Building a better construction industry with IoT

Construction is one of our most important industries. It creates our houses, our roads, our schools and our hospitals. It contributes billions of dollars to our economy, with activity in the sector forecast to reach $48.3 billion by 2024. It employs over 278,000 people from a wide range of ages and ethnicities, and an increasing number of women.

As such a large and complex industry, it’s perhaps no wonder that construction also has its share of challenges. Construction sites are complex and full of risks, making it difficult for site managers to monitor what’s going on. Slender margins mean it’s not always easy to build a profitable business, particularly for the individual tradies, who form the backbone of the industry.

The good news is that while construction is so complex, IoT technology can make enormous differences. Connected construction sites can track people, plant and products – making sites safer and more efficient.

Improving site safety with IoT

Construction is the industry with the most fatalities, making worker safety a prime concern. In addition to falls and injuries, other risk factors include noise levels, air quality, machinery and injuries.

Wearable technology is just beginning to be used in the industry, but it has huge potential. Connected devices can provide alerts when workers approach a danger zone, share locations, and provide an instant call-for-help button. Smart helmets can continually monitor workers’ surroundings; smart goggles can provide interactive 3D maps of jobsites; and smart equipment can prevent accidents before they occur.

One exciting development in wearables is construction exoskeletons. Already available though not yet widely used, exoskeletons should mean fewer injuries, less fatigue and longer working lives for those with strenuous jobs.

See a construction exoskeleton in action

Another risk factor on site is dust – it can damage lungs and cause irreversible chronic health problems, so site managers are responsible for managing exposure. By monitoring dust using sensors, workers and PCBUs can check that it’s at safe levels. Excess noise, too, can cause hearing loss, as well as annoying neighbours. With remote noise level monitoring, sites can ensure that noise stays within acceptable ranges.

Read more about how automation is improving workplaces

Protecting the wider community

Noise isn’t the only construction by-product that creates problems beyond the site itself. Vibrations traveling through the ground can damage nearby structures and prompt complaints from neighbours. IoT sensors can monitor vibrations, recording them to demonstrate that a site is compliant, and no property is likely to be damaged by the work being done.

Water run-off from sites can also cause issues for the neighbours, clogging drains and washing soil, clay and paint into our waterways. To keep drains clear and our waterways clean, sites must be managed to prevent run-off – failure to so can quickly result in fines. Real-time water-quality monitoring allows PCBUs to remotely monitor stormwater run-off and rainfall, to allow rapid responses for better site management.

A connected construction site in action

In 2020, asBuilt Digital, in partnership with Spark and Microsoft, deployed some of this technology at a smart construction site on Halsey Street in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter. The development included a 154-room hotel, a 385-space parking building, offices, retail and residential premises.  The site utilised light, sound and humidity sensors providing automated near real-time reporting and onsite cameras for security monitoring. Using all the data collected, asBuilt created a “digital twin": a full 3D spatial model that monitored site activity. It streamlined people and vehicles on site, and continuously monitored environmental concerns. Using facial and object recognition, site managers could see exactly who was working and where they were, and any worker who wasn’t wearing the required PPE was immediately flagged.

The results were impressive: a 50% reduction in time spent on reporting and managing regulatory requirements, better site management and easier compliance with local environmental regulations.

Read more about asBuilt’s connected construction site or watch the video

Investing in IoT can significantly cut costs

Using IoT not only improves safety and compliance, but it can also create huge cost-saving opportunities, according to McKinsey research. Future digitisation could:

  • Reduce operational costs by up to 20%, through improved worksite productivity and more efficient use of consumables and personnel.
  • Cut equipment maintenance costs by up to 20%.
  • Cut between 10% and 20% off health and safety costs.
  • Improve human productivity by up to 10%.

Read McKinsey’s report on the value of digitising the physical world

To find out more about what kind of IoT applications could help your construction business become more efficient and safer, get in touch – the team at Spark is here to provide custom IoT solutions for all types of Kiwi businesses.

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Launch & Announcement

8th March

Applications open

15th March to 28th June

Finalists Announced

27th July

Judging Starts

26th August

Winners Announced

4th September

Funding and the 5G Co-Lab testing

September to October

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