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 Robotics in Construction: Excavator control systems. 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 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, robotic water surface cleaner is a disruptive technology that is in the early stage of application and should be tracked closely. Intelligent motor controllers, building finishing techniques, and sensor-integrated door wings are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are heavy equipment monitoring systems and electric hydraulic excavator, which are now well established in the industry.
Innovation S-curve for robotics in the construction industry
Excavator control systems is a key innovation area in robotics
Excavator control systems refer to the various electronic and hydraulic components and software that are used to control the movement and operation of excavators. Through the use of software, digital guidance is provided to excavator operators via a display control terminal that contains the design plan. Sensors, cameras, and other feedback mechanisms can provide real-time information about the excavator's position, orientation, and surroundings, thereby improving the accuracy, efficiency and safety of the excavation process.
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
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 co-ordinate 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. 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 Robotics in Construction.