On construction sites, communication is critical. From the very first day, it is vital for everyone onsite – and plenty of stakeholders offsite – to be able to share information accurately, efficiently and securely.
But the days of depending on personal radios are over. The IoT, just as it is transforming the design and ongoing management of buildings, so it is transforming the actual construction of those buildings. Here are just some of the ways in which the IoT is making the construction industry more efficient, more intelligent and more innovative.
Before construction begins: Building Information Modelling (BIM)
Before a construction project actually gets off the ground, BIM can involve integrating sensors into the 3D building models which constructors work from. These sensors model energy usage, the impact of temperature and other environmental factors, and more. A single change to the model can then update all subsequent plans and projections for the construction project, ultimately making planning and project management more intelligent and strategic.
Remote equipment operation
Once construction has begun, the IoT is enabling more and more machinery to be equipped with wireless connectivity and therefore managed and operated remotely. In turn, this improves efficiency and safety in areas which can be dangerous for workers.
Another key aspect of safety on construction sites is ensuring that workers are alerted effectively when, say, pieces of equipment are about to drive by, or when machinery is operating in a dangerous way. Again, IoT sensors and GPS trackers can track this information and, when connected to alarms, can ensure proactive alerting of all workers.
Proactive fleet and asset management
As in any other IoT ecosystem, connected sensors from across a construction site can be used to drive tangible insights into the efficiency and performance of the overall operation. In turn, this can be used to inform anything from more proactive maintenance and repair of machinery, resulting in longer working life, to more efficient allocation of equipment across a fleet. It can give managers an unrivalled view of how the project is progressing and where potential bottlenecks are occurring, or where small incidents may potentially mount up to cause costly delays. Even equipment loss – a major cost on any construction site – can be minimised with equipment fitted with location trackers.
Wearable IoT devices are not for exercise tracking. On construction sites they can have a powerful impact on worker safety and resource allocation, by tracking who is working where, for how long and on what. They can provide managers with an automatic headcount, an ability to mark hazards and send out real-time safety alerts across the site. AR goggles and smart helmets can even directly assist workers with particularly complex tasks, just as they are increasingly used on production lines in manufacturing settings.
Looking forward: the next construction project
Once a construction project is complete, the impact of IoT does not need to end. Sensors in completed buildings can relay information on how, say, the materials used perform over time, or how energy-efficient different parts of the building turn out to be. In turn, this data can be used to inform the next construction project, ultimately making the entire industry more informed and more efficient.