New Construction Innovation from CES

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New Construction Innovation from CES

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Technology Drives Progress

Every January, people from all over the world with interest in technology flock to Nevada for the annual CES trade show sponsored by the Consumer Technology Association. CES features every sector’s latest and greatest technological developments, including construction. In 2023, more than 115,000 people, over 40,000 of them from other countries, attended.

Some of the innovations highlighted at CES are already available commercially, while others are still in the conceptual or prototype stage. In either case, contractors can find inspiration and new options for improvement in every phase of the construction process, from design and engineering to field operations. Long-term growth comes from understanding that what seems futuristic today very quickly can become tomorrow’s best practices.

The theme of CES in 2023, which featured over 3200 exhibitors, including 1000 startups, focused on Human Security for All (HS4A). The intent was to show how technology could address humanity’s greatest challenges. According to Gary Shapiro, CTA’s president, and CEO, “The innovation unveiled [at CES 2023] will drive economic growth and change in meaningful ways to improve our lives and create a better future for the next generation.” 

Some of the innovations that hold great promise for the construction sector are described below.

Battery-Powered Heavy Equipment

Electrification was on full display at CES 2023 as at least a response to the environmental challenges the modern world is up against. John Deere’s 145 X Tier battery-powered earthmover promises to reduce operating costs and eliminate combustion emissions. This is the company’s first fully electric excavator.

While many think of John Deere in the context of agricultural equipment, the company’s chief technology officer, Jahmy Hindman, pointed out that in 2022, John Deere construction equipment was responsible for paving enough lane miles of road to circle the planet about 20 times. Using Deere’s cold in-place recycling methods and equipment could potentially save up to 1 billion tons of asphalt production and 53 million tons of CO2 emissions. 

Hindman also noted that construction equipment powered by electricity produces less noise, allowing construction work to begin earlier in the day and end later in urban areas, causing less societal disruption and getting jobs completed faster. And electrified construction equipment, because it generates less noise, enhances worker safety by making it easier for people to communicate on the job.

Autonomous Vehicles

Automation was another important theme at CES 2023, with great applicability in construction. Caterpillar’s 100-ton Cat 777 is an off-highway truck that can be operated remotely from a great distance. The safety and cost benefits of a vehicle operating in hazardous environments without a driver on board are substantial. Although Caterpillar’s autonomous vehicles have been used in mining for more than a decade, they are a more recent innovation in construction.

Dirigibles for Cargo Transport

Most people today have no frame of reference for dirigibles other than the Goodyear Blimp. But these engine-powered wingless aircraft hold great potential for cargo transport in areas not easily accessible to aircraft requiring runways of considerable length. Flying Whales’ LCA60T is a helium-filled dirigible capable of vertical takeoff and landing and speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. It requires no infrastructure on the ground and can load and unload up to 60 tons of cargo while hovering. Powered initially by a hybrid gas-electric engine, in the near future, it will be fully electric, completely eliminating emissions. 

Long-Range Radar for Off-Road Vehicles

Innoviz Technologies Ltd. Introduced its new Innoviz360 high-performance lidar at CES 2023. This lighter-weight lidar option provides high resolution (0.05 x 0.05 degree), a configurable frame rate (up to 1,280 scanning lines per frame), and 300-meter range. One important aim is to lower the cost of high-performance lidar and ease the transition to automation in heavy construction machinery. Innoviz, in partnership with Paris-based Ewayz, a developer of real-time 3D lidar processing software, is exploring the capabilities of lidar in construction and a number of other non-automotive applications.  

Final Thoughts

While smaller contractors may not be in a position to make an immediate investment in construction technology similar to what was showcased at CES 2023, larger companies already are taking advantage of available construction technology. Any moves contractors take to gain operational efficiency that improve the bottom line and help them comply with environmental regulations are likely to favorably impress surety bond underwriters and enhance their bonding capacity.

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