The construction industry is learning fast - the only limits for Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are the limits of our imaginations.
You’ve probably heard the term at least once already today if you work in an industry that’s even remotely connected to technology, but what exactly is the Internet of Things (IoT)? The best and quickest answer is that it’s a physical network of devices that use software and embedded sensors to mutually communicate, transform, and exchange data via the internet. The more challenging questions regard exactly how the IoT will affect the construction industry. As a matter of fact, the IoT has already made a meaningful contribution to the construction industry in two key ways. The first concerns passive information collection from units that detect the spatial, and physical conditions of their environment, providing reach and actual background for data-based site or facility management.
The second involves construction equipment fitted with actuators that allow the machines to interact with the environment and transform the gathered basic data to particular actions, creating an augmented reality for the equipment operator.
As IoT devices take an active part in site-related tasks and off-site production processes, positive business outcomes are more tangible than in other examples of the construction industry’s digitization. A connected grid of devices enables the data exchange process and introduces a feedback loop between actual environmental conditions and the desired output. By making a real-time comparison between production output and desired quality metrics possible, rework and defects are minimized. As you read this, equipment, wearable devices, and production line sensors and detectors are delivering an unrestrained flow of information from construction sites. The ability to organize the swift current into organized streams allows us to probe and control every linear process we decide to maintain. For example, the end results of concrete and asphalt layer production depend strongly on the physical attributes of the material throughout the processes of mixing, transportation, and spreading. If we can associate data independently gathered at each stage of production, losses caused by spreading inadequate material on a site could be drastically reduced.
IoT solutions also make workplaces safer, reducing the probability and severity of injuries. Active wearable devices like helmets and safety vests, when combined with geolocation capabilities, create powerful tools that can keep workers out of danger zones and identify probable collisions with moving objects. The example of advanced algorithms using smartphone accelerometers to report accidental falls shows the practical dimension of future applications, where the extended functionalities of common devices will bring about game-changing capabilities.
New possibilities introduced by connected devices can markedly change the way we perceive the turnover rate of the materials and tools shipped to the project site. Problems caused by the dispersion of drop-off zones over the construction site and the inability to increase the traceability and identification of batches of material can be overcome. Interactive points of reception and vending machines connected to ERP systems will reinvent the last mile of the production delivery process. Increased awareness of the demand for materials and tools will push the industry toward an Agile culture of project management. Soon, supervisors will be able to take control over inventory maintenance and reduce the cost of wasted materials – thanks to the IoT.
At present, predictive maintenance is probably the most visible sector of the IoT revolution. The combination of sensors measuring key equipment characteristics and advanced analytical tools gives us tangible results that are easily transformable to the language of business benefits. With a reliable set of information, we can build an algorithm capable of delivering accurate predictions when fed with current data. This opens new perspectives on service strategies, as the most important production lines and value-creating equipment can be monitored actively and recalled for preventive repairs. Downtime costs gain a new dimension of detail and predictability, with less business lost to the bullwhip effect of disturbed project schedules.
The way we control and execute production processes is not the only area that will undergo profound changes. The product itself will gain a new dimension of digital accessibility and interactivity. Current and future public spaces need to address the needs of current users, delivering a constantly increasing level of digitization. Deep integration and broadband communication between the IoT-based Building Management System (BMS) and a dedicated building’s applications gives access to new business opportunities concentrated around user activation. Office productivity tools, the shared spaces marketplace, and surrounding amenities and service integration can all produce value through a wide stream of generated transactions.
Despite high acceleration rates in the general IoT marketplace, we are still not at the first stage of adoption. Visibility and awareness have not generated an adequate stream of investment yet, but we can observe worthwhile examples of implementation. The matter of predictive maintenance systems has showed that the correct identification of business needs results in visible value creation. We perceive that a lack of data exchange standards will create a major obstacle to overcome for future IoT integrators. The synergy effect hidden in the ease of different system composure needs a specific environment, likely fostered by the universal Application Programming Interface (API).
While IoT elements now take the role of information system extensions, they will shortly become the core of information exchange. According to a recent study by Gartner, the number of IoT devices will grow exponentially, from 8.38 billion in 2017 to 20.42 billion in 2020, making the ability to use the full potential of computational and sensorics grids vital.
If you’re wondering how your company can benefit from the latest IoT technologies, please let us know! Our track record of building innovative solutions using our IoT, Cloud, Business Intelligence and Data Science expertise puts us in a unique position to help.