Looking Ahead - The Future of the Engineering Industry in the Digital Age

03 March 2021

Looking Ahead

​In an increasingly digital world, there isn’t much that can’t be innovated. Technology has changed the way we hail a cab, watch movies, manage our money and even find love, and convenience for individuals is only the beginning. Entire industries are being transformed as businesses find ways to increase efficiency, cut costs and improve end products and services through the use of technology.

Engineering is in the midst of its own revolution: digital innovations are transforming the industry, opening greater possibilities both now and in the near future. Here, we look at how these changes will shape the future of engineering.

Augmented and virtual reality

Both augmented and virtual reality have become buzzwords for many industries in recent years, but engineering is one of the genuine applications where companies are seeing the benefits. Using this technology allows engineers to visualise designs in real-world environments, offering greater capacity to recognise spatial and aesthetic issues in early phases. It can also be used to enhance training and briefings with more engaging content.

Alternative materials

Traditional materials like bricks, timber, concrete, glass and steel have long been favoured in construction for their various benefits. But each has its limits, particularly as engineers continue to shift focus towards sustainability and increasing the lifetime of structures. The adoption of alternatives like self-healing concrete and nanomaterials are tipped as possible disruptions to construction if the cost can decrease and companies feel more comfortable with the initial investment.

Building information modelling (BIM)

BIM is not new to engineering, but technology is accelerating its benefits to the sector. The concept sees engineers collaborate with architects and other key personnel to plan and oversee a project, and technology is helping to iron out the wrinkles and make smooth, phased construction more achievable. Improved access to visual modelling and shared data is making it easier to identify any problems ahead of time, with the major hurdle being universal adoption.

Data collection and analytics

Perhaps one of the biggest impacts of evolving technology is the ability to collect and analyse data, and engineers are beginning to leverage this strength in a variety of ways. For example, the ability to accurately identify resources and other requirements of any given project is critical: firms can now use data to ensure they obtain and verify all the information they need to measure feasibility and optimise plans in the early stages. Data analytics can also be applied in a variety of other ways, such as smarter engineering recruitment or improving safety protocols.