An in-depth study published by Science Direct in February 2021 discussed the relevance of cloud computing in the last decade to the construction industry and how cloud technologies can help industry players improve operations and reduce costs.

The study “Cloud computing in construction industry: Use cases, benefits and challenges” conducted by researchers from University of West of the England highlights existing applications of cloud computing in construction, cloud as an enabler for innovation delivery of other emerging technologies, barriers and strategies for wider adoption of cloud computing and potentials of cloud computing in the construction industry.

It reviewed similar papers covering 2009 to the first quarter of 2019 to identify a number of motivations for the existing studies to employ cloud in the different stages of construction. It found that cloud computing is already being used in the feasibility study, design and construction stages of project lifecycle.

The application of cloud computing to construction is an emerging area, which promises a number of opportunities, according to the study. Among the features of cloud computing in construction are safety system, waste minimization system, supply chain management system, energy management system and construction informatics.

While cost is a significant barrier in the adoption of IT solutions by construction companies, cloud computing technologies have given SMEs access to high-end computing infrastructure and applications.

This is seen to reduce the total cost of a project delivery, therefore giving construction companies a competitive advantage and operational edge. “Since payment will only be for actual consumption, the cloud computing technology provides increased agility for the construction by the elimination of ownership and operational costs,” it says.

Cloud computing provides cost flexibility that allows construction SMEs operating on tight budget to avoid significant upfront investment and operational cost. A construction company can purchase IT resources as services, dictated by the specific requirement at that particular period on a construction project.

It also guarantees a secured platform. Cloud security now has security measures such as encryption, use of up-to-date security software, cyber insurance security cover, security audit, and others.

The findings from the review shows that cloud computing provides incentives ranging from computational power for data analysis, secured enormous storage to a cost-effective and convenient access for construction data.

It offers transparency and collaboration that can reduce delays and plug leakages arising from inaccessible information. A cloud based real-time project performance monitoring and reporting system allows stakeholders to be part of every stage of the project delivery process. Cloud adoption therefore allows project progress to be monitored in an open manner.

Cloud computing also enables emerging technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), Internet of Things (IoT), immersive technologies (virtual reality and augmented reality), mobile technology and big data analytics.

“Although cloud computing has ceded the spotlight to these emerging trends, cloud computing remains the foundation piece for modern collaborative IT architecture,” the study says.

For example, cloud services are inevitable for SMEs in the sector to digitize their processes using BIM-enabled applications.

Cloud computing is expected to bring about new business models that will enable construction companies to do business in a new way. “As such, cloud computing will bring about a change from the one-off on-site business models to pay-as-you-go solutions. Cloud would afford business with new ways to use databases software and network. Intelligence on demand will be available for construction practitioners as a result of instant response from the massive power of cloud computing,” it says.

Construction solutions offered by cloud platforms provide stakeholders complete visibility and control, so they can monitor and report on project status anytime, anywhere.

For one, NetSuite’s cloud platform enables construction industry players to monitor and control construction project management in real-time, which leads to a significantly improved project completion record. NetSuite has a robust cloud-based construction management solution that can meet every customer requirement.   

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