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 worksite machines. 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 worksite machines is a key innovation area in robotics
Autonomous vehicles such as haul trucks, dozers, excavators and load-carriers can be used to carry out worksite activities and improve health and safety standards. Smaller autonomous vehicles such as rovers can assist on-site workers by carrying tools and materials, improving the efficiency of site operations. Connectivity of autonomous worksite control machines across the site can allow for centralized control and coordinated activity.
GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each Autonomous worksite control machines and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 50+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established construction companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of autonomous worksite machines.
Key players in autonomous worksite machines– 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 worksite machines
Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics
Komatsu and Toyota Motor launched a joint project in May 2023 to develop an Autonomous Light Vehicle (ALV) that will run on Komatsu's Autonomous Haulage System. The two companies are testing a concept ALV and plan to have a proof of concept at a customer site by January 2024.
Hitachi is also introducing an Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) for mining dump trucks with the aim of improving productivity and safety at mining sites.
Fayat, a leading producer of roadbuilding equipment, filed a method for operating a self-propelled roadbuilding machine, which limits the health and safety risks to operators, while maintaining the quality of materials used in the process. The method utilizes a transmitting module, through which an operator can control the components of the machine remotely, keeping a safe distance away from the harmful fumes produced during road construction.
In terms of application diversity, Novatron is the leading company, followed by Husqvarna and Siemens. In terms of geographic reach, EquipmentShare and Ackermans & Van Haaren 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.