The Internet of Things (loT) offers a range of applications to the construction industry. The loT refers to the interconnection of computing devices via the internet, enabling increasingly faster communication between users. Ten years ago, there were six billion connected devices online. There are now 15 billion. The expanding power and capability of loT has allowed a drastic surge in network communication solutions within the construction industry; saving money, implementing well regulated processes, and protecting the safety of workers.
During a construction project, occurrences such as misallocating funds, delayed or incorrect deliveries, and misplaced construction equipment are common. Many of these problems can be traced back to miscommunication. The development of construction technology and the Internet of Things is helping to combat these issues, allowing accelerated and smoother interactions between clients, developers, and workers.
For example, RFID tags can be used to label and track construction equipment. The tags can be used remotely to monitor the numbers of any particular machine at different sites, reducing the costs associated with misplacing expensive hardware, as well as hold ups to the project. Tags allow users to set a specific margin on important supply items. The tag will register when supplies dip below that figure and trigger a supply request. Self-detecting sensors installed in mechanical tools send maintenance alerts when in need of repairs, eliminating costly setbacks on site. Energy and related costs are also reduced with devices that monitor the temperature of buildings. They notify workers of how much electricity is being used, and when machines are left idling.
IoT is also increasing the safety of on-site construction workers. A WRIS survey for the 2009–10 year showed 57 000 construction workers had incurred an injury at work due to falls, collisions with heavy objects, and electrocutions. This equates to 156 construction workers being injured each day, or 5.9% of all construction workers. In 2016, there were a total of 30 on-site fatalities in the Australian construction industry. Accidents in the workplace are highly disruptive, not only for the injured worker, but also for the other employees and the project itself.
Innovations in technology are striving to keep construction workers safe. Remote operation is removing the workers from particularly dangerous machinery and tasks. This has been most effective when working in areas that could present environmental health hazards to construction workers. Distancing the operator from the heavy-duty equipment leads to improved safety.
Wearable devices are of particular interest in the construction industry. Wearable technology includes features like fabrics that keep workers cool during the warmer months, sensors to provide constant monitoring of the body and environment, as well as augmented reality visors to keep users updated on sudden changes in their surrounding environment, sending warning signals when possible danger is present. Exosuits are also being designed to improve the strength and stability of workers during heavy lifting and operation of machinery.
By Jason Hook
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