29 Sep 2021

How to unlock data accessibility & visualisation in Construction

Guest Blog: James Stileman, Head of Customer Success, Sensat explores how mind-boggling data volumes, silos and complexity are some of the biggest barriers facing the civil infrastructure industry. Day three of techUK's Data Analytics week #DataWeek

Where it may have taken physical industries longer than service industries to catch up with the surge of digitalisation, digital transformation has already started to happen. There is no lack of digital data in construction organisations—quite the opposite—but that data has never really been consolidated, curated or managed effectively, until now.

Technology is the key to construction transformation

As projects have grown and supply chains expanded, civil infrastructure and construction organisations are now facing a host of challenges in delivering projects which makes understanding environments, performance and costs, more and more difficult. We believe new technology will underpin the solution.

Data overload is a very real problem and a barrier to project understanding. Internal silos make interpreting and reporting on data—for the purpose of benchmarking—incredibly difficult and confusing. Outdated legacy systems are burdening teams across a widening supply chain with disjointed data collection, and poor quality data means data visibility has become inadequate for effective collaboration. Visualising data in one powerful platform can provide real-time information and monitoring on infrastructure including condition status, allowing for easier intervention and enhancement planning.

At the same time, in the new world of construction, driving continuous improvement is paramount and the pressure to build projects faster, and more safely, to new quality standards and legislation is mounting. Unless organisations make preparations to become more data-focused and adopt the right technology it will be very hard to maintain the delivery of quality, on-time projects.

Culture is key to construction transformation and it starts with three things: data leadership, buy-in and grassroots movements—so making sure data and the platforms used are useful and positively impact the right teams. Unless you’re getting data to people that gives them real value, you will struggle to get a return on tech initiatives. Culture tends to be driven by push and pull factors and when considering the move to a new construction technology ecosystem it’s no different.

A single platform used for data understanding

One of the biggest barriers to harnessing data in civil infrastructure is that most of the data sets are sitting in software silos somewhere, which are not accessible in one particular place. Aside from the fact that information is sitting in different repositories and on varying proprietary software, some are not always in digital or computer understandable formats. This makes things more than a little difficult for us to analyse a holistic environment. The good news is that once all of these data sets are represented in one single platform you can begin to master a huge, powerful environment where you can translate and visualise all your site data in one place. We are seeing customers overcoming data pain points and making huge productivity gains by easily accessing, visualising and understanding accurate and up-to-date 3D models of their sites.

At Sensat we call this type of platform a common visualisation environment® (or CVE), where you can capture and process the real world in a digital environment. Be it geospatial, topographical, design, logistical or project cost-related data, a common visualisation environment brings all your data sets, people and systems together for greater understanding in a fast, reliable and unified environment your teams can trust.

Only then, once this data is available in a CVE, can we start to execute our vision to make computers understand the real world by introducing AI and machine learning. Over the next five years, we expect that data and analytics all aggregated in platforms will radically transform both the process and the business of construction, and it is those companies that can embrace data and new technologies that will innovate how we construct things.

Embracing new technologies for quality performance

By adopting AI in construction, we have the potential to make smarter, safer and more sustainable builds across the asset lifecycle by bringing a lot more value to existing data.

Today, the adoption of AI solutions is still quite low in civil infrastructure compared to other industries. AI presents a whole world of possibilities for translating and understanding data to support use cases, but due to lacking data quality from the past, it is difficult for the machine to learn. Data quality needs to improve to get to where we need to be. After all, AI is only as good as the data it’s given. Firms will need significant amounts of quality data to be able to effectively train algorithms. We have a lot to learn but the future is exciting. Read more about how computer vision will be a gamechanger for the construction industry here.

As the construction industry continues towards a more data-led, digital future, the adoption of technologies such as a CVE with AI and computer vision will help to establish a lean construction lifecycle and consequently a more sustainable industry.


James Stileman, Head of Customer Success,  Sensat


Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Head of Data Analytics, AI and Digital ID, techUK

Katherine joined techUK in May 2018 and currently leads the Data Analytics, AI and Digital ID programme. 

Prior to techUK, Katherine worked as a Policy Advisor at the Government Digital Service (GDS) supporting the digital transformation of UK Government.

Whilst working at the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) Katherine led AMRC’s policy work on patient data, consent and opt-out.    

Katherine has a BSc degree in Biology from the University of Nottingham.

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020 7331 2019

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