The construction industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by an increased focus on environmental sustainability and workplace safety, and the growing importance of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics. In the last three years alone, there have been over 425,000 patents filed and granted in the construction industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Robotics in construction: autonomous excavator. Buy the report here.
However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.
Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.
80+ innovations will shape the construction industry
According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the construction industry using innovation intensity models built on over 232,000 patents, there are 80+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.
Within the emerging innovation stage, polishing robots, robotic excavators, and autonomous worksite machines are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Welding robots, automated slurry-blast tools, and adaptive road milling rollers are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing.
Innovation S-curve for robotics in the construction industry
Autonomous excavators is a key innovation area in robotics
Autonomous excavators use advanced robotic technology to automate the excavation process on construction sites. Using sensors to collect information on the surrounding area, autonomous excavators can track how much soil they are moving, in real-time. This helps to reduce the movement of excess soil, which can significantly improve the efficiency and environmental sustainability of construction sites.
GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established construction companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of autonomous excavators.
Key players in autonomous excavators– a disruptive innovation in the construction industry
‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.
‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.
Patent volumes related to autonomous excavators
Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics
Built Robotics is among the leading filers in autonomous excavators. The company, which leads in the automated construction equipment space, has filed a patent for an autonomous excavation vehicle that can navigate through a dig site and carrying out an excavation routine. Enabled through a system of sensors mounted to the vehicle to collect spatial, imaging, measurement, and location data representing the status of the excavator and its surrounding environment, the system allows the extraction vehicle to execute instructions as part of an excavation routine, as well as perform numerous additional tasks such as checking the volume of excavated earth in an excavation tool and helping to prepare a digital terrain model.
Other key patent filers in the autonomous excavation space include Kobe Steel, Komatsu, Caterpillar, Deere, and Husqvarna.
In terms of application diversity, Topcon is among the leading company, followed by Husqvarna and Newmont. In terms of geographic reach, Built Robotics and EquipmentShare are the leading companies.
To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the construction industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Robotics in Construction.