Employee interview: Sarah Meronen, User Experience Lead

I had the pleasure of discussing user experience work at Infrakit with Sarah Meronen, our UX Lead. Sarah is a member of our Product team at Infrakit HQ.

Sarah, could you tell us what does your regular day consist of, or is there such a thing as a regular day?

It really depends on what I’m working on – and which product of ours. Sometimes I’m more design focused, those days I will spend most of my time in Figma and going back and forth with people on feedback. Focusing on research, I could be setting up user tests, analysing data in spreadsheets, and the like.

What got you interested in UX?

I always enjoyed making websites and creating art growing up. When I was working construction after finishing high school, I looked up what types of jobs could be done with the web and found “UX”, so I signed up for design school.

What’s the most exciting part in user experience work?

For me, that I get to be hands on in the full depth of what ux work is – from understanding a problem, researching, designing, testing.

What’s something that people don’t know about UX but is very critical in your work?

UI (user interface) does not equal UX, but UI is a part of the UX. Focusing purely on UI can mean missing opportunities that go beyond the surface level.

If we think about product and R&D functions in general, we still don’t have enough diversity in those. Many girls don’t really have role models to look up to in coding, for example. What would you say to young women interested in your field of expertise?

UX careers are more balanced than other fields in STEM if I do a quick google search. And I’d say that is mostly my experience in recent years. I think its important for young women, especially, to have confidence in their work and their worth. Also, finding someone you can relate to and confide in helps your career in so many ways. I have worked with wonderful people who have helped increase my confidence and given great resources to learn with, from managers to a more senior ux researcher who left a lasting impact.

Annika Helisvaara, HR Manager
May, 2024

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Industry series interview: Magnus Thibblin

Recently, we caught up with Magnus Thibblin, a 25+ year veteran in the heavy construction industry to share his outlook on a range of AEC topics. This interview is the first in line of interviews with experienced industry professionals. Stay tuned for more, and here is what Magnus had to say:

Can you share a bit about your journey in the AEC technology industry and how you got started?

“I started in the industry as an end user in Sweden many years ago. It was, in a way, at the beginning of the machine control journey where a lot of 2D systems were being deployed foremost on excavators (Sweden was at the forefront for this specific application). At that time, 3D was a true add-on, which meant that you had two displays in the cabin, one dedicated to 2D functionality linked to another panel for 3D visualisation. Supplying the 3D features with accurate positioning data required GNSS positioning systems that were as fast, robust, and accurate as possible.

Already at the beginning of digitalisation, it was clear that an ecosystem was needed as 3D data was used not only for machine control systems but all different technologies in the field that utilised the same data (which was, and still is, of the highest importance).

As an example, the desktop software needed to be able to import/export the same format as the field tools, no matter if it was a GNSS rover or a “machine tool”. To make it even more complicated, there were no standard data formats…. Why did the focus shift towards “closed” ecosystems with a secondary consideration for import and export functionality in general?

As the journey continued, the machine control part got more unified with one display, one software in the cabin, and faster, more robust GNSS options (adding more constellations and channels & supporting many more machine types, etc). In addition, various import/export capabilities and a growing understanding of the challenge for connected ecosystems emerged as mixed fleets became more and more common.

During the beginning of this journey, it was more of a “push” effect from all technology manufacturers, but as the technology matured and the “pull” from the market grew faster, many of the OEMs got connected as well. (Some earlier than others)

Even if I have been in this industry for a long time and in many ways, thought we would be a bit further by now…it still excites me as we have so much more to do for our customers.

This is an industry that needs all of us to work towards sustainability, connecting all the ecosystems, improving the ease of use, improving safety and finally, whatever projects are being built – be on time, on budget & specifications to make sure that the final infrastructure product has the right lifespan.”

 

How has technology transformed the way projects are conceptualized, planned, and executed in the AEC industry during your career?

“This has been an evolving part as well as everything in the AEC industry during my career; improvements & new software have not just evolved but transformed ways of conceptualising projects, and stronger software packages have been created for planning and executing.

For the planning & executing part, there have been large strides where significant progress has been made to enable real-time feedback loops. This not only enhances productivity but also facilitates a comprehensive understanding of planned and executed aspects of the job. These processes are seamlessly interconnected through cloud solutions, enabling convenient access and exchange of information in “real time”. (Or as close as it can be right now)”

As someone deeply involved in AEC tech, what challenges have you encountered, and how have you overcome them?

“I think that, in general, technology moves quite fast, which is a challenge in itself. This implies that progress may be faster in certain regions, demanding tech providers to adapt accordingly. However, the global pace of advancement may not be uniform calling for an approach that accommodates varying speeds of progress worldwide.

On top of this, all tech providers are always looking at how they can be disruptive or lead a change to gain an edge or create a new offering, but at the same time, not be pricing themselves out of the market.

All of the above are true challenges, as well as knowing when a technology is mature enough to be used in certain environments/markets and considering local laws and regulations. This has a big impact on tech providers; even if it’s possible to create a solution/offering, it might not be the right time due to the above challenges.

It many times comes down to timing.

The answers on how to overcome some of these are simply to have or to gain very strong industry knowledge, be very close to the market as well as be part of discussions with regulatory organs in many key countries/markets but saying “simply” is clearly oversimplifying the challenge, but still, that is partly the answer to the question.”

 

Considering the current technological advancements, where do you see the future of AEC technology heading in the next 5-10 years?

“First of all, I think that we will see much more collaboration and partnerships within the AEC industry. No one provider can solve all the challenges that we all face; it is a mix of technology advancements and several steps of autonomy in combination with AI deployed in the right places at the right time and simplifying the tech usage for more users in the entire construction process.

This will create transparency and more people being on the same “page”, which also will help with tech adoption overall, which is highly needed to attract our younger generations across the different parts of our industry.

Within this timeframe, I see even more technology being adopted in several steps, more emphasis on connected ecosystems and hopefully also some very strong strides when it comes to standardisation of formats to create even more transparency and data flow.”

 

Collaboration is crucial in AEC projects. How have collaborative tools and platforms evolved, and what role do they play in enhancing project efficiency, especially with diverse stakeholders like designers, engineers/surveyors, project managers and client owners?

“Yes, as I touched a bit on above, one of the key factors for successful planning/execution/handover is for sure collaboration tools across the phases of the project.

Even if good strides are being made, we are still, in many ways, missing a “standard toolset” for a seamless project transition from inception to finalisation. With all the different stakeholders and all the different personas on-site or off-site in mind, however, if we only look at the construction phase, a few tool options are emerging (some new, some have been growing over time) which have a clear goal of connecting the entire construction data flow/handling with efficiency as the main focus. This is good news as we need to see to it that the customer’s daily challenges become less complex.

The focus for the project/customer should be on how to complete the project on time, on budget and on specification rather than focusing on data handling complexity where a lot of errors can occur. (And time is wasted)”

 

Sustainability is a growing concern. How do you perceive the role of AEC technology in promoting sustainable practices within the industry?

“Sustainability is a huge topic for all of us, and by using small parts of existing AEC technology, we are taking steps towards sustainability improvements, but it is clear that the technology providers have a great role to play in educating what the technology does for the environment. Just to name a few, utilising digital technology provenly improves resource utilization, minimizes waste, and reduces environmental impact throughout the project lifecycle. This collaborative approach between technology providers and industry stakeholders is crucial for fostering a greener and more sustainable future for the construction sector and beyond.”

With the rise of BIM (Building Information Modeling), how do you think it has impacted the design and construction phases of AEC projects, and what do you anticipate for its future?

“BIM has been a subject for a long time now, and I think it has gotten parts of the evolution & discussion to be where it should be.

Sometimes, I do feel that we are not as fast as we should be, but once again, we have so many aspects that need to be considered; hence, it is taking more time.

Looking towards the future, I anticipate BIM will continue to play a pivotal role in the AEC industry to achieve our sustainability and quality goals. We can expect further integration of BIM with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality, unlocking even greater capabilities for project stakeholders.”

As technology advances, there’s often a learning curve for industry professionals. How can the AEC sector ensure a smooth transition for its workforce into more tech-driven practices?

“To ensure a smooth transition to tech-driven practices, the AEC sector should implement comprehensive training programs, collaborate closely with technology providers, and foster a culture of innovation. As mentioned earlier, the main goal must be to make technology accessible and intuitive. Easy to use!

One of the challenges has been an ageing workforce and, at the same time, attracting a younger workforce. Developing “easy to use” tools is needed to solve both.

And even more in the future as you will see tools connected to different stakeholders with a lot of different levels of education. This approach will enable AEC professionals to leverage technology to enhance productivity, efficiency, and overall project outcomes.”

Are there any specific trends or emerging technologies in AEC that you find particularly exciting or promising for the industry’s future?

“I think that would be AI in combination with autonomous technologies/steps. The question will be how fast it will go, as so much attention is on it right now. The question is only what will be accepted and approved for such a conservative industry with a very high safety focus.”

Looking beyond technology, what cultural or mindset shifts do you believe are necessary for the AEC industry to fully embrace and capitalize on technological advancements?

“This is a good question; change can go slow or fast. It is normally a push from tech, and after a while, it becomes a pull effect from the market, and we can see this clearly with tech usage.

However, to truly embrace and capitalise on tech, governmental bodies should be given stronger direction regarding technology usage in any building and infrastructure project. For instance, it would/should not be possible to bid for a job without using digital processes and technology such as machine control & 3D solutions.

I have seen many different ways this can be done in several countries; it drives not only adoptions, it drives a higher standard and quality output, which we all know we need.”

 

How do you see the role of technology in bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds within the AEC industry, and what impact do you think this connection will have on project development and execution?

“This is one of the key roles that all tech providers have, to bring the physical and the digital worlds “together”. To me is a big part of BIM or SIM, working from one design model synced with all changes on site, the physical world.

This will have a huge impact on project development and execution; with many different sensors on the several “tools” out in the field. You can get accurate information looping back to the planning and design teams, which, in the end, helps to plan more accurately out in the field and vice versa.

As mentioned above, integrating digital technologies and bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds in construction promotes greater efficiency and sustainability, reducing waste and providing cost savings.”

Lastly, reflecting on your career, what advice would you give to young professionals entering the AEC technology field today?

“Be bold, be brave and challenge the status quo.

Even if I have been in this industry my entire life, and for sure thought we would have been further in some areas by now, I find it extremely exciting and challenging as we have so much more to do together. Not only improve the current technology landscape but disrupt and challenge how we do it today. It is needed to gain great strides with completely new ways of collecting/exchanging data and collaborating across disciplines and personas in the whole construction process.

Just as an example, think about collaboration (how can 1+1 equal 3), how can more people benefit from what you are doing? How can you change/improve what is done today to become something better?

And most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask more questions.”

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Exploring the Distinctions: Common Data Environments (CDEs) vs. a Construction Execution Platform like Infrakit


Exploring the Distinctions: Common Data Environments (CDEs) vs. a Construction Execution Platform like Infrakit

Understanding the nuances between a Common Data Environment (CDE) and a full, end-to-end construction execution platform like Infrakit is crucial for industry professionals. While both systems serve essential roles in the management of construction projects, they cater to different needs and have distinct functionalities.

Common Data Environment (CDE): The Information Hub

A CDE is primarily an information management system. It serves as a single source of truth, where all project data, including documents, drawings, and models, are stored, managed, and shared. The key strengths of a CDE include:

Data Consolidation: It streamlines data management by consolidating all project information in one place, reducing data silos.

Access Control: A CDE offers robust access control mechanisms, ensuring that the right people have the right information at the right time.

Version Control: It tracks changes and maintains version history, which is critical in managing revisions and avoiding conflicts.

Despite these strengths, a CDE has limitations:

Limited Scope: It primarily focuses on data management and does not encompass the broader spectrum of project execution processes.

Reactivity vs. Proactivity: CDEs are often reactive, focusing on documentation and record-keeping, rather than proactive project management.

Infrakit: The Construction Execution Platform

In contrast, Infrakit provides a comprehensive construction execution platform. It not only manages data but also facilitates the actual daily (even hourly!) workings of construction projects, all in a map-based cloud environment. Key differences include:

Integrated Project Management: Infrakit offers tools for a complete, up-to-date view of the actual project works along with masses and scheduling which supports budgeting, and resource allocation.

Real-time Collaboration: Infrakit enables real-time communication and collaboration, essential for timely decision-making, especially between multiple stakeholders from different aspects of the project like designers, survey teams, site managers, and owners.

Field Data Integration: Infrakit combines field-collected data from machines, survey equipment, and mobile devices, providing a dynamic view of the project’s progress and enabling proactive, real-time management.

Integrations with Existing Systems: Infrakit has the most integrations with other construction technology solutions so that multiple data streams are consolidated in a single view – machine productivity is therefore combined with quality assurance to be able to answer key questions like: “How much have we done and how much do we have left to do?” and “Are we doing the right things and are we doing the things, right?”.

While Infrakit can be the CDE (where none currently exists) or replace some CDE’s, to be clear, it does not necessarily need to replace a CDE, especially if another CDE is already in place. It is better to think of Infrakit as complementing a CDE.

Conclusion

While a CDE excels in centralized data management, providing a foundational layer for information handling, Infrakit takes a more holistic approach. The platform not only manages data but also integrates various aspects of project management, from planning to execution, especially with critical real-time collaboration, and real-time survey data. Choosing between the two depends on the specific needs of a project – whether the focus is on robust data management or a comprehensive, execution-focused solution. Ultimately, the integration of both can lead to a more efficient, effective construction process.


Book time with our experts to discover how these solutions can be leveraged for improved efficiency and success in your next construction project.

John Frost
April, 2024

The EU Green Deal: Catalyzing Sustainable Infrastructure Construction

The EU Green Deal: Catalyzing Sustainable Infrastructure Construction

The European Union’s Green Deal presents a transformative agenda  aimed at reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. This ambitious plan carries significant implications and opportunities for the infrastructure construction sector, promoting sustainable practices and green innovation.

Implications for Infrastructure Construction

A key implication of the EU Green Deal for the construction industry is the strict regulatory framework pushing for sustainable development. Enhanced performance standards and deep energy renovations mandated across the continent are set to redefine construction methodologies. The promotion of circular economy principles within the sector means that infrastructure projects must prioritize resource efficiency and waste reduction.

The Green Deal additionally imposes an expectation for the increased use of renewable energies in construction activities, with a long-term view of phasing out carbon-intensive processes. Infrastructure will have to be future-proofed to withstand the effects of climate change, thus emphasizing resilience in design and materials usage.

Opportunities for Advancement

One significant opportunity lies in research, innovation, and the use of green technology. Digital advancements like model-based construction and construction-designed BIM platforms can optimize sustainable performance throughout a project’s life cycle and support compliance with Green Deal criteria.

The Deal’s pledge to mobilize at least €1 trillion in sustainable investments over the next decade offers the construction industry financial impetus. This enables the exploration and scaling-up of new technologies that adhere to the Deal’s ambitious targets. Funding opportunities within the context of the Green Deal can be explored through Europe’s funding and tenders portal.

Public infrastructure projects, under the Green Deal’s agenda, will likely see an increase in initiatives that integrate green spaces, promote biodiversity, and include sustainable transport solutions. The European Green Capital Award is an example of encouraging cities to advance environmentally-friendly urban construction.

Collaboration across borders is another major opportunity, paving the way for sharing best practices and technologies in low-carbon construction techniques. This can be accentuated by frameworks like the European Climate Pact, which encourages a joint effort for climate action.

As Europe strives toward a greener future, construction industries will play a crucial role. The EU Green Deal not only presents complexities but serves as a catalyst for innovation, sustainable growth, and a healthier ecosystem.


Book time with our experts to discover how these solutions can be leveraged for improved efficiency and success in your next construction project.

John Frost
March, 2024

Breaking Down Data Silos in Infrastructure Construction Management

Breaking Down Data Silos in Infrastructure Construction Management 

Effective collaboration and communication are critical for project success. However, the challenge of data silos persists, hindering a seamless flow of information among stakeholders. Let’s explore how Infrakit plays a crucial role in dismantling these barriers and fosters a more collaborative environment.

Transforming Confusion into Collaboration

Without intention, the natural silos that emerge from different core software defined by different stakeholder needs, can create barriers between groups that are much better off working together. Infrakit acts as a centralized hub, connecting diverse stakeholders involved in infrastructure projects. By integrating various data sources like surveying, machine control, field documentation and design models, Infrakit ensures real-time information sharing, enabling teams to work with the most accurate and up-to-date data.

The same goes for having a central platform where you can share custom data through our Saved Views with outside stakeholders (owners, designers, etc.) 

Turning Problems into Productive Solutions

When information is siloed, you’re only ever getting a partial understanding of the state of your project. This means that issues arising from, for example, an outdated model being passed to a machine, can fly under the radar leading to quality issues. 

Infrakit has a centralized and seamless quality control process built in, so that all stakeholders can mitigate compliance/quality risks in real-time.

Silos also often result in duplicated efforts and thus inefficient resource allocation. Infrakit reduces this significantly by enabling workers and teams to “self-serve” for their individual needs in minutes, rather than waiting hours or days and straining other data holders.

Transitioning from Clipboards to the Cloud

One of Infrakit’s strengths is its entirely cloud-based infrastructure, providing stakeholders with anytime, anywhere access to project data. This accessibility not only enhances collaboration but also offers a comprehensive view of the entire project, facilitating better decision-making and problem-solving. Even more than this, the data and decision-making “fits in your pocket” with Infrakit Field, Infrakit Survey, and Infrakit Truck, enabling field teams to adapt and operate with a higher degree of independence.


Book time with our experts to discover how these solutions can be leveraged for improved efficiency and success in your next construction project.

Alexander Zibell
February, 2024