Innovation “means solving problems,” says Burcin Kaplanoglu, PhD, Executive Director and Innovation Officer with Oracle, and Co-founder of the Oracle Construction and Engineering Innovation Lab in Deerfield, Ill. The 20,000-sf lab opened in the fall of 2018, and has hosted more than 500 guests, 80% of whom were operations personnel.
Just as Oracle uses its research labs to test prototype technologies, the purpose of its innovation lab is to try out ways to identify pain points and improve the industrial process.
“The digital and physical worlds are blurring, and construction is not that different. We focus on solutions, and how they can be scaled,” says Kaplanoglu, a former Lendlease executive and a teacher at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering.
The lab, which went from concept to execution in only six months, replicates an actual jobsite, complete with a double-wide trailer, sensors, and location trackers. It provides visitors with an immersive experience where they can assume one of five different roles, “and walk through the day in the life of a construction worker,” says Kaplanoglu.
A short visit takes two to four hours. Other visitors might spend an entire day onsite. Some use the lab to educate their employees and subcontractors, others to test construction technologies or to share experiences with peers. “We’re creating as common collaborative environment,” says Kaplanoglu.
In the future, Kaplanoglu wants the lab to incorporate labor unions and subcontractors. And part of its mission is to diversity its user base to include insurance companies, materials manufacturers, financial institutions, as well as the underprivileged. “We’re looking to engage a larger ecosystem,” he says.
The Innovation Lab's Co-founder Burcin Kaplanolgu, PhD, foresees AI and robotics being incorporated into the lab’s experiences. Photo: Oracle
The lab’s business partners include an array of software and hardware suppliers: Assemble Systems, Bosch, Daqri, Here Technologies, Jovix, Reconstruct, Smartvid.io, and Triax.
Kaplanoglu is particularly excited about a future of construction that integrates augmented reality (“the future for displaying data,” he says) and artificial intelligence (“which relies on that data”). The advent of more sophisticated sensors and 5G networks holds out the promise of better jobsite communications with higher transmission speeds and lower latency.
He also foresees jobsites turning to robotics to supplement their workforces, initially to capture data but eventually (within the next five to 10 years) to support work onsite.
Kaplanoglu says the success of the Chicago lab has led Oracle to consider expanding this concept to other cities, and not just in the U.S.