Civil Engineering in the Cloud Age – Newest Advances in Digital Infrastructure & More
The digital age has drastically changed our approach to work and its effect is being felt across every major industry in the world. While some are seeing more alterations than others or are acclimating to digital transformation more quickly, every job has been changed in some way.
It’s kind of crazy to think about how much we rely on digital platforms now. All of the data and information that’s relevant to our work is stored on them and it’s difficult to imagine getting anything done without having digital access.
What’s also crazy is how recent of a development it is. It really didn’t start to take over until the late 90s and early 2000s, which means that most of the people reading this were probably born before the digital age.
Industries that generate the most amount of data have a need for very intricate digital infrastructure. These are the companies that need to make such changes as soon as possible to keep up with their competitors.
And that’s why civil engineering in the cloud age is an area where you can see many, many advancements. For those unfamiliar with it, civil engineering is an industry focused on planning, constructing and maintaining large-scale infrastructure.
So this encompasses things like roads, bridges, buildings, dams and tunnels. And because the job covers all of these things in every stage of their development, you can imagine the sheer amount of data that comes with it.
Let’s take a look at some ways in which the cloud age has influenced this industry:
Data Acquisition & Analysis
This is one of the most important advancements made possible by digital transformation and is especially beneficial when it comes to the earliest stages of the engineering process like planning There is a concept which you may or may not have heard of before known as ‘big data’. This refers to datasets which are too large to be categorized within traditionally-sized software tools, and which are constantly growing and changing. It is only with new, advanced technology that the mining of big data has become possible. With it, engineers can have access to a ton of information relevant to the specific projects that they are preparing for. Things like historical precedent for similar projects, reaction to infrastructure from the public, engineering methods from other countries and companies as well as new trends which may have previously gone unnoticed.
Massive amounts of data can now be acquired ahead of time and stored in easily accessible servers where in-depth analysis can be conducted. This allows engineers to plan projects that can reach their full potential.
During the design phase of an engineering project, it is very helpful for diagrams and models to be put together that can then be referenced during the actual construction. In the earliest days, this was done on paper.
As you can imagine, that was a very limited method. It got the job done, and it was the only available solution to early civil engineers, but these days there are much more comprehensive methods available.
The digital age is a big part of the reason why. Now we have advanced computer-aided design (CAD) software, through which very thorough models can be designed. These modern systems can help to put together a complete, comprehensive model of a project.
Every intricate detail of a building, tunnel or bridge can be designed with these softwares and so you can basically have a digital 3D model of the full project, that’s completely digital and can easily be sent around to anyone involved in the project.
While this does require an extra skill that needs to be trained and which hasn’t been a part of a civil engineer’s general skill set up to this point, it is an invaluable part of the process.
Getting into the actual construction of the project and how digital infrastructure can be helpful while the process is ongoing, we can now make sure that there is a consistently updated database for a specific project. Engineers can set up what might be described as a ‘single-source of truth’ (SSOT) which can be shared with every stakeholder involved in the project. The SSOT can have information about design, manpower, finances and how all of it is being used. It offers complete transparency which will build trust with every employee and every investor, and because this is a system which is regularly updated, it also means that it’s easier to catch any discrepancies or faults and deal with them before they become a huge problem.
The next step in our digital evolution is going to be widespread process automation. What the not too distant future looks like for many industries doesn’t really necessitate a whole lot of actual manpower.
There was a time when this seemed like science-fiction, but with the rise of more advanced artificial intelligence (AI) we are already seeing it become a reality. In every aspect of civil engineering, AI can be put to good use.
Although the data mining is already being conducted through automation, the analysis still requires human eyes but may not for much longer. The same can be applied to the 3D modelling, and automated construction machinery isn’t too far away either.
This doesn’t mean that civil engineers are going to be replaced completely any time soon, but the job is going to continue to change over the next few years and automation is a big part of that.
We’ve talked in depth now about civil engineering and how it has greatly benefited from the cloud age, but we have still only really just scratched the surface. There are an awful lot more ways in which it will continue to change as time goes by, and hopefully it will all be for the better.