The world of consumer electronics is impacting the service industries of Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) like never before. To help connect these trends unveiled at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we’ve distilled the 20,000 new gadgets down to the ones that will impact AEC the most. These technologies can enhance your practice, but many also show the potential to be new revenue streams.
We’ve identified these technologies as the ones that will most impact the AEC professions. Some create nuanced improvements to existing environments; others create new areas to add on to your practice and to help control certain marketing costs.
Imagine the ability to control 5 independent LED flash elements through your mobile phone (IOS/Android), with wireless lights that can be mounted to the walls or other surfaces without causing damage. Imagine being able to test the brightness and to create unique lighting patterns to photograph interior spaces. Lume Cube allows spaces to be photographed in a closer-to-professional manner, with less equipment and expense. One of the great features of these devices is that they have the potential to help you gather additional areas of interior projects with professional-level lighting. The resulting images can help create interactions on your social channels and can be a more affordable way to augment your current marketing efforts than completely outsourced photo shoots.
Creating a pleasant environment with music can be difficult given the range of tastes. Imagine allowing a prospective client, people in a waiting room, or clients in a retail space to tailor the music played to their needs. Imagine still that repeat visits to this space allow people’s tastes to be remembered. Prizm is available as a simple add-on to your existing speaker system. With a simple interface that allows you to register your like or dislike of a piece of music with just a touch, you can imagine the sense of enhanced connection that would be created by showing that you care about your guests’ comfort.
Large buildings have access to enterprise-scaled devices to help manage and understand the building’s uses and systems. Smaller homes benefit from smaller, consumer-gauged elements that perform similar functions. For the larger home and small to medium-sized building, though, there aren’t often opportunities to make use of the data your building provides and adjust as necessary. Enter Ubiant, a multi-faceted cloud system that connects all aspects of energy, water, climate, and air quality to assist in meeting a energy target. It has the capacity to connect to larger city grids and paves the way to integrate these systems during renovation or new construction. Beyond Ubiant, there are Nest and a handful of other smart home devices that fit into this category. Nest also has recently opened the ability to connect with other devices. The shortcoming of Nest is that it hasn’t yet created a master management tool like Ubiant to help create a holistic view of your building. This area of consulting for the AEC industry will be a growth sector and one that could provide additional opportunities for service revenue.
Many job site challenges throughout the life of a project reside behind walls or in areas that may be challenging to get to. Seek Thermal attaches a very small infrared camera to your smartphone (IOS/Android), allowing you to see an image of where there are heat sources, loss of energy, leaks, etc. It’s an invaluable tool that also has a developer platform, so it could be connected to other tools in your office to help in troubleshooting or discovering issues in a space.
FlapIt is an example of the emerging connected sign market. This particular sign uses a train ticker/flapping number sign and ties it to counts of social media (Facebook likes of business, current rating on Yelp, etc.). While this particular example may be more novelty than fully functional, it does represent an opportunity to connect data elements that might be important to a business and create live streaming visualizations on a wall. By designing these into the space, the risk of diminishing the experience is reduced by making the conscious choice to place these visualizations in a designed space. These dashboards are becoming increasingly commonplace and should be part of any firm’s offering when developing a retail or commercial space.
The Win-Win device is a simple home appliance that allows for increased air circulation within the home. Separate from a central air handler, it provides a decorative way to provide frequent air circulation to space without massive amounts of equipment.
Kwikset’s KEVO is among several add-on lock products that allow people to control entry into their homes using a regular, single-use, or custom interval method. Powered by a Bluetooth connection, this will become a regular element in many homes over the next 18-24 months as the technology becomes stable and the ability for corruption is lessened. This lock system allows you to issue single-use entry keys to your home, remote lock/unlock, and use proximity unlocking by smartphone recognition. Another interesting company in this space is UNIKey, which is working with Kwikset and other lock manufacturers to create a smartphone key that could be used to open hotel rooms, rental cars, your home, and more. While the UNIKey technology is very new and untested, it demonstrates that the field of digital locks is beginning to mature, which is almost always the signal that the technology will become mainstream in a shorter timeframe.
Big Ass Fans is an amazing fan system. It is ready for integration with the Nest platform, and likely other platforms in the near future. Big Ass Fans boasts an impressive number of options that help manage the amount of energy usage in a space through efficient and effective air movement. In home usage, the fan can become familiarized with the environment to help create a pleasant experience in the space with little to no noise. One additional bonus to architects is that they offer LEED and other continuing education credits.
Samsung’s 110″ 8K 3D Television that doesn’t require glasses.
It’s a marvel of engineering and definitely going to change the game for presenting content. While marketed for home use, this particular device would be an exceptional fit for lobbies, waiting spaces, and offices that would benefit from a 3D presentation. While the price point hasn’t yet been released, this technology provides an arresting and captivating presentation of your content. Imagine the first impression in your office being the presentation of your work in 3D. It’s an impressive piece of hardware to add to your office.
There were nearly three times as many drones at this year’s CES than last year. For people who make and build buildings, it can be a familiar problem to document and photograph projects that have been completed and to capture the pieces from any desired vantage point. Drone prices come at all ends of the market and should definitely be part of an office marketing kit.
The big takeaway for AEC:
It’s important to embrace newer technologies in your office practice, but, more importantly, to find the ones that fit with your workflow. Many of the emerging technologies provide opportunities to sell additional services and to stake out new areas to distinguish your business from others. By participating in the technological conversation that is underway, you help create new opportunities for your business to sell to existing and new clients.