IoT and the Construction Industry

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the term used to describe the concept of connecting everyday devices to a network. They can be simple objects that communicate their status with some internal system, or with the internet. IoT is starting to dominate our lives as never before, and is becoming most apparent via devices with the ability to understand natural speech and to perform tasks on command around our homes.

In the construction industry, IoT hasn’t reached this level of visibility, but has made inroads in the daily work of construction sites. There are a number of articles that speculate about where this new wave of technology will go, and on its potential to increase productivity. This article reflects upon the different ways that construction has been integrating IoT into their processes, as well as some cautions to consider.

IoT and Telemetrics

By far the most popular implementation of IoT in the construction industry is through the use of telemetrics. Telemetrics describes the use of devices that are attached to sensitive equipment and which transmits information to a central system. The purpose of this information can run the gamut from reporting a static state, like location, to more dynamic information like power or fuel levels. Its most basic use is in keeping a live, up-to-the-minute inventory, as well as in preventing theft.

More advanced uses of telemetrics go beyond static condition to provide dynamic diagnostic information on how well your equipment is operating. If your equipment exhibits unusual vibrations, temperature, or general behavior patterns, then your network will be aware of it as it happens. This kind of information can act as a crucial safety measure, and can also act as a simple way of knowing when to provide maintenance, saving money in the long run, and reducing the amount of time that necessary equipment is offline.

Firms that rely on prefabricated materials can institute a live tracking system which can keep a project moving forward by making sure things are where they should be at exactly the moment they’re required.

Because telemetrics have become so widely used, innovations are being created to support them. In places where equipment is hard to get to, or in dangerous locations, getting a reliable source of power to these devices can be an issue. To get around this problem, one company offers a product that incorporates a secondary device which produces its own energy using ambient kinetic vibrations created by your equipment.

IoT in Building Monitoring

IoT has made inroads in building monitoring as well. Imagine an entire building that can make its own reports to management on its current state and compensate its energy consumption based on external factors. One statistic says that most buildings exhibit an average energy waste of 30%. Designers are therefore incorporating IoT technology in order to help buildings become more green by tracking how energy in a building is used, wasted, or conserved.

Buildings can also use IoT technology to track people. It can show where they are and their patterns of movement. This information can be used to transfer resources to places where more people are located or keep general logs. If certain parts of a building are unoccupied, then it makes sense to turn off the lights and lower the heat. It can also be crucial in terms of safety and security. In case of disaster, you would know how many people are in your building and send emergency responders to carry out their sensitive work.

IoT Tomorrow

IoT promises a connected future that could not only make our buildings smarter, but also improve the process for constructing them. With seamless information flow between people, equipment and environment, the possibilities for data collection are almost endless. But there are a few fears that some may have which are both valid and important to ask.

Exactly how vulnerable are networked buildings to hacking? Is it possible for an outside entity to take control of your building? At the moment, in terms of security, the bar is not very high for IoT connected equipment. In general these are not complex devices that run their own operating systems, but are programmed to perform one task. In theory, these insecure devices can be hacked, and reprogrammed to do something else. In fact, there are a number of cases where this kind of hacking has already happened.

Others may be more concerned with their own privacy. If a building can track your movements, does that infringe on your rights as a private citizen? As with any new technology, problems are worked on as they are discovered, and social norms evolve. Some of the worst hacking incidents have informed better designs on future devices. What’s become clear is that IoT devices have to be regarded with the same care as any computer system that is used for your business.

Takeaways

The construction industry leans toward the conservative in terms of adopting IoT technology. It’s important to note that despite some cautions, the world is moving forward and construction shouldn’t be left behind. The potential for increased productivity is great, and jobs can be made safer and less impactful to the environment. What’s clear is that firms should be studying both the benefits and ramifications of connecting new, potentially game changing devices.

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