The construction industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation, with activity being 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 Internet of Things in construction: excavator controls. Buy the report here.

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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, robotic excavators, self-cleaning toilets, and smart waterproofing are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Sensor-integrated doors, eco-friendly HVACs, and automated slurry-blast tools are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas is work vehicle cruise control, which is now well established in the industry.

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

Excavator controls is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Excavator controls refer to the various methods and mechanisms used to operate and control excavators, which are heavy construction machines designed for digging and earthmoving tasks. These controls allow the operator to manipulate the excavator's movements, including its boom, stick, bucket, and tracks, to perform specific tasks efficiently and with precision.

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

Key players in excavator controls – 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 excavator controls

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Komatsu 743 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 586 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 372 Unlock Company Profile
Sumitomo Heavy Industries 369 Unlock Company Profile
Deere 141 Unlock Company Profile
Kobe Steel 118 Unlock Company Profile
Kubota 106 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsui Chemicals 93 Unlock Company Profile
The Weir Group 70 Unlock Company Profile
Harnischfeger Technologies 62 Unlock Company Profile
CNH Industrial 51 Unlock Company Profile
Liebherr-International 48 Unlock Company Profile
Built Robotics 42 Unlock Company Profile
Doosan Infracore 42 Unlock Company Profile
Husqvarna 42 Unlock Company Profile
Fujifilm 39 Unlock Company Profile
Doosan 36 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 26 Unlock Company Profile
Baidu 25 Unlock Company Profile
AB Volvo 22 Unlock Company Profile
J C Bamford Excavators 22 Unlock Company Profile
YANMAR POWER TECHNOLOGY 19 Unlock Company Profile
elobau 17 Unlock Company Profile
AGCO 17 Unlock Company Profile
Metalogenia Research & Technologies 17 Unlock Company Profile
Grammer 17 Unlock Company Profile
Ponsse 16 Unlock Company Profile
Topcon 16 Unlock Company Profile
Austin Engineering 16 Unlock Company Profile
Yanmar (Tokyo Office) 13 Unlock Company Profile
Black Cat Blades 13 Unlock Company Profile
Hexagon 13 Unlock Company Profile
Rio Tinto 10 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 10 Unlock Company Profile
Novatron 9 Unlock Company Profile
Steelwrist 8 Unlock Company Profile
Sensata Technologies 8 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 8 Unlock Company Profile
Microsoft 8 Unlock Company Profile
Toro 7 Unlock Company Profile
XCMG Construction Machinery 7 Unlock Company Profile
Oshkosh 7 Unlock Company Profile
HD Hyundai 6 Unlock Company Profile
Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering 6 Unlock Company Profile
Ackermans & Van Haaren 6 Unlock Company Profile
CLAAS KGaA mbH 6 Unlock Company Profile
MTD Products 6 Unlock Company Profile
The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission 5 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 5 Unlock Company Profile
Sany Heavy Industry 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Leading companies in the development of excavator controls include Volvo’s subsidiary, Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE), a manufacturer of construction equipment. Key innovations of Volvo CE include the development of a driving lever for construction equipment that allows one-handed operation and precise control. The driving lever enables a driver to operate an operation lever into a desired direction by controlling slips and the deviation of a track line during the operation of a lower operation body using one hand. The lever comprises a motor unit, a lever control support, a switch member, and a controller. Further Volvo CE patents include a method for controlling an excavator's digging angle based on height and bend information of the target object.

In terms of application diversity, leading innovators in the development of excavator controls include Rio Tinto, a metals and mining company, and Liebherr-International, a manufacturer and supplier of construction machinery. By means of geographic reach, leading companies in the space include The Weir Group, Husqvarna, and Metalogenia.

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.

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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.