The Internet of Things in Smart Construction - By : Hamidreza Pourzarei,

The Internet of Things in Smart Construction

Hamidreza Pourzarei
Hamidreza Pourzarei Author profile
Hamidreza Pourzarei is a PhD student in the Construction Engineering & Systems Engineering Department.

Smart construction

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We are now in the digital era, with billions of applications and devices producing data and information. In both off-line and on-line mode, these applications and devices can be connected to each other, bringing many benefits and advantages.

As far as connections are concerned, now the question is: What is the Internet of Things or IoT? In simple words, IoT explains how we interact with digital information embedded in our physical world [5]. It has many impacts on different industries like construction, and many homeowners boast about owning smart homes with Internet-based applications and devices [2].

What is IoT?

Many researchers are investigating the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT). Atzori, 2010 [9] offers one suitable definition, among others:

  • Internet of Things semantically means a worldwide network of interconnected objects uniquely addressable, based on standard communication protocols. This implies the huge number of (heterogeneous) objects involved in the process.”

In other words, the Internet of Things is a connection of devices and applications through the Internet; for instance, it can be used for appliances, lights, thermostats, smartphones, toys and much more in a home! There are also other ways to connect people to the IoT, such as wearables and smartphones. [2] In essence, these days, anything can be connected to the Internet.

The importance of IoT is not only that these applications and devices can be connected to the Internet but also that they can connect to each other. For instance, in smart homes, the temperature can be adjusted via smartphone while you are away [7].

IoT in houses

IoT in Smart Construction

Many construction companies connect their sites via the Internet. These tools are efficient and they are more than fancy toys. Connected devices bring a number of benefits and advantages to projects, companies, and employees:

  • Improved safety for workers
  • Real-time reporting
  • Automated workflows
  • Improved building lifespan
  • Continuous improvement [2].

The McKinsey Global Institute (2015) [8] discussed and analyzed IoT impacts on mining and construction industries. Their research found that these companies could achieve $160 billion in cost saving [4, 8]. In addition, the Internet of Things can affect the construction industry in different ways:

  • Remote operation
  • Resupply
  • Construction tools and equipment tracking
  • Equipment servicing and repair
  • Remote usage monitoring
  • Power and fuel savings
  • Augmented Reality (AR)
  • Building Information Modeling (BIM) [3].

HVAC systems are a very distinctive example of the Internet of Things and how it is used in today’s smart buildings [5].

However, it should be mentioned that construction is dealing with productivity problems. Many projects run overtime, over budget, and this industry is slower to adapt to changes compared to others, increasing cost overruns. One possible approach to this issue for some industries like manufacturing is to turn to the Internet of Things and other new technologies to increase productivity [6].

IoT in industry

The Internet of Things could help track assets as they move around the site, or even to a different location, ensuring that they never get stolen or lost, which creates problems on large-scale construction sites, causing delays and slowing productivity. In terms of equipment tracking and maintenance, sensors allow machinery to detect and communicate maintenance requirements, send automated warnings for preventive maintenance, compile usage and maintenance data, and improve efficiency by monitoring energy consumption remotely. In fact, businesses can rest assured that their vehicles and machinery are working at high capacity [6].

It is easy to see how IoT can work in an occupied building, but the question is how it can work throughout the design and construction phases. Interestingly, IoT can be implemented in different ways. Building Information Modeling (BIM) typically produces an intelligent 3D model of a building during the design stage. The model can be used for evaluating and upgrading building systems and structures. When one part of the plan is updated, then every other iteration of the plan can be updated simultaneously due to the interconnectedness of various devices [7].

Future of the Internet of Things in Smart Construction

The Internet of Things will be a key element in construction in the near future, increasing productivity, providing real-time data to constructors—improving performance—undertaking preventative maintenance, and reducing cost overruns. Through this approach, the construction industry can be both productive and sustainable.

Hamidreza Pourzarei

Author's profile

Hamidreza Pourzarei is a PhD student in the Construction Engineering & Systems Engineering Department.

Program : Construction Engineering 

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