Contact Us

How IoT and big data are transforming the construction industry

Author: Mark Stone

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes all of the physical items or devices that aren't typically computing devices but are connected to the internet to send and receive data. Smart home devices like internet-connected cameras and door locks often come to mind, but IoT devices exist in almost every industry. For example, they're transforming the construction industry with connected compressors, power tools, noise sensors and safety harnesses.

When these physical objects are equipped with sensors and connected to the internet, they can capture critical data in the field and promptly transfer it to software to help companies make business decisions and improve processes.

For construction, today's IoT technologies represent a more viable venture than ever, with lower costs and higher levels of reliability. While many sectors have reaped productivity gains from digital transformation, the construction industry has been slower to adapt. Construction's inherent complexity presents additional challenges, but with IoT, many problems can be overcome. Despite growing cost pressures, companies adopting these measures may gain a competitive advantage.

IoT, big data and the construction industry

As reported by McKinsey, construction may be one of the biggest industries in the world, but it doesn't experience as much growth as other GDP-producing sectors. The sector, which represents 13% of global GDP, has experienced a limited productivity growth over the last twenty years at only 1% annually.

All organizations within the construction ecosystem, including the supply chain, must develop strategies to address the type of digital transformation generated by IoT. Companies that take advantage of industry changes better position themselves for agility, longevity and profitability.

Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to analyze data, increase efficiency and suggest improvements specific to the construction industry, such as overrun avoidance and advanced task management. Using historical and contextual data, big data analytics can even predict the most efficient FMOs (future mode of operation).

Tangible benefits of IoT in construction 

IoT and big data are transforming the construction industry in significant ways. These benefits fall into one of three main categories: reduced downtime, improved productivity and increased safety and security.

Reduced downtime

With IoT, downtime can be abbreviated by:

  • Enabling preventive maintenance of assets.
  • Leveraging mobile tools and workforce management solutions to help reduce the time and costs of sending employees to inspect job sites and facilities.
  • Automating time-consuming manual processes.

Improved productivity

Digital transformation in the construction industry frees employees from time-consuming administrative tasks and reduces (or even eliminates) clerical errors by:

  • Automating and monitoring processes, machinery and equipment, thus reducing maintenance costs by taking preventive action.
  • Collecting many types of data to facilitate decision-making for the project manager and educate employees on frequently asked questions.
  • Remotely monitoring simultaneous job sites with IoT sensors (sensorization) and cloud analytics.

Increased safety and security

Safety and security on the job are paramount, especially in today's transformed workplace. As job sites and workplaces look to resume business operations safely and securely, physical distancing regulations may be required for some time.

With IoT-enabled wearable sensors, preventive warnings can be sent to employees who have compromised physical distance. The sensors can also monitor the environment and even track an employee's health.

Tracking workers on the job ensures safety and improves site security without the expense of additional personnel.

Real-world use case and future outlook

By leveraging IoT and big data, construction employees won't notice a significant change to the way they work. With most digital transformation occurring in the background, a steep learning curve can be avoided.

The time for this must-have technology in construction is now. As the technology powering IoT-connected devices grows more sophisticated, industries must examine the value of incorporating them in operations and better understand the ROI of such an investment.

Learn more about how Verizon can help you transform your business with innovative construction technology solutions.