The fourth industrial revolution is disrupting so many engineering industries, the civil engineers are beginning to call it ‘Civils 4.0.' Mark Hansford, writing for New Civil Engineer, says the industry is on "the cusp of a technological revolution."

In a year of high-profile bridge collapses, the civil engineering industry has seen more disparaging headlines than it is comfortable with. Something needs to be done within the industry to ensure these catastrophic failures don't occur.

In 2018, innovative and pioneering methods of construction alike have been nitpicked after highly publicized failures have occurred. The first incident that had engineers scratching their heads was in May when the Florida International University Bridge collapsed onto a highway.

Then in August the Morandi Bridge in Genoa came down. In the first case, innovative methods of construction known as ‘Accelerated Bridge Construction’ saw some criticism.  But Hansford says the highly publicized failures are no reason to prevent further innovation in the industry.

Source: Pixabay

"Both collapses speak volumes about the support, both in design and delivery and then later, in operations and maintenance, that is needed to encourage innovation," said Hansford.

"Innovation is, by definition, doing the untried: the untested. Doing it is an inherently risky business and needs good support networks. But we need to do it. The art and the beauty of civil engineering is to innovate and evolve. It is also what the government is demanding, as we attempt to boost productivity in our sector.”

If the world were to criticize an innovative advent of technology in the engineering world based on one highly publicized shortcoming, innovation could cease to exist. It would be similar to avoiding nuclear power because of Chernobyl. Most informed individuals agree — innovation should not be stifled. While bridge collapses are bad, engineers need to continue innovating in the industry to ensure tragedies don't happen. This includes testing out new methods that could produce sturdier bridges in less time. 

 

The startups are coming

A new culture of civil engineering is rising — a digital culture. The digitizing of the industry is inevitably snowballing as big data, machine learning and more infiltrate and disrupt. Naturally, new startup companies trying to capitalize on the digitization of the industry spring up to meet the demand for new efficiencies.

The New Civil Engineer’s Festival of Innovation and Technology happening on the 19th of September works with an accelerator program to help these kinds of startup companies out. The event has been organized to find the most promising startups in the civil engineering industry and assist with developing new, innovative ideas that can benefit the industry.

Below are some of the shortlisted participants who are close to getting real assistance with growing their companies into something that could change the civil engineering industry — or at least make it more efficient.

  • Qualis Flow: They use the Internet of Things to better manage the impacts of construction. They aim to help businesses manage their resources more sustainably on construction and development sites, by gathering the data to support day-to-day decision making.
  • Gear Buddy: They provide Internet of Things devices and a digital collaboration platform to help equipment suppliers, contractors, and equipment users connect more easily.
  • nPlan: They help create complex construction schedules that build the cities of the future. Through deep learning and optimization methods, they create more efficient construction methodologies and scheduling for companies.
  • CO-YOU: This startup has a plan for cleaning up the waste produced on construction sites. They are trying to get a construction packaging material patented that will absorb CO2 and biodegrade after use.
  • Enable My Team: They have developed an automated asset recognition system that uses high-quality images that will assist in railway operations. "It will take this data and through AI and machine learning detect potential faults before they happen, allowing rail engineers to spend more time proactively mitigating risks rather than reactively fixing failures."

 

Works Cited

By Mark Hansford. “Five Game-Changers Picked to Present at TechFest.” New Civil Engineer, www.newcivilengineer.com/latest/five-game-changers-picked-to-present-at-techfest/10035151.article.

Hansford, 17 September 2018Mark. “Setbacks Should Not Prevent Us from Innovating.” New Civil Engineer, www.newcivilengineer.com/tech-excellence/setbacks-should-not-prevent-us-from-innovating/10035226.article.