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3 Ways to Apply IoT Devices on Construction Sites

The Internet of Things (IoT) has substantially changed how people do business. IoT devices in hospitals enable better patient care, while IoT sensors used in agriculture and throughout the supply chain ensure better food security and transparency.

People are also interested in using IoT in construction to meet goals and keep projects on schedule. However, it’s not always easy to figure out the best ways to use construction IoT sensors. Here are some of the most compelling possibilities.

1. Let IoT Devices Track Assets and Usage 

Applying IoT sensors to construction site assets is a practical way to reduce the chances of those items getting lost or misused. Such issues can significantly hinder productivity and profits, especially if site managers have to rent equipment to fill in the gaps.

Construction IoT sensors typically connect to cloud-based platforms that allow users to monitor the locations of all equipment across sites. Then, people can verify that everything is where it should be, whether an item in question is a hammer or a bulldozer.

Using the IoT in construction can also curb unauthorized operation or theft. Some heavy equipment has connectivity features that only let a person use it if they hold the proper credentials. Similarly, site managers may set up capabilities that alert them if an asset goes beyond a defined boundary or gets used at unusual hours.

At the construction site for an Indian metro, leaders deployed data-logging sensors on cranes to learn if people tried to disable the safe load indicator feature, or if that aspect of the equipment was not working correctly. IoT sensors can also detect if people try to operate heavy equipment in dangerous or resource-intensive ways. In such cases, site leaders can identify patterns that may indicate a person needs additional training or personalized coaching to break bad habits.

2. Implement Construction IoT Sensors for Better Budgetary Control 

Construction site managers must evaluate numerous factors to keep projects on schedule and under budget. But that’s not easy. One study found that 98% of the largest construction projects went over budget by an average of 30%. Numerous factors can make that happen, but using the IoT in construction can reduce such outcomes.

Representatives from a construction company might attach IoT sensors to all vehicles in an organization’s fleet, making it easier to monitor things like fuel consumption and unnecessary idling. Then, when procurement team members order the necessary supplies for a project, they can work with supply chain partners that attach the sensors to shipments, allowing people to track progress every step of the way.

Construction IoT sensors can also integrate into larger systems that help teams maintain high productivity and cut costs. Consider an example where the information from an IoT sensor feeds into a digital twin that a company uses to show clients what certain construction options will look like before they commit to them. Everyone can stay on the same page and have accurate expectations, which also helps businesses steer clear of cost overruns.

One construction company began using a solution where IoT sensors collect and transmit data from people and equipment. It goes into a live operational dashboard that leaders can use to track statistics such as key performance indicators (KPI), build progress, and track the number of people and pieces of equipment on a site at a given time. Having this information accessible promotes better decision-making by providing people with the details to spot potential problems and resolve them before they cause budget-related issues.

3. Keep Sites Safer with Construction IoT Sensors 

Statistics indicate that the construction industry accounts for more than 21% of worker fatalities in the United States. Many job sites now feature robots that assist humans with some of the riskiest tasks. However, such applications are still in the relatively early stages and robots can’t do everything on a construction site yet. Even so, using the IoT in construction can minimize accidents.

Some IoT devices continually collect environmental data while people use heavy equipment, helping them adjust their actions to get the best results while maintaining safety. It’s also becoming more common for workers to wear construction IoT sensors. Just as the connectivity aspect can help site managers get real-time information about asset locations, it allows them to find people in distress, such as individuals who have fallen from a height while working or who have passed out after becoming overcome by heat. Since the construction sector has inherent dangers, certain events necessitate evacuating workers to ensure their safety until professionals evaluate the extent of what’s gone wrong.

When leaders at Gilbane Construction Company invested in smart wearables, it became much easier to alert people about emergencies and have them all meet at a designated location. A person can push one button to alert everyone at a job site about a gas leak and trigger alarms. Then, leaders can look at a dashboard to ensure everyone has evacuated safely. That same sensor-based solution can detect even minor changes in height, which may happen when people do things like jump down from trucks after reaching a destination. Even those seemingly harmless actions can sometimes cause injuries.

IoT devices are also useful for detecting issues that may cause them to malfunction and put someone’s life at risk if left unaddressed. Since sensors can track overall utilization, they help leaders track when certain equipment needs upkeep. Some even warn people of equipment issues before they become visible.

Using the IoT in Construction Requires a Thoughtful Approach 

These use-cases show why people within the construction sector have plenty of compelling reasons to deploy IoT devices on their job sites. Keeping things running smoothly requires coordinating people, deliveries, supply orders, and more, all while often working with tight deadlines and budgetary restrictions.

Using the IoT in construction does not guarantee success, however. Leaders must take the time to identify their most pressing needs and challenges, then explore how the IoT would best help alleviate them. People also need to realize they probably won’t see immediate success. It takes time and sometimes a trial-and-error approach to discover the most appropriate ways to apply the IoT and optimize the results.

Choosing metrics to track can help decision-makers verify that the construction IoT sensors get the outcomes they expect and want. If the technology doesn’t give such payoffs immediately, that’s not a sign to stop using it, but it may mean users should make some adjustments to the implementation.

Emily Newton
Emily Newton
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine celebrating advances in science and technology.

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