Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Data Mining Application for Architecture and Engineering Design

An unusual place to find innovative architecture, engineering, and construction industry news, Techcrunch.com introduced me toBerkeley, CA based Vernox Labs, a Y-Combinator backed company which recently released an interesting data mining product for the industry. The tool shows great promise to uncover, predict, and streamline design and construction issues for complex projects. I have no connection to the company but have great interest in all technologies which help me build.
Vernox Labs product is, essentially, a private searchable AEC industry database. One can see parallels here with the recent emergence of private medical databases for doctors. The article reports the company has spent resources collecting and cataloging all sorts of reports and emails from the AEC industry and thereafter analyzes it for trends. Perhaps the value of such a database to the AEC industry is best shown with an example: While a project is in the design phase one could query the database about a specific product or material. The system would then return information about the product's performance and installation, including any issues which might cause delays.
The application of big data and data mining to the AEC industry is complex, probably worth its own seminar or university degree. But needless to say I can already identify a couple variables which could affect the usefulness of Vernox Labs' tool which are unknown to me as of this writing. For one, the size of the database is of paramount importance. A large comprehensive database could actually be quite useful. But a skimpy database would be next to useless, returning only shallow results for any one query. Traditionally the AEC industry has been very protective of their internal communications and data because it can have such a large impact on construction pricing, fee structures, real estate and future projects so it will be interesting to see where Vernox Labs got their data from. The other dominating factor is the analysis and searchability of the data. Well structured, one could always hope to find what they are looking for and uncover trends which are not readily available without using mathematics. On the other hand, unstructured data might as well be a spreadsheet full of random numbers for how useful it is.
A final overriding factor, which dips into the realm of subjectivity, is one's ability to ask pertinent questions of the data. Good data analysis and getting good results from the data really is more art than science and if one can look at their data and ask really creative questions of it sometimes very valuable conclusions come tumbling out. The AEC industry has long been waiting for the application of big data to construction and Vernox Lab's seems to be worth watching for further details.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The First Steps in Evaluating Your Digital Marketing Position

I quite liked this write up by Calgary-based digital marketing firm Canada.id. Though lacking suggestions for how to develop a digital marketing strategy, it serves as a strong introduction to some of the fundamental  indicators and questions of the field. It's unfortunate there exists professional service firms who still seem to be unaware one's digital presence acts just like a physical storefront in a consumer's mind. The visitor may react with distaste, confusion or engagement mere seconds after stepping into a store or loading a firm's webpage. Those looking in from the outside make instantaneous judgments about what the look of a firm says about its character.
The following four points from the article break down what one can begin to look at when starting to evaluate their digital position. For the most part they are very number-centric and technical in nature (Steps 1, 3 and 4) or carry with it a high degree of risk and uncertainty (step 2; to whom do you trust with the keys to your online kingdom?).  Though with step two, I hold the view that where ever there is risk, there is also opportunity. I think the best part of risk is that often it can be managed or mitigated; all the better to ensure the opportunity is successful.
Step 1: Know your Search Engine Ranking    
Step 2: Social Media Presence 
Step 3: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Step 4: Website Metrics
Small businesses wishing to develop their digital marketing position may be better suited to a smaller digital marketing firm so their account doesn't get lost in the shuffle. Missing from the above list, however, is "big data", or rather the job of interpreting the data which has been passively captured, and this is something bigger shops may be more apt at executing. All sorts of interesting questions and insights arise from the processed data which is proven to lead to new markets or clients. Competency in analytics is absolutely a capability I would look for and here I think the big players in Canada such as Deloitte Digital and Accenture Go Digital have an edge.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

How 3D Printing Robots are set to Transform the Construction Industry

OPP.today, the news website for Overseas Property Professionals, had a random article about robotic 3D printing.

Understanding the architectural 3D printing field means understanding the different methods available for architectural 3D printing. Here the article outlines a technology offered by MX3D which utilizes a robotic arm with a printer head on it. The problem I see with the size of the arm is that it might not easily scale to the size of a building. However, I believe the strength of this product lays in its utilization of different materials and in the execution of fine details in architectural features.

How I’d really like robots to integrate with 3D printing is with Virtual Construction, sometimes called 4D CAD, which is an extension of BIM (building information modeling). Here the building model facilitates advanced construction planning and this will be especially true if future robots can use the model info to coordinate their movements during the assembly of the structure. An early example of what this might look like can already been seen with some steel erection on jobs for big international developers with humans taking the role of the robots but still having their duties coordinated by virtual construction planning. Remember you heard it here first: Blending two technologies, using drones to assemble the 3D printed segments is the next step in construction innovation.