The construction industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by an increased focus on environmental sustainability, productivity and workplace safety, and 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 road pavers. 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, 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.

Innovation S-curve for robotics in the construction industry

Autonomous road pavers is a key innovation area in robotics

Autonomous road pavers represent cutting-edge automated machinery employed for the formation and compaction of road pavement with limited need for manual interaction. These self-propelled units utilize state-of-the-art technologies, including sensors, GPS, lasers, and cameras, to autonomously control the accurate laying of pavement. While still in development, these machines have the potential to transform the road construction industry by enhancing safety, efficiency, and overall productivity.

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 road pavers.

Key players in autonomous road pavers – 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 road pavers

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Deere 622 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 298 Unlock Company Profile
Astec Industries 109 Unlock Company Profile
Fayat 91 Unlock Company Profile
Sumitomo Heavy Industries 61 Unlock Company Profile
AB Volvo 54 Unlock Company Profile
MOBA Mobile Automation 21 Unlock Company Profile
Ammann Schweiz 13 Unlock Company Profile
Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology 7 Unlock Company Profile
Terex 7 Unlock Company Profile
Gencor Industries 7 Unlock Company Profile
Dynapac (China) Compaction & Paving Equipment 5 Unlock Company Profile
ABG Immobilien-Management Komm and itgesellschaft 4 Unlock Company Profile
GOMACO 2 Unlock Company Profile
Hexagon 1 Unlock Company Profile
Power Construction Corporation of China 1 Unlock Company Profile
KIRCHNER 1 Unlock Company Profile
Sany Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
XCMG Construction Machinery 1 Unlock Company Profile
Skanska 1 Unlock Company Profile
Hermann Kirchner Bauunternehmung 1 Unlock Company Profile
Tianjin Kangyuan Engineering Machinery 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Deere is one of the leading patent filers in robotics and autonomous road pavers. A global leader in agricultural and construction machinery, with more than 180 years of innovation history, Deere has heavily invested in autonomous technology, emerging as a key player in developing autonomous road pavers. Additionally, the company recently acquired SparkAI, a New York-based startup specializing in human-in-the-loop technology to address real-time challenges for robots, further reinforcing Deere's commitment to advancements in autonomy. Some other key patent filers in this space include Caterpillar and Astec Industries.

In terms of application diversity, Astec Industries leads the pack, closely followed by Hexagon and Deere. By means of geographical reach, MOBA Mobile Automation stands at the forefront, with Deere and Volvo in close pursuit.

The advent of Autonomous Road pavers signifies a transformative leap in the construction industry, presenting the potential to significantly enhance productivity, improve safety standards, boost overall profitability, and contribute to the achievement of sustainability goals. Through the integration of robotics, autonomous road pavers gain the ability to autonomously execute their decisions. This encompasses precise control over their movement, machinery operation, and pavement distribution. The seamless execution of tasks, guided by algorithms, reduces the need for human involvement, thereby significantly enhancing both safety and operational efficiency. As the industry embraces the integration of autonomy, the multifaceted benefits of these road pavers are expected to play a pivotal role in shaping the future landscape of construction methods.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the construction industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Robotics 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.