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IoT Drives Real-Time Information in the Construction Industry

IoT in Construction

IoT in Construction

IoT has always been a technology that lends itself to combinatorial innovation. Its power is most apparent when sensors tech is combined with other technologies such as3D mapping and modelling, cloud computing, big data, AI, and GPS. An example is the use of IoT tech in construction. 

Drones for real-time site visibility 

Construction companies can use sensor-embedded (IoT) drones to provide deep insights into a potential building site even before construction begins. Drones can collect raw visual data, which translate into detailed 3D site maps. These maps provide a means to accurately assess the scope of a job in terms of distances, surfaces, elevations, and volumes. These include measuring excavation depths, the location of powerlines and other utilities, and the volume of materials needed. A site manager no longer needs to walk the whole site daily to track progress; using a drone, they have all-weather visual access to the site, including visual access to areas that were previously difficult to access, such as roofing and underground digging. They can also keep clients informed of building progress in real-time.

Digital twin to simulate the real world 

Digital twin refers to a digital simulation or a virtual model of a product, process, service or functionality. It’s used extensively across various sectors, including construction for a variety of purposes, including visualization, monitoring, and 3D representation. 

An interesting example is the UK company, Converge. Their Concrete DNA Pro platform provides real-time concrete strength data and predictions powered by sensors and AI. An embedded sensor measures the compressive strength of concrete as it cures. The platform also integrates building information modelling (BIM) and creates a digital twin of concreting, which offers real visibility of pours and curings rates. 

Autonomous vehicles on the job site

Having appropriately qualified staff on-site for tasks such as forklift driving can be difficult in peak work seasons such as summer when staff are in short supply or when work is spread across multiple building sites. In the US,  Phantom Auto has turned vehicle driving into a desk job, where forklifts and vehicles such as yard trucks can be operated remotely. This reduces the labour costs of transporting workers to remote and isolated sites and enables companies to hire people with physical disabilities and those who are geographically isolated – opening up the labour pool. It also makes it easier to plan and coordinate other site activities, increasing productivity and reducing delays.

Tracking equipment

Theft is a problem on most job sites as teams often leave heavy machinery and tools unsecured overnight. Drones can help provide aerial coverage, but another tool is tagging. Construction sites can tag items with geofencing and GPS asset tracking to trigger a notification to security when equipment is operated out of hours or moved from a specific geofenced area. This helps police and locate stolen items and validates insurance claims. 

Site managers can also use tagging on multiple building site projects to ensure that machinery is at the correct location to eliminate costly downtime when it is sent to the wrong site. Tagging also helps with future work forecasting to understand how much teams needed various equipment in an earlier job – where and how long – and the costs and time involved in site transfers, improving accuracy in pricing for job bids.

Worker tracking 

Tracking workers is critical to ensure a secure workplace, especially during emergencies where the accurate and rapid muster count of workers during emergency evacuations is a key requirement. Wearable tech can be used to good effect to track and trace workers: site managers can send emergency evacuation alarms to workers in specific buildings or even particular floors within a building. The corresponding system starts tracking the location of the workers until they reach pre-configured muster points and are outside the impacted area. 

The use of IoT in construction creates an ecosystem of data-driven insights that can provide real-time insights, reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and ultimately lead to faster builds. The worksite also works as a test site for future technology rollouts such as digital twins and remote control vehicles and automation. 

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