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When it comes to technology, construction as an industry is more often reactive than proactive. Some construction leaders doubt the efficiency of new technologies. Others don’t know how to use them.
The slow pace of new tech adoption might be most apparent — and most costly — when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT).
The latest statistics confirm that IoT mastery will become a serious source of competitive advantage in construction. It is a question of “when,” not “if,” thanks to the IoT’s major potential to lower material costs, improve project management, cut waste and boost worker safety.
Let’s take a closer look at how the IoT is already changing construction as well as its primary applications and benefits.
Construction is a big deal in the deepest sense. It creates the built environment in which we live, work and play. Making construction more efficient, more profitable, and less wasteful will create real material benefits around the world.
And while the industry is always changing, some pain points persist. The good news? Proper application of IoT within construction can go a surprising way to addressing or even eliminating these pain points.
This includes some of the industry’s most pressing challenges, like:
Construction, sadly, is a dangerous industry. Fatalities happen every year on construction sites around the world.
Of course, construction leaders are aware of this. Every responsible business has developed and deployed a robust workplace safety system.
The IoT can help these systems function by reinforcing where they too often break down—workforce understanding of and compliance with site guidelines. It does this by helping site mangers reinforce workforce education of these safety systems.
Completing projects on-time and on-budget is arguably the oldest and most important challenge in construction. It’s also growing more difficult as construction plans become more complex.
The IoT can help by improving the precision and reliability of estimates. Investors, construction business owners, managers and clients can all enjoy greater confidence in project-related forecasts.
Competition is fierce in construction. Project managers face strong competitive pressure both in scheduling and the quality of completed work.
The IoT can help address this challenge by allowing business owners to more easily track what’s happening on job sites. This can do everything from cut down on delivery delays and time spent locating materials on-site to helping to identify and eliminate superfluous worker idle time.
Construction is still grappling with the legacy of the Great Recession over a decade later, when thousands of workers left their jobs and did not return. Today the skills shortages this created are worsening. The Baby Boomers in construction, as elsewhere, are retiring, and there are not enough younger construction professionals to replace them.
The IoT can’t replace missing construction workers. But it can help maximize the efficiency of the existing workforce through project schedule and site analysis. With the end of the skills crisis still not in sight, this can have a significant impact.
In specific terms, here is how the Internet of Things can solve problems and boost productivity in construction.
Poor project management means higher costs of completion. But legacy construction systems often can’t detect or mitigate poor management until losses are inevitable.
The IoT, in contrast, provides real-time data that improves a wide range of decisions. These include resource allocations, team communication, asset tracking, negotiation with stakeholders and more.
The IoT makes remote construction operation and management possible. IoT-enable remote equipment allows construction in dangers or prohibited areas, while “wearables” like Google Glass improve remote employee management and equipment monitoring. Using these tools, a team leader can even share an employee’s point of view to provide guidance or review completed work.
The IoT includes a wide range of sensors that can help site managers keep job sites safe as well as predict and mitigate the damage caused by adverse weather, natural disasters.
These sensors, which can detect everything from motion to noise to vibration and far beyond, can also improve safety by lowering accident response times and monitoring the safety of the working environment and materials being used. This in turn helps to predict and prevent job site safety issues.
The IoT is a powerful technology that is also under-used in construction today. Among its many benefits:
The IoT in construction is all about information. By collecting and delivering real-time data on workers, the environment, equipment, material and more, it helps project managers make better decisions and deliver projects that delight clients and grow the business.
Building information management, or BIM, is the creation of a digital model of a project. BIM can be a powerful project management tool, but it’s only as good as the data it is built on. The IoT can provide a steady flow of real-time data to BIM systems, ensuring they are up-to-date and relevant.
The IoT help site managers track expenses and efficiency. It makes the timely delivery of resources to the site easier to achieve. It can also boost the efficiency of the entire team on-site.
Through sensors that can track brake temperature, fuel consumption and more, the IoT can flag maintenance issues before they cause escalate to critical breakdowns that create downtime and delay projects.
Through connected wearables and monitoring, the IoT can provide real-time guidance and education to workers to improve site safety.