Over the past 20 years, the introduction and expansion of the Internet has transformed our culture in ways that were barely imaginable decades earlier. Computers, smartphones and tablets have given us instantaneous access to information. And it’s affected the construction business in connecting contractors’ home offices to job sites and beyond.
Many believe that the “Internet of Things” (IoT) will have even more profound effects going forward. What’s the IoT? Well, if you think of the Internet as a network connecting computing devices, the IoT is an extension of that same network to connect virtually any other object (or “thing”). Examples include sensor-equipped vehicles, building systems and household appliances.
Many of these things are already finding their way into construction projects. So contractors should ensure they’re ready for the IoT and find ways to maximize its benefits.
Generally, larger construction projects are leveraging the IoT’s potential more than smaller ones. But every contractor should think about how the IoT will affect their jobs. For starters, learn what IoT-compatible (or “smart”) equipment and building systems are on the market and how they compare cost wise with more conventional options.
Next, research which smart equipment and systems are becoming commonplace, if not required, over the next several years. For example, if your company handles plumbing, electrical or HVAC systems, familiarize yourself with the cutting edge technology in these spheres. This way, you’ll be ready to propose upgrades to customers and seamlessly install them.
Along with preparing to incorporate IoT technology into your projects, consider how it might improve your business management process. Here are a few IoT applications that may soon affect your construction company’s efficiency and bottom line:
Robots! Watch for developments in remote-controlled, programmable and robotic construction equipment. These machines may eventually affect your labor needs but, in the meantime, will require training for operators to adapt.
Fleet and equipment management. Consider how the IoT will ease monitoring, tracking and recording the location and efficiency of your vehicles, equipment and crews. Sensor technology can already help flag, diagnose and schedule equipment maintenance and repair needs. Real-time activity tracking allows even more realistic scheduling and reduces the need to build in anticipated downtime. Wearable health monitoring devices may help reduce accidents, injuries and repetitive motion stresses.
Inventory tracking. Investigate ways to better manage your inventories of building materials and equipment parts. IoT technology senses when stocks are low and can automatically order replacements — either to keep on hand or ship to the job sites.
Training and quality assurance. The IoT holds great promise for employee training. For example, augmented-reality goggles can place instructional graphics within a user’s field of vision to help direct operation or repair activities. These can be used for both training and real-time, on-site guidance.
Things around you
There’s no doubt that further developments to the IoT will lead to applications we can’t easily anticipate right now. Be sure to keep an eye on “things” around your construction business — they could soon be connected to the Internet and become more useful and efficient than ever.
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