Internet of Things is not a futuristic concept. Many homeowners boast of their homes as smart homes with appliances and devices connected to the internet. While many do not view the construction industry as technologically advanced, the IoT in construction is not as far off as we think. It is something that is achievable for many contractors. In fact, one of your teams may be working on a smart (i.e., connected) job site.
What is IoT?
In its simplistic form, the internet of things is the connection of devices through the internet. In a home, this can apply to appliances, lights, thermostats, smartphones, toys, and more! From your smartphone, homeowners can adjust their thermostats, turn on lights, and even ensure their nannies are taking proper care of their children. That’s what’s happening today, but the possibilities are truly endless.
The internet of things is a giant network of connected things. Even people can connect to the IoT through wearables and smartphones. Gartner states that there may be over 26 billion connected devices by 2020.
IoT in Construction Benefits
As previously stated, if IoT is the connection of devices (including people), then this is already happening in construction. Many construction sites have internet connectivity to enable a connected job site. These are more than just fancy toys. Connected devices on job sites provide number benefits to the project, the companies, and most of all the employees.
Improved worker safety
Many field workers have smartphones. Frequently many job sites enforce strict rules on phone usage to maintain worker safety. However, many employees have downloaded safety apps, like a fall detector, that work in the background even when the phone is in use. This functions in the same vein as wearable device and notifies a set list of contacts in the event of fall.
There are several different wearables to can improve safety. Some are separate devices that a worker wears. While some are embedded in personal protective equipment such as vests, helmets, and boots. They all function in the same way to monitor a worker’s vitals to prevent accidents before they happen.
With the data captured on the job site, everyone in the office benefits with real-time progress reporting. Some of the ways that stakeholders receive progress reports include electronic daily reports, data reported directly to the BIM, drone footage, or internet connected video cameras. There are a plethora of internet-connected devices on the job site to feed data back to the office in real-time. The real-time reporting allows stakeholders to gauge where the project is at and make any adjustments to keep the project on track.
Sensors and RFID tags on materials and equipment can help in proactive ordering materials and servicing equipment. When an employee checks out or ships material to a job site, he scans the item. The system detects low inventory and notifies an employee to place an order for more material. Similarly, sensors on equipment monitor usage levels to flag potential issues for preventive maintenance. Previously running out of materials or equipment maintenance would cause delays. However, IoT in construction delivers automated workflows to minimize delays and keep projects moving forward.
Improved building lifespan
Smart thermostats, circuit breakers, and digital power meters are some of the ways building operators can monitor energy usage. If any abnormalities are seen, notifications are delivered to address quickly. With the proactive monitoring of building facilities, IoT increases the entire lifespan of the building. Now facility managers can address any issues promptly before they become more devastating and more expensive issues.
The value of IoT is data. But what can be done with all of this data? Companies utilize this data to make continuous improvement. Data unearths that the operations team can refine certain processes to deliver projects quicker.
Additionally, data uncovers that certain materials or equipment have a longer lifespan. While the materials or equipment are more expensive to purchase, it doesn’t need to be replaced as frequently. Therefore, it is less costly in the long run. The data from IoT allows companies to make continuous improvement to execute more effectively and be more profitable.
Taking IoT in Construction to the next level
IoT is making significant advancements for contractors looking to improve processes, reducing waste, and make more money. With the other technology available in the construction industry, there is even more room for improvement. What if you were to combine IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning? A system would capture the data, analyze, and process it automatically. For example, if an HVAC system is needing maintenance, the system will proactively schedule a maintenance technician. The technician will already know exactly what the problem is, where the problem is and know how to fix it even before he goes on site. The technology is working together seamlessly without human intervention only human notification.