Analysis

2019 predictions pt 1: Neil Thompson on enterprise wearables, assistive robotics

2 January 2019 | By Stephen Cousins

What’s going to be big in 2019 and what’s not? Neil Thompson, director of digital construction at SNC Lavalin Atkins, offers his predictions.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

To break out of my circle. I often find myself catching up with old contacts at events, this year I’m planning to proactively find more unexpected people and hopefully bring them into communities that I’m part of, like the UK BIM Alliance. 

I also want to play more board games, the rise of nu-board games has gripped me – I think it has something to do with being in a room with real people, not staring at a screen!

What is your most important lesson learnt from 2018?

2018 was a crazy year, after joining Atkins in mid 2017 I felt like I had stepped onto a bullet train, after 12 months I stepped into the challenging global role of leading digital construction and now we’re part of SNC-Lavalin.

The biggest thing I learnt was to fail fast. It sounds like a cliche, but learning to put bad ideas aside, even when I felt personally attached to them, has been key.

What innovative technology are you most excited about finding out more about in 2019, and why?

“Enterprise wearables” is moving up the Gartner hype cycle, technology like OpenSpace.ai and 3DRepo’s ability to integrate sensors. We are facing an interesting horizon for passive reality capture and frequent feature recognition from cameras and point clouds.

Home help: The Anki Vector robot (Anki Vector)

What consumer tech are you tempted to buy in New Year sales?

An Anki Vector robot. Google, Amazon and Apple have missed a trick with home assistance devices, I want one that I can have as a robopet!

What individual or company is going to be “one to watch” this year and why?

Dan Rossiter, senior BIM communicator at the BRE, won multiple awards this year being recognised by his profession and the standards community. He has a huge platform moving in to 2019.

Which construction technology do you want to see make the leap into mainstream adoption this year?

I recently built a partnership with a robot manufacturer in Canada and the price of manufacturing assistive robotics is falling. It creates interesting opportunities for our sector to free up the workforce, improve time on tools and create a platform for new job roles in our organisation.

What industry event are you looking forward to attending and why?

Apart from Digital Construction Week, I use Autodesk University in London as a barometer for the sector, it’s smaller and more focused than its big brother in Las Vegas and you get an opportunity to interact with the leadership for both Autodesk and the wider industry.