The Internet of Things and its Role in Construction

by Melanie Baravik
November 15, 2017

The phrase “Internet of Things,” or IoT, is floating around in construction industry news more than ever. But what does it mean, and how does it fit into the industry?

IoT in construction today

To put it simply, IoT describes a network of devices that can communicate with each other using the internet. Think of your car — your phone uses Bluetooth to play music, maybe it can parallel park itself, some can even drive themselves. A sensor lets you know when you’re running out of gas or if your tire pressure is low. That's the Internet of Things at work.

In construction, one of IoT’s main uses is jobsite connectivity — machines that alert you when they need maintenance, employees tracking hours with an app on their phones, or GPS-tracked assets. IoT makes managing a jobsite as simple as possible by collecting the information you need to do your job. Tools like ES Track utilize IoT to offer those services, making communication and recordkeeping easier than ever. Access information for your entire jobsite from one browser, whenever and wherever you want.

IoT in one form or another is becoming more common in construction. After all, it’s logical to track equipment’s location in case it’s stolen and to use predictive maintenance to minimize equipment downtime. Between the ELD Mandate and the many problems technology can solve, adopting a solution that utilizes IoT just makes sense.

IoT and its future in construction

There are countless possibilities for IoT in construction as technology keeps advancing. And some of these seemingly futuristic solutions are already being tested, like training with virtual reality.

VR training benefits construction businesses in impactful ways, though it may seem intimidating to adopt. Construction can be a dangerous job, but training for those situations was previously nearly impossible—who would create a scenario that could hurt someone just for training? VR means that those dangerous situations that wouldn’t usually be recreated can be experienced safely. Should an employee encounter that hazard on the jobsite, they’re prepared to handle it.

Another benefit of VR training is its money-saving potential. Construction is an expensive business, and using materials or equipment just for training purposes adds up. VR equipment and software might seem like a huge investment, but they are just that — an investment. In the long run, you’ll save money on resources and time on setting up training-specific jobsites.

IoT has also proven to be a useful safety tool in the form of wearables. Construction workers already wear hard hats, safety goggles and reflective vests, so why not give them more protection capabilities? And not only do wearables increase safety, they can collect jobsite data to give you a big-picture look at how your business uses materials, fuel and time.

Smart helmets can give workers immediate visual updates on site statistics and display instructions right in their line of sight. Workers can communicate faster and work hands-free, getting full access to project details without carrying around a tablet. Smart helmets can even send out alerts if someone onsite is hurt. Similarly, internet-connected smart glasses can give directions, identify parts and send a camera feed to offsite employees so they can help with issues onsite.

Reflective vests are already worn so workers are visible at all times, and now they can do even more. Vests can be equipped to monitor employees’ vital signs, helping to prevent heatstroke in the summer and giving employers a read on the overall health of their workforce. Some can be programmed so that if a worker gets too close to a piece of equipment that’s in use, the equipment shuts off or stops moving. All these features can greatly reduce the risk of injury and are proof of your business’s commitment to safety, a win-win for you and your employees.

Using connected tools on the jobsite leads to increased efficiency and safety — vital components of a successful construction business. IoT’s potential applications seem almost limitless, especially when it comes to the construction industry. Keep up with IoT developments and other construction technology updates by subscribing to The Yard.

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