There is a growing need for standards and data interoperability in the construction space. The IoT (Internet of Things) technology has left few industries untouched by its promise of insight-driving data, streamlined workflows, proactive and predictive maintenance, and more. Construction is no exception. The IoT in construction is blossoming, but there are interoperability hurdles that hold adoption back. Interoperability is key to building data solutions. Perhaps the easiest way to describe the need for interoperability and standards in data or the IoT is that machines and systems need to “speak the same language.”
On my weekly radio show, The Peggy Smedley Show, I recently liken it to one of the bible stories I learned as a child: The Tower of Babel. Here’s the basic story from Genesis. After the Great Flood, humanity was united in speaking a single language. At one point in their migration, they decided to attempt to build a tower so tall it could reach the heavens—and, by extension, God. God found this disrespectful, and he punished the people by confusing their language and scattering them throughout the earth. In its biblical context, the story is meant to explain the origin of humanity’s different languages.
The origin of the IoT’s different “languages” is a little bit different. In the early years, and even to some extent today, companies created proprietary protocols for their products, solutions, and/or ecosystems. In some cases, this was simply because there was no viable alternative to creating something proprietary.
In other cases, companies wanted to be able to control their ecosystems or they thought their “language” was better than what was already available. Today, thanks to the IoT’s own version of the “Tower of Babel,” it’s not a given that construction companies can share data easily and efficiently between platforms. This needs to change. Why? There has been an explosion of data from the office to the jobsite. Construction is experiencing an influx of data as contractors and other construction-related businesses adopt a host of solutions, often by piecing together various technologies and systems that add value to their operations.
This is a story not unlike many other industries. In construction however; there is jobsite data and office data. In the office, we’re talking about new systems for scheduling, bidding and estimating, accounting, project management, and other aspects of backoffice operations. On the jobsite, there are all kinds of new solutions for monitoring equipment, tools, and other machines.
Telematics solutions keep track of vehicle location and use, and they enable predictive maintenance reporting on vehicles and other heavy machinery in the field.
Jobsites equipped with RFID (radio-frequency identification) allow project managers and workers to keep better track of tools and building materials. Also in construction, the workers themselves are becoming connected.
We’re seeing more workers equipped with sensors and wearables for their own safety on the job. We’re also seeing other categories of devices on the jobsite—from connected trucks that serve as offices away from the office to handheld devices, such as tablets, to drones.
Drones are big right now in construction because they offer safer, novel ways to inspect buildings in progress, and they can be used in surveying, measuring, spraying, and other capacities too. Augmented reality and virtual reality are other up-and-coming trends in construction, just like they’re up-and-coming in industries like manufacturing. AR and VR could change on-the-job training and make it easier for employees to visually access need-to-know data in the middle of a physical task.
Another huge way data is impacting construction is in infrastructure monitoring. Sensors and data analysis tools now exist for construction companies that are building highways and other roads, as well as bridges and other infrastructure projects.
Also, by equipping buildings with IoT technology from the onset, construction companies are enabling the monitoring of connected structures through their lifecycles.
Clearly, there are a lot of avenues being explored in terms of construction data. And it’s quite frankly changing the industry—turning it on its head in a lot of ways.
One of the simplest ways construction has changed forever, as a result of connected devices and the IoT, is the reduction of paper processes. In the past, a lot of workflows were handled by hand—on paper. Bids, drawings, jobsite progress reports, timecards, the list goes on and on.
There are apps, BIM (building information modeling) solutions, and other software tools for all aspects of project management to handle these processes in the cloud now. Many construction companies are at the point now of realizing that in order to take full advantage of these solutions and the data they provide, the industry needs some standardization.
As IoT adoption in construction grows, it has become more and more evident that there needs to be some standards. Standards eliminate the need to re-invent the wheel. Standards could also potentially help increase adoption and innovation in the space.
This is why Constructech is working with the construction industry to develop a universal standard that will allow data to stream from the office, to the jobsite, and throughout the lifecycle of a facility.
You may have seen the announcement on the wires last week, but if not, here’s a brief rundown. Constructech is partnering with some of the construction industry’s most progressive construction professionals to develop a data-based protocol for commercial and residential organizations.
The initiative is called “A Baseline to Build On,” and the development of a standard will set expectations for technology providers regarding the need for integrated, collaborative solution sets. This includes the ability to access facility asset data and visualize potential problems, track equipment, identify assets, and access data for managing facilities and infrastructure.
This includes gathering data for the collaboration of project-management solutions, ERP (enterprise-resource planning) systems, and mobile solutions. To accomplish this, we’ll be hosting four events culminating at the Constructech technology day event In August.
Perhaps the most ironic in this news is that an industry that has been called laggard will most likely leapfrog many others when it comes to finally creating a common data protocol. Join the standard development and make a difference.
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