The Cloud Helps AEC Firms Embrace Advanced Technologies

May 26, 2022

The architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry is in transition. Advanced technologies are driving it.

Previously, design, pre-construction, cost estimation, bidding, project management, and operations have been disconnected. By using Building Information Modeling (BIM) and other newer technologies and processes, AEC companies today are able to establish a unified view of data-rich models and employ greater collaboration across all disciplines.

Manual, human-powered processes are giving way to automation. Activities across the design and construction spectrum are being handled by robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) ─ at least on a small scale. The result: increased accuracy, efficiency, safety and, in many cases, more innovative designs and more sustainable structures.

The Challenges of Change

However, many of the big technology-driven changes are still on the “eventually” list for most firms. The fact is AEC companies face numerous challenges, most of which don’t make new technology adoption easy.

They’re dealing with constantly growing volumes of complex data. Their project teams are comprised of professionals distributed across disciplines ─ and often geographies and time zones. Information is often siloed. They’re under pressure to meet tight deadlines and even tighter budgets. Their clients’ expectations continue to rise.

Then there’s what may be the biggest obstacles of all: human resistance. Studies of technology adoption in the AEC industry have consistently identified ingrained resistance to change in middle managers who see their skills being replaced by technology.

There’s also the shortage of IT professionals that plague other industries. Cybercrime is up, keeping IT staffs busy in addition to dealing with day-to-day operations. Sizable investments may have already been made in workstations, complex software, and other equipment, limiting what’s available for new technology.

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Signs of Progress

The good news is that AEC firms are making some progress in terms of embracing newer technologies. With the exception of a few holdouts, most architects today use 3D modeling for design. And a 2020 survey by the American Institute of Architects reports that 100% of large architecture firms are using BIM for billable work, and over a third of small firms use it.

The increasing focus of the construction industry in reducing the resource and material waste of the building materials during construction is driving increased adoption of construction robots. The Construction Robot Market was valued at $44.63 million in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 95.10 million by 2026 while registering a CAGR of approximately 13.6% during the forecast period (2021 - 2026).

The construction industry is also behind the growing use of 3D printing. The global 3D printing construction market size was valued at USD 11,268.9 thousand in 2021 and is projected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 100.7% from 2022 to 2030.

Drones are becoming standard tools for civil engineering and construction companies. Almost 25% of all construction sites in the US are covered with drones.

Cloud-powered Technology Adoption

One thing that can help more AEC firms take advanced technologies is ensuring they have the necessary IT infrastructure in place to support them. That includes:

  • High performance computing resources that can handle the huge number of calculations, multiple large data sets, and other requirements associated with advanced technologies ─ particularly those specific to the AEC industry like BIM
  • Scalable storage capacity, storage technology options, and choices in storage systems architecture to accommodate increasing data volumes, address cost issues, and meet data privacy, security, access and retention requirements
  • Scalable, high-bandwidth, low-latency networks that offer uptime, reliability, high-level security, and access to connectivity-rich data centers and diverse peering partners with redundant paths to the public Internet
  • End-to-end, multi-layered security to defend against cybercrime, protect customer and business information, and ensure secure collaboration and communication for an increasingly distributed and mobile workforce

One solution that handles all the above criteria ─ and avoids capital investment and ongoing maintenance, upgrades and labor costs ─ is the cloud.

The cloud delivers the robust compute, storage and networking resources that are required for powering big data analytics, cognitive computing, AI, IoT, and other advanced technologies and emerging trends in the AEC industry. These resources are on-demand and scalable, offering maximum flexibility, and are available on a pay-as-you-go or subscription basis. No infrastructure purchases or maintenance are required.

More Cloud Benefits

The cloud enables real-time collaboration by making it easy for teams to securely share information. Files stored on the cloud can be securely accessed from anywhere. Cloud services, at least those delivered by reputable cloud services providers (CSPs), employ multiple security technologies and processes to ensure greater security and customer peace of mind. Many also offer managed security services to supplement what their cloud services already provide.

AEC firms are increasingly using Software as a Service (SaaS), in which they access software hosted in the cloud via subscription instead of purchasing it and uploading to their own data network. The cloud provides a framework that allows for expandability using APIs. For example, if a company finds a third-party solution that can provide better workflows and doesn’t require proprietary components, it can quickly update that workflow into their SaaS applications using APIs.

The Need for Disaster Recovery

In the AEC industry, data must always be safe but accessible ─ at least to authorized users. Communication and collaboration must always be enabled. There is no time for downtime ─ at least without affecting schedules and budgets. Mitigating potential downtime is another area where the cloud can help.

Cloud-based disaster recovery ─ in the form of a Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solution ─ can mitigate the effects of business-disrupting events such as successful ransomware attacks or natural disasters. A third-party provider handles the replication and hosting of physical or virtual servers to provide business continuity in the event of any kind of disaster. There’s no infrastructure for AEC firms to purchase.

DRaaS offers quick, SLA-backed recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) in minutes, seconds, or even near-zero seconds. Many CSPs offer managed and unmanaged options.

The Hybrid IT Option

As AEC companies migrate to the cloud, they still may have to deal with legacy systems and applications. The good news is that they don’t have to move everything to the cloud to take advantage of its benefits. Instead, they can adopt a hybrid IT strategy.

Hybrid IT entails using different IT environments, so that workloads can be run where they’ll perform best. Those environments could include any combination of on-premises private clouds, hosted private clouds, public clouds, off-site colocation, or edge data centers. With multiple IT environments to choose from, AEC companies are better equipped to handle changing business needs.

Hybrid IT enables AEC companies to add the cloud to their IT services portfolio without having to move everything or devote a large budget to cloud migration. It also provides them time to determine how best to address legacy apps ─ retain them, refactor them, rehost them, rebuild them, replace them, or retire them, as

Learn More

AEC companies must increase their ability to collaborate and communicate, to adapt to new market conditions and trends, and to adopt new technologies. They must drive greater efficiency and reduce errors. They must make safety, sustainability, and resilience key performance indicators. US Signal can help by providing the IT infrastructure and solutions needed to support new technologies and ways of doing business.

We understand the diverse business needs and IT challenges AEC companies are dealing with and can help develop and implement IT solutions to overcome them. Learn what we can do for your organization. Contact US Signal at 866.274.4625 or [email protected] and speak to a solution architect.