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Dec 02 | Insights

Why the construction industry should be focusing on IoT

Surprisingly, only 25% of construction executives believe the Internet of Things (IoT) will disrupt their industry, according to GlobalData’s Emerging Technology Trends Survey 2020. This is a stark contrast to the oil and gas industry as over 50% of executives within that field identify IoT as a disruptor.

It is no secret that IoT technologies such as sensors, wearables and integration with BIM have to ability to improve safety and productivity whilst also boosting profit margins. On average, the profit margins of 20 specialist construction contractors was 2.4% down in 2019, a figure that fell from 3.5% the previous year according to The Construction Index. Budgeting and good management is vital in ensuring that these margins do not fall any further.

BIM & IoT

Building Information Modelling (BIM) provides the user with a digital replica of a project and its plans, this is especially valuable as it can offer stakeholders access to the progress made on a project. Hosted in the cloud, it becomes even more powerful once real-time data is thrown into the mix.

The integration of BIM with IoT data from sensor nodes allows real-time analytics to be applied to the model. Operational efficiencies such as machine run-times can be demonstrated, allowing for a more complete picture of project progress as well as a more accurate projection of a likely project overrun.

BIM and IoT integration are still in development stages which may be a reason behind them being played down by industry executives. The construction industry is notoriously slow at implementing new technologies and the initial investment costs can be enough to deter companies from engaging with emerging technology.

Sensors monitor machine efficiency and maintenance

Smart asset monitoring leads the way when it comes to IoT in the construction industry. Many suppliers of machinery and equipment are keen advocates of IoT by implementing sensors to monitor outcomes such as machine hours, fuel consumption and predictive maintenance.

US construction manufacturer, Caterpillar, is at the forefront as their equipment and heavy machinery are IoT-enabled. Their ‘Cat Connect’ technologies help to create connected machines that aim to improve efficiency and help managers to increase the utilisation of their machinery, reducing downtime.

Wearables improve safety and productivity

Wearables that incorporate GPS technology have the ability to help managers monitor their workforce and protect them against injury. An Australian company named SmartCap Technologies have developed a hard hat that tracks the microsleep and fatigue levels of workers. If the system detects that a worker is tired, sound and vibration alerts are sent out encouraging the worker to take a break.

Reactec has taken this concept one step further in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, releasing a wearable monitor to track a worker’s social distancing. A proximity alert warning sound will go off if it detects that a person’s two-metre safe-space has been breached.

While implementation is low at present, it is predicted that an uptake in wearables will likely increase as the benefits become clearer to construction companies.

An appreciation of the potential of IoT should be a key focus for the sector moving forward. IoT will continue to disrupt the construction industry whether we predict it or not.