  • Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and the Internet of Things are set to go mainstream.
  • The Internet of Things unlocks data. Artificial Intelligence solves problems. Blockchain changes how businesses exchange value.
  • A third of companies declare themselves 'early adopters' of technologies. A quarter of companies declare themselves as 'followers'.
Artificial Intelligence:
  • Has transitioned from programmed 'intelligent' behavior (the enemy in a computer game) to 'neural networks' that work in a similar way to the human brain.
  • Over the next five years AI holds the top spot as the technology set to impact across all sectors
  • 90% of the world's data has been created in the last 24 months
  • Although not yet used in construction, around 35% expect to use it within the next five years. However, almost 50% of technology companies already use it.
  • 75% of businesses recognise that AI will help with prediction and pre-emptive decisions
Block chain:
The Internet of Things:
  • Enables businesses to understand what is happening in their operations in real time and chart a path towards significant productivity improvements.
  • Works with 'big data' so marries perfectly with AI.
  • Momentum is building, over 70% of companies say that IoT will be critical to their future success.
  • Case studies from Polar Krush (monitoring their drinks machines performance) and Van Moof bikes (never have your bike stolen again)
  • In terms of barriers to adoption - security of devices and the data they provide is the number one challenge to overcome
So, just a summary of a thought provoking report, download below:


This is a good presentation below from the CBI Annual Conference 2017. Presented by Omar Abbosh Chief Strategy Officer ‎Accenture:

BIM Show Live 2018 - Preview

Next week, Wednesday 28th February and Thursday 1st March it is BIM Show Live 2018.

Looking at this year's programme, I've flagged a selection of what look like really interesting talks below:

  • Andrew Hvid from DareDistrupt looking how technologies are disrupting how we traditionally work.
  • Martin McDonnell from Sublime presenting on how augmented reality will change our working environments
  • Carolina Pracz from Grimshaw looking at machine learning
  • Paul Dodd from Scottish Futures Trust looking at BIM and the client
  • Aldo Sollazzo from IAAC, an expert in computational design

There is also, myself and my NBS colleague Paul Swaddle speaking. Plug below (it would be great if we both made it onto people's schedule)...

Paul on the Wednesday

Me on the Thursday
There will be three or four NBS folk there throughout the event - so please come and see us if you want to know more about our solutions.

Over the years I have blogged from pretty much all of the BIM Show Live events. I've tagged every one of these posts - so please feel free to check them out by clicking below - it will give you a good flavour of what to expect at the event:
- BIM Show Live Blog Post Collection 2012 to 2018

Hopefully see you there. For ticket information please see:

Monday 12 February 2018

Data, the cloud and the internet of things

In terms of data, the cloud and the internet of things there are many examples of how this revolutionising the world around us. Whether this is Fleet Management of TrucksSmart Retail or Smart Motorways - 'things' (trucks, products, cars) are given a data structure. Sensors then report on the real-time performance of these things by push information into this data structure in the cloud. Decisions can then be made based on past and existing performance to improve existing or future performance.

I enjoy running. And one thing that has made this hobby more enjoyable in recent years is 'seeing the data'.

Last year I bought a Garmin Watch and I am completely fascinated by the data analysis it offers.

For example, the runner, the route and the conditions are given a data structure. For example:

  • The runner
    • Age
    • Weight
    • Heart rate
    • Steps per minute
  • The route
    • Distance
    • Elevation
    • Location
  • The conditions
    • Temperature
    • Wind
    • Time of day
It's then the job of runner to go for a run, and a sensor to report the data up to the cloud.

Example 'run stats' below show a distance of 10.07km, a time of 55:14, an elevation gain of 207m (thanks Durham!) and a temperature of 2.8 degrees. The only manual effort from the runner here was giving the run a name 'Four hills challenge' and tagging it by the type of run 'training' (oh, and the small effort of running it!).
Key data
In terms of adding an x axis for duration it is possible to plot elevation, pace, heart rate, cadence against time. In the example below, there is a clear correlation between heart rate and when the extra effort was put in for the hill climbs.
(One criticism for the Garmin Team - The scaling of the elevation is poor for the y-axis. The chart in green below doesn't show how horrible this run really is - 42m to 88m climb out of Durham city centre is agony!)

More detailed data
The ability to break down a race into 'splits' - for example 1km splits - allows the runner to monitor real time progress. For example, if you want to run a 25:00 parkrun. If you do your first km in 5:30 then you know you have to speed things up a bit.
Breaking down the data
The heart rate monitor is also a nice touch to see how hard your body is actually working.
Time spent in each heart rate zone
It's good to see the data from one run, and as every run has the same data structure, there is a lot of power in the ability to look across a number of runs. In the example below the filter query is 'Show all runs classified as 'training', 'between the date range of 1/1/17 and 31/12/17' and sort by 'most hilly'.
Querying across the wider data set
With the data being on the cloud - it means that access is possible from any device. Your watch, your phone or your computer. The same data - just different user experiences based on context and available screen size.

One set of data - access anywhere
Going one step up the data tree - from run, to runs to everyone's runs - if you are prepared to share your Garmin data - then you get lots more data and insight back in return.

One very nice feature is the ability to create 'Segments'. On a route, someone records a start and finish point, and creates a 'Segment' on the cloud. All runners that then run through that segment at any time then have their best time recorded.

The example below shows a lap of the Consett Parkrun circuit. The data shows every Garmin runner who has gone through that segment. It then allows you to benchmark yourself against them. Any part of the world can be set up as a 'running race' where you are racing against virtual ghosts of previous runners - which is pretty cool. In the future, I am sure augmented reality running races will be taking place around the local parks where you can race against yourself!
(Note - A little more care needed for cyclists).
Benchmarking over a specific segment of land
Finally, over a given time period, you can benchmark your efforts against the running world. How did running for around about two hours last week match up to the rest of the world?

Benchmarking against the other runners in the Garmin community
...and how is this relevant to construction???...

Most of my blog posts are around digital construction. So it is a fair question to ask what this has to do with other items on this blog?

Well consider 'the run' equivalent to a building or a manufacturer product. Consider a shared data structure. Consider a sensor pushing performance data to the cloud.

Would it be useful to be able to see how this is performing over time? Would it be useful to compare this performance against the rest of a client's portfolio? Would it be useful to share this data securely with a community and benchmark the performance against similar buildings/products regionally, nationally or globally?

The answer of course is 'yes'.

Data, the cloud and the internet of things is going to change the construction industry. We'll have the most incredible feedback loop which will be used to improve how we operate assets in the existing built environment and how we design when working on the next generation of projects.

- and if anyone fancies a run - hopefully see you at AU5K later in the year!

Tuesday 6 February 2018


At the end of January I had two trips to Westminster to discuss digital construction.

The first was to take part in an 'expert roundtable' chaired by Chi Onwurah who is Shadow Minster for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation. NBS provided some of the participants as did the Federation of Master Builders and the British Property Federation.

After doing a number of projects over recent years to support the Government's construction initiatives, it was nice to be invited to participate in an event to help shape the oppositions strategy in this area.

Whenever you do a roundtable, you know that you will not get too much time to speak. So in preparation I wrote notes on the train down as to some of the key points against the discussion topics. These are below...

A roundtable session helping to influencing political strategy
1. How can we ensure we have the workforce required to meet the needs of the nation with future potential impacts on immigration?

We have to not take for granted that our young people will choose a career in the industry. At secondary school, those with a talent for designing and with a talent for building things must be made aware of the opportunities in the AEC sector. We need to show it’s an innovative, modern, rewarding career for those wanting to design or build. And something like engineering isn’t just for white males. The best talent it school is from a diverse background – this then isn’t represented in industry.

Going further, for those attracted to getting a professional qualification and university. There must be support on funding to help with fees. Equally the case to choose a career in the AEC sector must be made – and we’re up against stiff competition from automotive, aerospace and increasingly digital industries.

As we grow our countries infrastructure, we will of course still need immigration to meet demand. But in parallel to pulling in talent from around the world, we need to maximise the opportunities for our young people coming through our education system.

- Design Engineer Construct in secondary schools
- Go Construct resources

6.3% of GDP
£45bn of government spend
16% of UK employment = 2.9million jobs

2. To what extent can modern-methods-of-construction (MMC) and digital technologies transform the construction sector and how we can maximise their potential?

To appreciate the impact of digital technologies, you need to simply look at ten year steps to see how much has changed and how much will change. Ten years ago we had desktop products, physical libraries and the prime exchange format was paper. Twenty years ago we were taught design on a physical drawing board.

In ten years’ time we will be working collaboratively in the cloud and the knowledge we consume will be from a feedback loop coming from actual operation data with processing from artificial intelligence. Undoubtedly, MMC will grow and grow, we’ve standardised brick, block, door and window sizes and produce these in a factory. The same will happen with bedrooms, classrooms, bathrooms and surgeries.

- Bryden Wood publications for Government last year

3. How do we drive up productivity and standards within the small to medium enterprise (SME) construction sector?

SMEs do not have the research and development budget that larger organisations have. They cannot afford the luxury of dedicated staff to manage and champion standard, process or information in their office.

To allow SMEs to drive up their productivity standards there must be organisations and groups that pull together best practice and distribute this knowledge. At NBS we recognised that there was standardised way of producing specifications in the 1960s. We filled that need and now have affordable offerings for all sizes of projects. Five or six years ago we recognised there was no standardisation around objects and classification for BIM. Again, we filled that need and this gives great efficiencies and reduces waste across the industry.

Big Ben is poorly

Some impressive architecture/engineering within Portcullis House

The most expensive meeting space in London in £/m2?
The second event (the following week) was in support of an iniative to build a hub for global construction in the North East. A project called ic3. This event was at the Palace of Westminster.

NBS are one of a large number of companies in the 'BIM arena' within the North East that are supporting this initiative. In the words of Northumbria University vice chancellor Prof Andrew Wathey... “Building information modelling, smart cities, sustainability and the digital industry will have the ability to come together to play a significant role in the economic future of the North East.

“This centre, building on core research strengths at Northumbria University, in association with other partners, will make a key contribution to this process. The new centre will establish the North East’s role in the global leadership and application of this work.”

To read more about the ic3 project see:

Inside The Palace of Westminster on the banks of The Thames

Artwork looking like the Throne Room in GofT!

North East Business Leaders and politicians address the delegates

NBS article from a North East Digital Construction publication
Read the full interview with Richard Waterhouse NBS below:

For all things ic3 Newcastle - see the new website at: