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The Coronavirus Pandemic has managed to accelerate the pace of IoT adoption across industries. Companies are looking for novel ways to work, given the pressing need to continue delivering tangible social and economic benefits to clients.  In this article, let’s understand the various elements of functionality that IoT has rendered to the construction industry, and what it means to the sector amidst a crisis that is here to stay for some time. 

Why Does it Matter? 

Technologies such as remote support, virtual reality, and data analytics are designed to ease the contractor’s job of ensuring safety norms and allow remote stakeholders to be up-to-date on the progress of work. The post COVID era may demand connected operations between the job site and office, with a database that ensures shared data and digital connectivity for the stakeholders, engineers, architects, site supervisors, project managers/owners, and regulators.

Site visits delay project speeds. Instead, inspectors & regulators may make use of IoT technology for virtual inspections, schedule and review work remotely, document progress, and take virtual walkthroughs to interact with the job site and get a perfect idea of the work planned. It allows real-time tracking, monitoring, and measuring of work sites, paving way for improving outcomes. 

Digital Twins 

Digital twins refer to a virtual copy or a 3D version of a physical building. Developed in the 60s for the aerospace sector, the technology has been used by real-estate companies to uncover value during the current crisis. According to MIT’s Real estate Innovation Lab, digital twins could benefit the real estate industry to manage building occupancy, increase budget reliability, and enhance the delivery speed of construction projects. 

“Objective and credible data has always been needed to make decisions on property portfolios and inform investment decisions,” he explains. “But, agile, scalable, and dynamic workplaces are needed now more than ever. Digital twins support these requirements by providing the data and visualizations needed to make more rapid and flexible decisions.” – Jim Whittaker, Engineering Services Lead at JLL

It is helping owners to keep a tab on their buildings, due to the data available from newly implemented technologies. It also plays a pivotal role in integrating technologies that cater to workplace safety norms. 

Safety First – A COVID-19 Perspective

Worksite Safety! Isn’t that the word everyone wants to hear amidst the raging pandemic? Here’s a snapshot of how IoT could render it: 

  • A device mounted to a hardhat can communicate and gather interaction data and alert whenever teams try to have ‘closer than safe’ interactions. 
  • Thermal cameras can help capture heat profiles shared with an AI agent. This can work as a virtual safety inspector and identify the distance between any two workers. 
  • Thermal cameras can help in monitoring body temperatures. 
  • A 360-degree camera can capture photos and videos for real-time sharing with the regulators and safety inspectors. 
  • Bluetooth-based tracking technology can help in contact tracing of workers across all work zones. 
  • IoT, combined with the powers of Augmented Reality (AR), could help organizations make use of predictive maintenance and thereby reduce downtime. 
  • Virtual Reality training could provide experiential training to workers on the real-life consequences they may face for not abiding with safety norms. 

Through all these, IoT sensors can relay information to primary stakeholders to help them make high-level decisions quickly, efficiently, and effectively. 

Supply Chain

With safety as the focal point, many construction companies have pivoted to off-site construction methods – and this includes supply chain. Contractors are pushing fabrication off-site, which makes manufacturers expand their range of prefabricated subassemblies. This increases the assembly-line efficiency while controlling the environment of factory production, thereby reducing both labour costs and project duration. Moreover, measures are made to monitor off-site production, track and trace assets, and monitor the inventory storage conditions. 

Time to Assess 

The WHO suggests that outbreaks like COVID-19 may not go away, it’s something that we will continue to experience in waves. 

Being crisis-ready is not an option anymore and construction companies must accelerate their digitization efforts, allowing rapid response to critical challenges. This will go a long way towards ensuring employee support & protection, preventing work site closures, maintaining budgets, and completing projects without any hindrance.