Jennifer Hermes, writing for Environmental Leader:

Risk management professionals should be leading the charge to help their companies understand how disruptive technologies will affect business strategies and operations – and those risk managers who don’t lead the way will be relegated to a support role, according to the new 2017 Excellence in Risk Management (PDF) report. Disruptive technologies as defined in the report – for example, telematics, sensors, smart buildings and the Internet of Things – are those that either purposefully displace existing products or that introduce groundbreaking ways of doing business. The report, created by Marsh & McLennan Companies in partnership with Risk & Insurance Management Society (RIMS), suggests that risk managers may be focusing, to their detriment, on current rather than emerging risk.

Companies that integrate such technologies early on are generally able to stay ahead of their competitors, but they also face a significant challenge: while innovation allows companies to keep their business models fresh, it also disrupts an organization, making risks more complex. Risk management professionals need to adopt a proactive approach to these technologies, understand the risks and rewards, and educate executives on how those risks and rewards will impact business strategies, the report suggests.

What are some ways to approach risk in a more proactive manner? Excellence in Risk Management states the following:

  • Engage key stakeholders, from senior leaders to operations employees and even suppliers, in looking at risk and bringing their insights to the decision-making process;
  • Invest in the use of data, analytics and technology;
  • Educate about risk management across the organization;
  • Integrate risk management into strategic planning.

Researchers at MIT have confirmed that the future of the A/E/C industry is now in fact here.

In the proof-of-concept, a vehicle of sorts, moving along a track, carries a robotic arm that utilizes a precision-controlled nozzle to place a variety of materials including spray foam insulation and concrete. ScienceDaily reports:

Structures built with this system could be produced faster and less expensively than traditional construction methods allow, the researchers say. A building could also be completely customized to the needs of a particular site and the desires of its maker. Even the internal structure could be modified in new ways; different materials could be incorporated as the process goes along, and material density could be varied to provide optimum combinations of strength, insulation, or other properties.

Ultimately, the researchers say, this approach could enable the design and construction of new kinds of buildings that would not be feasible with traditional building methods.

The robotic system is described this week in the journal Science Robotics, in a paper by Steven Keating PhD ’16, a mechanical engineering graduate and former research affiliate in the Mediated Matter group at the MIT Media Lab; Julian Leland and Levi Cai, both research assistants in the Mediated Matter group; and Neri Oxman, group director and associate professor of media arts and sciences.

And this is what that future might look like:

Apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, but it seems that right now across the internet, a lot of attention is being paid to how the word “engineer” is defined. Merriam Webster, a fairly respected dictionary, offers three definitions of the word, engineer:

  1. “a designer or builder of engines”
  2. “a person who is trained in or follows as a profession a branch of engineering”
  3. “a person who carries through an enterprise by skillful or artful contrivance.”

(more…)

Internet of Things, or IoT, is the concept in which everyday objects such as lightbulbs, thermostats, garage door openers, etc. are imbued with network connectivity and the capability for communicating with other devices. But just as is the case with our computers and other networked devices, security is an increasingly critical factor.

This was made abundantly clear when the BrickerBot malware hit the scene. Catalin Cimpanu, of BleepingComputer.com reports:

If you’re unfamiliar, BrickerBot is a new malware family that was first identified at the start of the month by Radware researchers. The malware made headlines because it was the first threat of its kind that intentionally bricked IoT and networking devices, by rewriting the flash storage space of affected devices with random data.

After BleepingComputer.com successfully made contact with the developer behind the hacks, this is what he had to say:

The IoT security mess is a result of companies with insufficient security knowledge developing powerful Internet-connected devices for users with no security knowledge. Most of the consumer-oriented IoT devices that I’ve found on the net appear to have been deployed almost exactly as they left the factory.

[…]

I hope that regulatory bodies will do more to penalize careless manufacturers since market forces can’t fix this problem. The reality of the market is that technically unskilled consumers will get the cheapest whitelabel DVR they can find at their local store, then they’ll ask their nephew to plug it into the Internet, and a few minutes later it’ll be full of malware. At least with ‘BrickerBot’ there was some brief hope that such dangerous devices could become the merchant’s and manufacturer’s problem rather than our problem.

As California continues the transition to renewable energy, practical issues sometimes create unforeseen complications. One example: California requires that ALL residential buildings constructed after January 1, 2020 produce at least as much energy as they used. By 2030, all new nonresidential buildings must meet zero net energy requirements.

Additionally, the state is requiring that 50% of existing nonresidential buildings meet the zero net energy requirements by 2030, although some details obviously need to be worked out as far as deciding which 50% of those buildings must comply. (more…)

Writing for Forbes, Richard A. D’Aveni weighs in on how he perceives the economic impact of 3D printing on the construction industry:

Take construction. It’s a huge industry worldwide, accounting for $9 trillion in revenues and 6% of global GDP. It’s also been a technology laggard, with productivity barely rising over the past few decades. Even with digital blueprints and other fancy software programs, we still put up buildings pretty much as we did a century ago.

3D printing represents a true paradigm shift for the built environment, promising real disruption to the industry over the next couple decades. Combined with advances in material science, 3D printing offers a number of benefits:

Those buildings will also be a lot cheaper to construct. Because everything is digital, we’ll rely on robot printers to do much of the work. Already the Institute for Advanced Architecture in Gaudi’s home town of Barcelona has developed “minibuilders,” an experimental array of small robots that swarm around and put up a building in less time and at lower cost than it would take human workers. The process also generates a lot less waste. And this isn’t just about making dull concrete structures. The robots also work with composites of wood, plastic, and metal.

That’s for building on site, but if you prefabricate the structures and ship them over, you get even greater savings. Prefabrication has been around for a while, but 3D printing allows for such precision that the assembly process is literally a snap. Saudi Arabia, whose population is exploding, is talking with Winsun about printing as many as 1.5 million housing units over the next five years. Winsun thinks this technology could eventually go a long way to solve the global scourge of substandard housing.

Folks, the handwriting is on the wall. Ignore it at your own peril.

Google Creative Lab, one of the many, many research and development cells within the advertising giant, just released its latest experiment in artificial intelligence (AI) to the public for free. According to the Google Blog:

Drawing on your phone or computer can be slow and difficult—so we created AutoDraw, a new web-based tool that pairs machine learning with drawings created by talented artists to help you draw.

Here is a video to give you an idea of what that actually means:

Via: Laughing Squid

Skilled labor shortages affect more than just the construction industry. As craftsmen in various trades and industries from the Baby-Boomer generation retire or change professions, there aren’t too many younger apprentices to train or to otherwise transfer that knowledge. The brain drain could have drastic impacts on modern conveniences that most of us take for granted.

Case in point: COBOL programmers.

What’s a COBOL, you ask? COBOL is the nearly 60-year-old Common Business-Oriented Language that most banking software depends on. Anna Irrera, reporting for Reuters, elaborates on the issue:

And here lies the problem: if something goes wrong, few people know how to fix it.

The stakes are especially high for the financial industry, where an estimated $3 trillion in daily commerce flows through COBOL systems. The language underpins deposit accounts, check-clearing services, card networks, ATMs, mortgage servicing, loan ledgers and other services.

The industry’s aggressive push into digital banking makes it even more important to solve the COBOL dilemma. Mobile apps and other new tools are written in modern languages that need to work seamlessly with old underlying systems.

Google X — now just “X” — is a secretive skunkworks subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company that used to be simply known as Google. The company is famous for its “moon shot” experiments where big risks hopefully lead to big payoffs. But are the costs really worth it?

Julie Bort, at Business Insider, reveals the darker side of cutting-edge technology research and development practices, and the negative impact on the humans behind those efforts.

Some members of the Project Wing field team painted an alarming picture of hostile work conditions driven by engineers and managers back at headquarters who scheduled the group to conduct loads of tests, thereby producing loads of data, despite the long hours outdoors that such a schedule required.

What’s more, the field crew found much of their feedback and expertise on how to improve their circumstances discounted or ignored, in part, some say, because their backgrounds in the military were allegedly viewed disdainfully by others on their team.

“It was unconscionable” to make that team “work that hard,” one person told us about this team’s experiences.

The story of the drone crew reveals some of the problems that have plagued Google’s efforts to build advanced delivery drones, and it illustrates one of the risks when Silicon Valley’s worship of workaholism and data crash into real people doing physically demanding jobs. It’s a dangerous dynamic as companies like Google, Facebook, and cash-rich startups expand into new industries, from aerospace and delivery to space exploration and self-driving cars.