The IoT is proving to be the key to greater productivity in construction. It’s the first technology advancement in a long time to make real inroads into an industry that was, until very recently, heavily reliant on manual and paper processes. Now, it’s pretty clear that the benefits of the IoT in construction far outweigh those of existing manual processes. As a result, more construction companies are investigating and implementing IoT solutions that can help them solve their productivity challenges, leading to greater efficiencies and increased profits. The IoT is also the foundation for augmented reality—an up-and-coming technology with the potential to be even more transformative for the industry.
In the meantime, there are plenty of opportunities to utilize today’s technology for productivity growth—asset tracking and monitoring being the most valuable. But there are still challenges to overcome:
- While technology like GPS is popular for location tracking in some industries, it doesn’t perform well indoors or in highly populated areas, and it isn’t ideal for construction.
- Connectivity is also a barrier. Construction sites aren’t typically WiFi-connected, and cellular can be prohibitively expensive. Some companies are trying to install WiFi networks on job sites, but it’s hard to provide coverage over large areas, and that solution usually requires the installation of costly cradlepoints or cellular WiFi hotspots.
At Link Labs, we’ve worked with numerous construction companies to provide reliable, low-cost connectivity via Symphony Link, a low-power, wide-area network that works well at any job site. Many of our customers are pairing Symphony Link with AirFinder, a real-time location technology that lets them track and monitor assets onsite.
Below are some of the IoT in construction use cases we’re seeing that are having the greatest impact on productivity. What is your construction company using the IoT for? Tweet us @LinkLabsInc and let us know.
The tracking of tools, raw materials, prefabricated materials, and even people on construction sites is all being done today with great success. Numerous companies have reduced the amount of time they spend looking for tools and tracking down supplies, saving massive amounts of time and therefore money. Even personnel tracking, which is used to ensure all employees are safe and accounted for, is also being used on many construction sites to improve productivity.
Two caveats with regard to tracking:
- Tracking people can be a sensitive subject. Companies most successful at worker tracking are those that do it in a generic way, and avoid associating tracking tags with specific people. This mitigates some of the concerns workers have about privacy. Rather than assigning tags to people, workers pick up a generic tag every morning out of a box. If a safety-related incident occurs during the day, your company knows exactly where to find workers who may need help—without necessarily knowing who needs help. Much of safety and efficiency tracking can be done in this manner, without overstepping the bounds of privacy.
- Tracking tools and/or materials has the most value when you already have firm processes in place for managing their movement. Too many companies try to solve their problems of misplaced or lost tools and materials with tracking. But nothing will improve without creating processes for people to move things along—employees must know what to do and when to do it, and take action when required. Otherwise, asset tracking is just another way to uncover inefficiencies—without solving the problem.
Many construction companies use sensors to monitor temperatures or humidity levels that could be damaging to materials and/or workspaces. For example, poured concrete must remain within a certain temperature range, and sheetrock can be installed only within certain temperature ranges. Using sensors to monitor the environment, companies can avoid the expenses associated with replacing damaged materials and the accompanying delays in production.
Companies are also using sensors to monitor site environments in an effort to avoid dangerous conditions for workers (like too-high carbon monoxide levels), or to measure and evaluate the effects of vibrations caused by traffic, machines, and other sources. You can sense or monitor anything in a construction environment; it’s simply a matter of finding a cost-effective way of doing it.
Realize The Benefits Of The IoT In Construction
If you’re a construction-based organization interested in integrating the IoT into your workflow or an OEM interested in adding location to your IoT construction application, contact us. The Symphony Link network is easy to implement, low-cost, flexible, and reliable for small- to large-scale construction sites. Schedule a demo today to see firsthand how Link Labs’ suite of solutions can solve your IoT connectivity challenges.