In recent years, the Internet of Things, or IoT, has infiltrated every aspect of our personal, work, and social lives. Everything, it seems, is internet-connected, and as a result, we have come to expect the latest, real-time information to be available to us with the touch of our fingers or the click of a mouse. Compared to other industries, construction has been slow to embrace IoT. As a result, the industry is missing out on the potential of big data to improve worksite safety and productivity, helping to ensure that large-scale projects are completed on time and on budget.
The Internet of Things can benefit the construction industry in many ways:
Wearable devices can monitor worker activity, location and safety in real-time to improve manpower coordination and unlock labor efficiency. On the most basic level, with total digital site visibility, supervisors don’t need to waste time walking the site to track time and attendance or check for safety incidents. Some of these devices also incorporate advanced sensors that track employee movement to send alerts if a slip, trip or fall occurs. With that kind of information, response to potential injuries can improve and the risk of further injury can decrease.
Detect Unusual Activity
Other sensors including environmental or equipment sensors can help detect unusual activity – whether it’s mechanical issues or an unknown substance in the air – and send alerts to contractors. Time is money, and when projects get behind schedule, corners are cut to make up for lost time, and the potential for costly accidents or errors increases.
Real-time collaboration platforms such as project management software or mobile field applications give workers, site supervisors and upper managers access to the latest information needed to coordinate and prioritize resources as project changes occur. Without real-time document storage tools, recording and communicating a small change becomes a time-consuming process with room for error. Consider therefore, when a larger change like electrical placement or pipe layout, is unable to be documented, communicated and acknowledged in real-time. When workers work off outdated blueprints or designs, everyone suffers, and across projects, rework averages 5% of total project costs. Cloud-based solutions that centralize project and workforce information establish better practices that mitigate the likelihood of missed information, miscommunication and rework later on.
Big data collected from IoT-enabled devices can be aggregated and analyzed to improve safety and efficiency on the job, too. When collected and processed properly, big data can allow companies to make strategic business decisions more efficiently. Unfortunately many companies are still unsure how to leverage and dissect big data, it’s becoming easier to understand through technology. Managing personnel, identifying safety incidents, recording those issues and reporting them to higher-ups is a daunting task for any safety manager. When you consider large construction sites with hundreds of diverse workers and crews, it’s easy to see how information can slip through the cracks.
With IoT-enabled devices, which collect and transmit information instantly across geographic regions, supervisors have a more complete and accurate picture of site and operational risks. With accurate data, supervisors can drill into when the most incidents happen, where the most incidents happen and which trades are the most susceptible – and shift their safety practices accordingly. Even something as simple as knowing that last October brought rain and set the project back two weeks can help project managers coordinate schedules to accommodate weather-independent tasks.
The Future is Now
In construction, the Internet of Things refers to the growth of construction-focused, internet-connected devices that are changing the way construction companies identify and manage safety incidents and daily site operations. The explosion of useful, previously untapped data from a variety of sources can be aggregated and analyzed for actionable insights. When crews, managers and executives are connected to the same, real-time data and insights, they improve their chances of more informed, real-time response, helping to prevent unforeseen project risks and ultimately saving time and money.