Sites of the future: IoT transforming the construction industry

The Internet of Things (IoT) is having a major impact on the construction industry. Connecting sites, enhancing safety, reducing accidents and improving working processes are all benefiting from the advance of digital tools. Analysis of data gathered from IoT sensors is making construction sites smarter places and improving productivity in the bargain.

IoT has brought big benefits to many industries already, and one of the next ones to really feel its impact is construction. It is good timing: the industry has seen a rise in operational complexities, and since the start of the current decade, construction companies have been growing in scale and expanding their operations geographically and in the type of projects they undertake. They need to manage projects simultaneously in different geographies, while also needing to optimize asset lifecycle management and manage projects to tighter deadlines to prevent potential delays and reduce unnecessary costs.

All this means that more robust project management is needed in the face of intensifying competition and the need to be more environmentally focused. Digital technologies are providing the way forward.

What benefits does digital deliver?

Well, start with improved worker safety. According to government agency Safe Work Australia, the country’s construction industry saw 63,230 serious injuries from 2008 to 2013. IoT in construction has the potential to vastly reduce all kinds of accidents, using digital solutions like sensors on workers’ clothing and hardhats, wearables that monitor for hazardous materials on the construction site, sensors that monitor and alert should workers enter unsafe site areas – there many ways digital can make sites safer by connecting them.

Real-time reporting is enabled thanks to construction sites being connected by sensors, CCTV cameras and even drones all feeding data back to a central office where decisions can be made on where a construction project is at and any adjustments that might be necessary to keep the project on track. Sensors and RFID tags on materials can enable automated workflows, allowing proactive ordering of materials and servicing of equipment. Equally, sensors on site equipment monitor usage levels and can flag potential issues for preventive maintenance – historically, construction sites running out of materials or requiring equipment maintenance meant costly delays. IoT helps keep projects moving forward.

IoT enables continuous improvement

And this is the crux: the ultimate value of IoT is data, data that companies can use to make continuous improvements. Orange has established an alliance with GHD in Australia to help companies use IoT solutions to create instant intelligent insights from data that will generate tangible benefits for their businesses.

We have developed a six-step data journey to create these insights:

1. Collect: We help you identify and decide on the correct sources of data that are of the most use to your business.

2. Transport: We then ensure your data sources are connected to each other by fast, reliable connectivity.

3. Store and process: We host and process your data.

4. Analyze: We then make the data actionable and, from that, create insights that will deliver value to your business.

5. Share and create: Information from these insights is then distributed to your teams, empowering them to collaborate and interact flexibly and efficiently.

6. Protect: We secure your assets and data from one end of the value chain to the other.

This process is designed to help construction companies improve the ways they work, by making decisions in real time and leveraging the data they have gathered from across their organizations. Our approach has been successful: Orange was recently named Asia Pacific IoT Service Provider of the Year at the 2019 Asia Pacific Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards, while our customer, The Victoria Government Agency, also recently won a Merit Award at the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) National iAwards for its forward-thinking Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP).

The emergence of AI and ML

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are poised to play an increasing role in the construction space, with their ability to exploit data and turn it into tangible value perfectly suited to the industry. Construction companies can use AI and ML to analyze information on stock levels, schedules and even project-specific data such as weather or other disruptions, making them better-informed and able to avoid future mistakes or issues encountered in previous projects. They make you better able to assess timeframes and get more accurate insights into the number of workers and other resources needed on projects, ultimately helping you minimize waste, reduce costs and make projects more efficient.

AI and ML not only have the ability to transform the way construction companies are able to execute projects but also have a real impact on day-to-day working conditions for employees on site. Orange recognized the potential for leveraging data and demonstrated it with our recent acquisition of Basefarm, a leading player in cloud-based infrastructure and services plus data analysis. The company’s subsidiary, The unbelievable Machine Company, is a cutting edge, big data analysis specialist and perfect for driving transformation through IoT, while visualizing data and leveraging AI and ML to create automated insights have massive potential.

Construction and infrastructure in Victoria

With the vast investment in Victoria in critical infrastructure projects known as “the Big Build” under an umbrella of investment in transport infrastructure to the tune of $38 billion across 45 major transport projects, Orange and GHD have significant opportunity to impact efficiency and effectiveness and leverage technology to deliver on the promises made to taxpayers. The connected objects platform has delivered proven value on construction sites, monitoring movement of materials and assets to create real-time data streams, enabling performance benchmarking and unprecedented levels of accuracy. The projects will benefit now and in the long term through intelligent insights drawn from data that help construction companies utilize key plant equipment more efficiently. This will enable them to make better investment decisions, provide effective partner ecosystem visibility in the supply chain onsite as well as increasing site productivity using our IoT and AI solutions combined with engineering, design and SME experience in use case design.

Taking IoT in construction to the next level

It’s been argued that the construction industry has been a bit slow in adopting new technologies like IoT, and according to McKinsey, the construction industry is under-digitized, with companies failing to realize the potential of AI, IoT and other digital tools as drivers of growth and efficiency.

That said, construction companies clearly recognize the need and potential for digital technology: 95% of construction companies surveyed by KPMG said they believe emerging technologies including IoT will fundamentally change their industry, while a further 72% say new tech adoption, including IoT implementations, is part of their strategic plan or vision. PwC reports that 98% of industrial companies expect to increase efficiency by as much as 12% with digital technologies like IoT-enabled predictive maintenance or AR. Construction is ripe for transformation using digital tech, and companies that don’t act quickly could risk being left behind.

Read more about how Orange can help you drive benefits from IoT and other digital solutions in the construction industry.

Paul Tucker
Paul is a seasoned global ICT sales and account management professional with 20 years’ experience in various facets of the industry, including new business development, executive client relationship management, pursuit strategy, account marketing and account management. He has broad vertical industry experience, mostly in Financial Services and Natural Resources/Mining.
Paul is passionate about people and collaboration, and putting the client challenge at the center of his thinking is his fundamental mantra to help bridge the gap between business and technology requirements.