Neil Thompson

Explainers

New year predictions part 2: Atkins’ Neil Thompson and Freeform’s James Bowles

3 January 2018 | By Denise Chevin

Two more tech leaders reveal their hopes, highlights and predictions for the coming 12 months...

Neil Thompson, digital transformation lead at Atkins and CEO of industry think tank dotBuiltEnvironment

What is your New Year’s resolution?

I’m not one to make resolutions. I tend to appraise the previous year and keep in check with what I can do to maintain my zen!

What is your most important lesson learnt from 2017?

I spent a long time thinking about changing the course of my career. It was a really hard decision, but I believe that no matter how comfortable you are, you should always try to disrupt your own path to keep things edgy.

What innovative technology are you most excited about finding out more in 2018?

Home automation technologies and I will also be SUV shopping, for a family car. A basic requirement, for the latter, is that it is a plug-in hybrid and can drive itself, most of the time. 

What individual or company is going to be one to watch this year?

Company – I’m biased I know, but Atkins, through its integration with engineering and construction group SNC Lavalin, has developed some really cool technology and we can’t wait to get it out there to show it off!

Individual – I’m excited to see how Alex Lubbock leads his digital construction agenda for the UK government at the ‎Infrastructure and Projects Authority.

Which construction technology do you want to make the leap into mainstream adoption this year?

I want more UK-based ConTech startups to become mainstream. A good example is 3D Repo, their new (secret) technology is going to either be a market maker for them or a gem to be acquired into a broader platform.

What industry event are you looking forward to attending?

Digital Construction Week is now a staple for me. I’m also looking forward to organising events with the Institution of Engineering Technology as chair of their Digital Construction Group.

James Bowles, director of 4D modelling consultancy Freeform

What is your New Year’s resolution?

Less work at the desk, more bike rides, less looking that the phone and more reading books. It’s the same every year!

What is your most important lesson learnt from 2017?

That the only way to convince a project team that 4D virtual reality is worth the investment is to demonstrate it in person – YouTube is not enough. We will be investing in some heavy-duty VR cases soon, as our VR kit has taken a bit of beating this year.

What innovative technology are you most excited about finding out more in 2018?

We’re always looking to make our 4D modelling processes more agile and responsive, the excellent Flux.io digital collaboration solution holds much promise and we’ve started early testing. Some very large infrastructure projects in our pipeline will use this solution for open team collaboration.

What individual or company is going to be one to watch this year?

The cloud-based 3D interactive virtual engineering platform Sensat is very exciting and has made some big leaps forward. We hope to collaborate on a few projects next year, in large infrastructure. When we get information flowing between capture, 4D, logistics and VR we will be able to offer a powerful support for project control.

Which construction technology do you want to see make the leap into more mainstream adoption this year?

VR and augmented reality will be huge. We may have to wait for 2019/20 for more stable and mainstream telepresence platforms to develop, but it is an exciting time ahead. I’d like to see broad uptake of VR for remote teams as a means of improving dispersed team behaviour and communication.

What industry event related to construction technology are you looking forward to attending?

Digital Construction Week was excellent again last year and we’re looking forward to the 2018 event where there is likely to be a high concentration of forward thinkers and industry experts.

I spent a long time thinking about changing the course of my career. It was a really hard decision, but I believe that no matter how comfortable you are, you should always try to disrupt your own path to keep things edgy.– Neil Thompson, Atkins