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Following the first 3D-printed office in Dubai, the technology is now being applied in housing projects Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

As more and more developers and construction companies are beginning to integrate technology into their business process or operation, it offers exciting time for tech firms and start-ups. While the construction industry has been traditionally slow at adopting the latest technology compared with other sectors, digital technology has ignited a change in attitude in the industry. “Due to the emergence of digitalisation, developers such as Emaar are implementing innovative construction techniques and design tools to build new forms of residential housing,” said Hadi Badri, CEO, International, at Emaar Properties.

In July Emaar announced plans to build its first 3D-printed house in Arabian Ranches III. “3D printing is environmentally friendly and it significantly reduces construction waste and noise pollution during wall construction,” Badri said, adding that the technology allows faster construction of homes at lower costs, with design and architectural flexibility.

Other developers have also professed to be early adopters of the digital transformation in the region.

“Since the past couple of years we have implemented tech solutions and innovations across all our verticals to enable internal operational efficiencies, as well as seamless customer experience,” said Niall McLoughlin, senior vice-president of Damac Properties. The company has launched a digital customer service and facilities management portal and mobile app to enhance customer service delivery.

“We have implemented industry innovations such as ‘framework construction’, which saves us time, and we have achieved automation and paperless processing of handover formalities such as documentation, snagging, to name a few,” he said.

McLoughlin said the company has also installed VR-based training pods as part of health and safety training for construction workers on-site.

Accommodation app

Apart from developers, other players in the industry are also increasingly adopting modern solutions. Dubai Asset Management recently introduced a staff accommodation management app that allows corporate and accommodation managers to view contracts and assign units to employees, manage maintenance and transfer units between occupants, said Arif Mubarak, CEO.

In partnership with Smart Dubai, Mubarak said the firm has led the introduction of the first fully digital and paperless property rental experience. Moving forward, he said IoT, big data and artificial intelligence are also set to play more prominent roles in the industry, supporting predictive maintenance and informed analytics, as well as increased energy efficiency.

Many tech firms and start-ups now see the current landscape as an exciting time to introduce homegrown proptech solutions. HomeValue, a Dubai-based start-up, recently claimed to have launched the region’s first independent and instant home valuation platform powered by proprietary artificial intelligence algorithms. “HomeValue provides property estimates with unmatched accuracy and matches property buyers, sellers and investors with top professionals, which empowers them to make faster, smarter and safer decisions,” said Fouad Bekkar, founder and CEO of Home Value.

Initially launched in Dubai a few weeks ago, HomeValue now also covers Abu Dhabi and plans to include other emirates before going global.

Chatbot solutions

Another start-up, Via Fone Technologies, offers AI chatbot that engages with customers in two-way communication. “We simply build one chatbot using our advanced drag and drop interface and it automatically gets deployed on the 11 social media channels,” said Souffiane Houti, founder and COO of Via Fone Technologies.

The company’s “Chat2AI” control panel displays analytics as well as a customer heat-map to provide companies with deep learning and insights on customer interaction, with the ability to train the AI for optimum responses.

When it comes to real estate, Houti said AI chatbots have revolutionised buying, selling and renting property by automating the business processes, fostering relationships with customers and turning leads into customers.

Wakecap Technologies is another IoT-based firm that addresses construction safety and productivity with a plug-and-play solution. “WakeCap is offering a solution to connect workers with zero training, zero configuration and a patented wearable solution integrated seamlessly into the existing personal safety equipment (hard hat), connecting job sites via truly scalable and easily deployable battery-powered wireless mesh network,” said Ishita Sood, founder and COO at WakeCap.

She said contractors can now automatically collect and transmit real-time and historical labour and job-site data, providing decision-makers with real-time, data-driven actionable insights. Construction companies and contractors around the world are in dire need for safer, more connected and more automated project worksites, Sood noted. “The challenges of this industry is that contractors look for direct ROI that can reflect immediately on their existing projects.”

In the coming years, Bekkar of HomeValue expects two technologies — artificial intelligence and blockchain — to revolutionise the industry the most by solving three of the biggest pains in a real estate transaction: information transparency, the multitude of intermediaries and the lengthy paper-based process.