The construction industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity 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 248,000 patents filed and granted in the construction industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in Construction: Excavator control systems.

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 stabilising 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 179,000 patents, there are 80+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, smart toilets and intelligent water body cleaning are the disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Intelligent motor controllers, hydraulic actuators, and sensor-integrated door wings are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are automatic faucets and excavator monitoring systems, which are now well established in the industry.  

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the construction industry

Excavator control systems is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Digital excavator control systemscan significantly improve the excavation process by providing more accurate grading methods. Digital guidance is provided to excavator operators via a display control terminal that contains the design plan. Visual and audible aids can help the operator carry out the excavation process with greater accuracy, efficiency, and safety.

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 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established construction companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of excavator control systems.

Key players in excavator control systems – a disruptive innovation in the construction industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to excavator control systems

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Caterpillar 435 Unlock company profile
Komatsu 412 Unlock company profile
Hitachi 212 Unlock company profile
Sumitomo Heavy Industries 171 Unlock company profile
Deere & Co 82 Unlock company profile
Esco Technologies 74 Unlock company profile
Kobe Steel 62 Unlock company profile
Harnischfeger Technologies 60 Unlock company profile
Built Robotics 35 Unlock company profile
Kubota 35 Unlock company profile
Husqvarna 32 Unlock company profile
Doosan 24 Unlock company profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 21 Unlock company profile
J C Bamford Excavators 21 Unlock company profile
Liebherr-International 21 Unlock company profile
Doosan Infracore 19 Unlock company profile
Topcon 15 Unlock company profile
Grammer 14 Unlock company profile
Metalogenia Research & Technologies 14 Unlock company profile
Black Cat Blades 14 Unlock company profile
Austin Engineering 12 Unlock company profile
Hexagon 11 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings 11 Unlock company profile
CNH Industrial 10 Unlock company profile
Weir Group 10 Unlock company profile
Ponsse 9 Unlock company profile
Baidu 9 Unlock company profile
AB Volvo 9 Unlock company profile
Steelwrist 8 Unlock company profile
Yanmar Holdings 7 Unlock company profile
CEA 6 Unlock company profile
XCMG Construction Machinery 6 Unlock company profile
Ackermans & Van Haaren 6 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 5 Unlock company profile
MTD Products 5 Unlock company profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 5 Unlock company profile
Toro Company 5 Unlock company profile
CLAAS 5 Unlock company profile
Crown Equipment 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

A leading company in the excavator control space is Caterpillar, which provides sophisticated 2D and 3D grading systems. Its more advanced ‘Grade with 3D’ system allows operators to coordinate multiple machines to grade complex designs. The system tracks the progress of excavators in real-time using satellite positioning guidance to improve the accuracy and efficiency of the excavation process, limiting excess material, fuel and labour usage. It also allows the operator to easily view, input and edit plans via a touchscreen monitor. Some other leading companies in the excavator control systems space include Komatsu, Hitachi, Sumitomo and Deere.

By application diversity, the leading companies include Crown Equipment, Built Robotics, and Kobe Steel. In terms of geographic reach, the leading companies are Black Cat Blades, Esco Technologies, and Austin Engineering.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the construction industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in Construction.

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.