The Internet of Things Arrives on the Jobsite
How the Construction Industry is Ripe for Tech Innovations
The US construction industry is worth over 1 trillion dollars a year – and has been growing at a healthy rate since 2011. The sector now makes up more than four percent of the US GDP. Yet, despite its massive size and critical positioning relative to the rest of the US economy, a 2016 McKinsey Global report found construction lags behind only the agriculture/hunting sector in adoption of new technologies; in Europe, the industry is dead last. This slowness to embrace technology has serious implications for efficiency, safety and long-term health of the sector.
In short, the giant in tattered work boots is ready for a new pair of shoes. And thanks to the ever-growing interest and influence of the Internet of Things, he may now get them. One of the initial areas of interest for jobsite sensors involves the use of physical sensors that can track real-time data such as location, climate micro conditions and geological conditions. Coming to market are work boots that have a self-charging location-tracking device built in. The energy created in each step keeps the device powered on, and companies are seeing benefits in terms of safety and health, with the possibility of monitoring for gas or chemical issues. Similarly gaining traction are vests with tracking devices that connect to Wi-Fi on site, but automatically disconnect when the worker clocks out, helping to assuage privacy concerns about a company tracking its employees off the job.
Sensors can also be used to monitor conditions such as heat and humidity. In California, for instance, that would help a company comply with state regulations on mandated worker breaks and water availability in high heat. Being able to precisely track humidity in the field, with that information automatically transferring to the user’s common data environment, could mean knowing when to initiate, or delay, installing hardwood flooring.
The more data we have, the thinking goes, the more we can increase efficiency and safety on the jobsite, and make sure design and implementation are as in sync as possible. The benefits flow to facilities management, as well, who can leverage past data with real-time stats to enhance their buildings’ performance long after the hardhats are gone. Another McKinsey report released earlier this year stressed that increased productivity, and not only improved safety and efficiency, will only be achieved with the help of accelerated technology adoption. And with the construction industry poised for a hi-tech awakening, sensors are proving to be one of the core factors in a sky-high trajectory.