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Internet of Things Surging in Construction

By John Biggs

The Internet of Things (IoT) has ushered in an era of connected devices that communicate freely with one another without human intervention.

IoT has already started taking off in construction.

The galaxy of smart devices on the market today has had a significant impact on nearly every industry sector. IoT has enabled innovations like smart home voice assistants, self-driving cars, and smart manufacturing. As sensors get smaller and cheaper, and the internet gets faster, IoT will continue to find its way into other areas of our lives.

IoT has already started taking off in construction. It can be found in applications as diverse as fleet management, data analytics, jobsite monitoring and labor tracking labor hours. Many of its applications within the industry focus on reducing the need for human interaction on everyday tasks, allowing all workers to spend more time on revenue-generating activities. The market is expected to more than double in the next four years, growing from $7.8 billion to nearly $17 billion by 2024.

Construction IoT Software to Command Biggest Market Share

Construction companies tend to be cautious about new technologies. Even so, they are more likely to adopt something that can have a direct impact on their bottom lines. According to the MarketsandMarkets report, the key segment driving the surge in demand for IoT in construction is software, which enables improved project management and better decision making through data analytics.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has seen strong adoption in construction in recent years, with its ultra-detailed 3D computer models that react to changes and update in real-time. It’s seen as one of the top contributors to the software segment’s outsized market share. IoT-enabled sensors gather structural, environmental and other key data. Then, they connect to a piece of software that scours the data for problems, identifying potential project risks or cost overruns.

Jobsite monitoring is another growing use for IoT. By equipping workers with low-powered IoT sensors, site managers can observe their activity from a centralized dashboard. The sensors collect and transmit data that is then presented visually, alerting supervisors to unsafe behavior patterns or lagging productivity.

The ability to collect vast amounts of sensor data is one of the leading uses of IoT in construction, and it is the software that translates the gathered information into actionable insights with speed and accuracy no human could match.

Remote Operations Market Segment Will Grow the Fastest

Software might be poised to gobble up the largest share of the IoT market in the immediate future, but the report names remote operations the fastest-growing segment. This includes everything from real-time jobsite monitoring to machine control to predictive maintenance.

Just like human worker activity can be monitored using IoT sensors, so can equipment. Data is gathered around equipment usage patterns and transmitted to site managers. This helps track everything, including the amount of hours a vehicle is being used, and maintenance schedules. It can be also used to sound the alarm if an imminent failure is possible.

Unexpected changes are a hallmark of any construction project.

The larger a company’s vehicle fleet, the more of a challenge it is to maintain the equipment on schedule. Identifying and fixing machinery problems early on lessens the odds of a catastrophic failure, which could throw a project off schedule. When we’re talking about equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars, repairs are always cheaper than replacement.

We’ve seen machine control rise to prominence in recent years, with autonomous trucks, bulldozers, and survey drones appearing at jobsites across the country. All of these technologies are enabled through the Internet of Things, as well as GPS. As the technology matures, companies will be able to get better use of their labor hours by letting automated machinery perform site surveying or other preparatory work. This will give firms a better handle on where workers or equipment should be assigned to maximize their output.

Unexpected changes are a hallmark of any construction project. The Internet of Things not only helps project supervisors see unexpected issues coming around the corner but also gives them deeper insight into how to adapt accordingly. While IoT won’t immunize a company from being caught flat-footed, it can greatly reduce the possibility of a surprise derailing a carefully crafted plan. ▉

To learn more about how project management software can help you do more with the hours you work request a demo.

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. Biggs spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times. Biggs runs the Technotopia podcast about a better future.

Originally published at https://www.procore.com on June 28, 2020.

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