Technology’s impact on how we live—and, by extension, how we do our jobs—fluctuates every day. During my career, I have seen how that applies to the electrical construction industry, where new trends and innovations routinely emerge. I have always encouraged electrical contractors to embrace new technology on the job site. It’s not always easy to accept, but change is inevitable.
As things stand, the three largest areas of disruptive technology ECs encounter are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones), wearables and augmented reality, especially as it relates to building information modeling. These developments will be on full display in the years ahead—and, conveniently, they were on display this month at NECA 2017 Seattle.
Electrical contractors that traveled to the Pacific Northwest for our industry’s top event noticed several modifications on the trade show floor. New this year was Techtopia, which focused on innovative trends and disruptive technology, combining and expanding on two of 2016’s popular booths—the Disruptive Technology Pavilion and the Digital Technology Lounge. Experts Dahlia El Gazzar and Soraya Herbert were there to educate contractors about technology at home and work.
It remains important to showcase companies that are doing such exceptional work. They are, for example, creating a cloud and mobile solution for prefab production and supply-chain management as well as producing a web platform for creating and sharing 360-degree views of buildings. Other innovation drivers presented their technologies in the Techtopia Theater.
On a related note, Tom Waterman, CEO of Cis-Drones, was on hand in a drone-focused section of Techtopia. NECA 2017 Seattle attendees watched drone demonstrations and practiced using a drone themselves. The evolving technology is being used in utilities and construction, agriculture, real estate, filmmaking and law enforcement every day. ECs and installation crews have found the need to keep a drone in the back of their truck because it’s as useful as a ladder when it comes to inspecting areas that are hard to reach.
What’s on the horizon? Autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and big data will continue to affect our industry in the foreseeable future. The idea of robots taking the place of humans’ job is a worthy topic of discussion, but that looks unlikely on the construction site. Even with robots—such as SAM, the computerized bricklaying assistant—humans still need to do much of the work, including finishing and making professional decisions.
Speaking of inventiveness, the first group of NECA Project Excellence Award winners were recognized at NECA 2017 Seattle. The initiative honored companies for outstanding commitment, professionalism and ingenuity in delivering an electrical project across 11 difference market sectors.
Adopting new concepts and techniques can be overwhelming but, in the end, rewarding. As you have seen, being proactive is vital. NECA has been working hard to tackle the challenges we face and is ready for new tests. Let’s continue to forge ahead and strengthen our industry for future generations.
About The Author
David A. Hardt is the current president of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and contributes the President's Desk column monthly. He took office in January 2015 and will serve a three-year term.