Internet of Things (IoT) is a term that describes interconnectivity between a wide range of devices via internet infrastructure embedding. The ‘things’ in IoT can be anything from a silicon transponder for animals, cameras for surveillance, implants for heart rate observations, etc. IoT was coined by Procter & Gamble’s Kevin Ashton in 1999 and later on by MIT.
The list of benefits that IoT has brought in many industries in endless. While it is not being adopted in construction industry like in other industries, it is only a matter of time before IoT becomes a must-have technology in almost all construction projects. Looking at how the construction industry has been expanding with rising importance for efficient project management, employee safety, cost reduction, waste management, etc. it is very likely it’ll be much sooner than before.
Let take a look at how IoT benefits the construction industry and its applications.
Construction industry is one of the major contributors of the global GDP. Efficiency and profitability of construction directly impacts the economy. Since the industry is constantly evolving, this brings new challenges and the ability to act and resolve quickly to meet the demand. Some of the pressing challenges in construction that can be mitigated with IoT are as follows.
Struggling to complete the projects in time keeping the budget in mind has been a major issue in most projects. This can sometimes lead to change order which disrupts the projects. IoT can help business owners and project managers by improving the precision of estimates which benefits the on-time project delivery.
To competitive in the highly saturated industry, project managers are constantly working to beat their competitors. For such results, business owners and project managers must monitor their team for efficient performance. Unplanned breaks with no fixed schedule, worker waiting time, unplanned deliver of materials are just some of the factors that hinders the efficiency of the project.
The risk factors involved in construction industry is no new news. Even though there are protocols in place, workers are unable to follow them at all times. IoT allows projects managers to provide the workforce with real-time education which can greatly reduce the number of injuries on site.
Now, let’s take a look at the application of IoT in the Construction Industry
The construction industry is often characterized by the on-site risks involved for workers. With the help of IoT a real-time digital site map can be created that notifies the project manager and the workers for entering a dangerous environment. This can be further complimented by enabling workers with smart wearables. These wearables have the potential to not only improve the safety but also the work efficiency of the worker.
Theft is also one of the challenges faced on the construction site. IoT assisted site safety eliminates the constant monitoring by a human agent by allowing the managers with the exact location and the current status of the materials.
IoT optimizes Building Information Modeling (BIM) through generative design, risk elimination by identifying the risk factors, reinforcement learning, personnel deployment optimization, mitigating cost overruns. Equipment with sensors enables a constant flow of data which allows efficient predictive analysis which makes the entire construction process smarter.
Converting drawing into documents and images into data can be done with the help of Optical Character Recognition (OCR). These insights can help simplifying the critical processes.
Construction waste management has gained tremendous importance considering the increasing efforts for reducing the environmental footprint. Penalties can also be applied if the contractors fail to handle and manage the waste properly. Removal of trash from the job site and disposing the waste has to be enforced. This can be done efficiently through IoT trackers.
UAVs like drones are gaining popularity as monitoring and surveillance on construction projects becomes much easier with drones. One of the most important uses of drones in construction sites is to monitor and provide data from site spaces that are unsafe for human intervention. Also, manual tracking is also subject to human error. Drones also give a different perspective to project managers that cannot be observed from the ground.
IoT acts as the bridge between the physical world and the computer system, and allows a person to control a network involving IoT. This significantly improves the productivity, efficiency, dependency and accuracy. Regardless of the industry, IoT can be the key to achieving high economic benefits.
Michael Tobias, PE, is the principal and founder of New York Engineers. He leads a team of over 50 MEP/FP engineers. Although New York Engineers main headquarters are in NYC and Chicago the business has led over 1,000 engineering projects in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, and California, as well as Malaysia and Singapore. Michael is an advocate for green technology and energy efficiency and approaches engineering as a vehicle to raise the quality of life.