This week's blog highlights feature focuses on the Internet of Things (IoT). From a personal experience this week, it's fairly easy to envision how the IoT can benefit the industry, in ways both obvious and not. Let's recount a story to illustrate a simple scenario where an IoT sensor can benefit a developer, a contractor and the end-user customer.
After returning to our home after an extended absence, we turned on the water and circuit breaker for the hot water heater. After several hours, there was no hot water. We called the maintenance coordinator for our community who put out a work order for a supervisor to come out and look at it. The supervisor came a couple of hours later and decided it was not an electrical problem and required a visit from a plumber. Three hours later, the plumber arrived and performed a simple continuity test on the two heating elements in the water heater. Low and behold, one was defective. (This is new construction with a new water heater.) Fortunately, the plumber had the part in his truck and was able to replace it fairly quickly.
Now imagine if the heating elements each had built-in sensors that could detect a fault in the elements. Additionally, imagine that these sensors were connected to the Internet. In that future scenario, the customer could contact the home builder or plumber, who could connect up to the water heater and remotely diagnose the problem. This would save the home builder's supervisor a trip, and maybe save the plumber an extra trip if he does not carry a spare heating element in his truck. This is an example of an immediate benefit to the developer and contractor (time and cost savings), that would provide a quicker repair for the customer.
Contractors should be aware of the opportunities IoT can provide them in the future. As in the example above, there are time and cost savings in having both construction and installed equipment repaired more quickly, reducing downtime and costly delays. Since designs can be completed years before a project starts, contractors may want to be alert to developments that can be added to the contract, adding value to the customer while increasing revenues and profit for the contractor.
Look for sensors or devices that go beyond testing for faults, such as measuring equipment for efficiency, which can be a predictor of problems, or monitoring for other indicators that might predict failure, such as increased operating temperatures or decreased pressures. Other potential IoT devices might be used to monitor construction processes and elements, such as internal concrete curing temperatures, beam/slab deflections and other factors that could affect the quality or integrity of a structure or its components.
Below are some recent blog posts and articles that can provide further insight into the Internet of Things that might directly or indirectly affect work performed by the construction industry on a day-to-day basis. Of unique interest is the advertisement for a "technology program manager - commercial construction" to leverage the IoT for a large national real estate company.