The Digitization of Physical Assets and Its Impact on the AEC Industry and US Economy

March 15, 2021
By: Bill Zandi

The digitization revolution is continuing to spread throughout the U.S. economy and its accelerating pace doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. From books to retail to social communities, the digitization of various sectors of the economy is now starting to impact physical assets, and this could have far reaching implications.

In the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) sector, digitization takes the form of converting the physical into digital copies, resulting in a radical technological disruption throughout its standard design and construction lifecycles. The process which yields these digital copies employs LIDAR technology or light detection and ranging. For instance, while traditional surveying methodologies utilize disto pointers and notepads to capture the dimensions of a building, LIDAR sensors shoot lasers in every direction every time the system is activated. This is akin to using the disto pointer hundreds of millions or even a billion times to gather the as-built dimensions. This generates very accurate - within 2mm - measurements and more usable data, which results in fewer site visits and a lower margin of error for the architectural and design teams.

However, digitization doesn’t just impact accuracy, it can act as a centralized file for all stakeholders to work off of. Significantly, the digitization of physical assets doesn’t have to apply to just one property, it can consist of a number of properties within a neighborhood or even an entire city. The application of this technology could result in more effective, city-wide coordination for urban design projects and innovations: i.e. autonomous public transportation, energy efficient neighborhoods, urban farming, etc.