As an industry, construction is sometimes slow to adopt new innovations from outside of the field.
Recently, however, businesses across the industry seem to be more open to new technology.
One of the biggest shifts has been the widespread adoption of IoT devices. On a construction site, IoT devices can be applied to solve a number of lingering challenges that construction companies face — like asset tracking, equipment monitoring, and workplace safety.
One of the most common applications of IoT tech in construction is equipment monitoring.
For example, it’s not unusual for some new construction equipment to come outfitted with IoT-powered telematics. Onboard smart sensors attached to these machines continuously monitor and report equipment condition information, like location, speed, engine temperature, and vibration.
This data helps construction site managers coordinate equipment and track overall fleet health. Over time, the same data may also be used as part of a predictive maintenance scheme, allowing construction site managers to cut down on unexpected downtime, maintenance costs, and repairs.
Tracking equipment health can also improve safety — machine failure can easily lead to unpredictable equipment behavior, which can often create major safety risks. Preventing failure can help to mitigate these risks.
Some IoT technology may also be used to improve equipment performance.
For example, most metal buildings have a backbone made up of cable assemblies that help to reduce building sag and improve strength. The precision installation of these cables ensures that they provide full support.
Smart machine control platforms use technology like LIDAR and GPS to improve the accuracy of machines, helping to ensure the more precise installation of components like cable assemblies.
Despite major advances in safety technology over the past few decades, construction remains one of the most dangerous professions in the U.S. and in much of the world. Heights, heavy equipment, electricity, and other extreme working conditions all make improving worker safety difficult without the right approach.
IoT can help to significantly improve construction site safety.
IoT can also help extend the functionality of common site safety equipment. For example, an internet connection can be a great way to ensure that carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are connected to a larger, site- or business-wide reporting system.
This helps ensure that fires and gas leaks are adequately reported site-wide and that safety incidents are recorded as they happen, helping ensure the fastest possible response and more effective incident review.
In the near future, continued innovation in IoT tech could provide additional benefits for workers and site managers.
GPS locators can be used to keep tabs on contractor location, for example. In the event of an accident or evacuation of the construction site, managers can use this information to ensure that the site has been fully evacuated or that all workers are accounted for.
Smart wearables could provide even more information — new tech like smart work boots, for example. monitor employee footfalls, tracking slips, and worker fatigue.
Information from these boots can help managers identify when workers are being pushed too hard, or when site terrain has become a safety risk.
The same tech could also help to prevent struck-by and backing incidents, which occur when heavy machinery strikes a worker. Onboard safety mechanisms could continually scan for the location of workers, which are tracked via their smart work boots. A safety system that detects a worker in the path of a machine could alert the machine operator or apply an emergency brake if there is a risk of a collision.
The same tech could also be used to help prevent operators from damaging equipment or assets.
This pivot towards the use of IoT on the construction site has been accompanied by the adoption of digital construction management solutions — building information modeling (BIM) tools and asset tracking platforms.
With BIM, construction companies use a 3D model of a planned building to guide construction, simplify reporting and streamline the building handover process. During construction, BIM tools can be used to ground IoT sensors and progress updates in planned construction and the reality of the current progress on-site.
For example, one construction company may use a BIM model of an in-progress construction along with IoT data to more effectively track resource use. Data logged in the BIM model can be combined with real-time data from IoT asset trackers to help provide better estimates and resource use forecasts.
If a project is using up construction resources faster than a project manager had anticipated, this data can help them more proactively source additional resources and organize deliveries.
These technologies enable the instant transmission of information to both project managers and other stakeholders. Relevant data from the construction site can be made available to clients as soon as it is available, helping smooth out communication and keep all relevant parties informed.
Once a building is complete, new sensors may be installed during the handover process. The new building owner could use the old 3D model and information from the construction process to organize building operational data — like data on air quality, the performance of HVAC equipment, or information derived from smart city monitoring devices and similar tech.
In practice, this often makes it possible for a building manager to check on a boiler or other essential building equipment remotely, reducing report time and freeing up staff for more important work.
Issues with that boiler or other building equipment that can be picked up by the IoT sensor will also be detected immediately, reducing the risk of serious damage or malfunction that can occur when issues are only uncovered by regular maintenance checks.
New IoT technology and smart sensors can offer major benefits for construction companies. The right tech can help to improve equipment fleet monitoring, site safety, and the building handover process.
IoT developers are also working to create new technology specifically for the industry — like safety wearables and IoT-ready construction machinery — that can provide further benefits.
While the construction industry is sometimes slow to adopt new innovations, many companies have already invested in IoT technology. As the tech becomes more sophisticated over the course of the decade, it could become commonplace in the industry.
Department of Information Technologies: https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-information-technologies/