Contractors are set to experience a boom of new Internet of Things (IoT) devices and solutions designed just for their industry. By helping contractors gather and use information more effectively, monitor worksites, improve productivity and streamline business processes, these IoT technologies have the potential to help the construction industry become more competitive and generate significant savings.
Technology for contractors
The latest construction technology and IoT business solutions run the gamut from remote check-in wearable devices and 3D printed products to smart concrete and worksite drones. Construction tech is all about improving efficiency, reducing costs and adding new features to traditional supplies and equipment.
1. 3D printed products
3D printing is becoming increasingly valuable to construction as it becomes cheaper and easier to print materials on demand. Instead of waiting for products to be produced and shipped from the factory, you may someday skip the ordering process entirely and make your own.
Commercial 3D printers are becoming more capable and useful every year. Industrial 3D printing isn’t the only place using 3D printer technology, however: You can use 3D printing to develop scale models, visualize projects and troubleshoot building plans.
2. Drones for worksites
Drones are becoming popular with contractors, and for a good reason—they have a variety of practical applications in the construction industry. Drone topographical surveys, drone land surveying and drone photography all are playing important roles at today’s construction sites. You can use drones to help with training, workplace safety, monitoring and risk management.
Theft of construction equipment and materials is a significant problem for many contractors, but drones also provide a way to “visit” your site, manage inventory and verify that everything is as it should be.
3. Wearables for construction sites
Smart home devices and office IoT devices are popular, but there are now plenty of smart devices for construction work, too. Smart wearables such as smart watches, glasses, vests, helmets and others can improve safety and provide helpful data for both workers and supervisors.
Construction workers will probably appreciate the added safety features and accident-reporting functionality—delivering safer worksites and potentially improving morale.
4. VR for safety, training and monitoring
Virtual reality (VR) has many different applications, helping with visualization and creating realistic experiences that surpass what video is capable of. You can use VR and augmented reality (AR) to create safety training, build realistic safety drills and potentially even monitor sites as the technology advances.
5. Data collection and analysis software
Businesses, including that of contractors, can collect and analyze data to improve their work. The software and hardware designed for data analytics is becoming more capable and sophisticated over time, expanding the possible applications for contracting companies.
What could better data reveal for your business? With data analytics technology, you could monitor fuel usage trends, compare consumables usage and more. Smartphone apps are an easy and accessible way to bring data analytics concepts into your business, improve your work processes and boost onsite safety. For instance, construction inspection apps guide you through equipment safety, while smartphone CAD apps help you with guided technical drawings from your phone.
6. Smart materials
Improvements in materials engineering now include the manufacturing of smart materials. These products can connect to IoT technology, collect helpful data about their surroundings and respond to changes in their environment.
Smart concrete can be broken down into several categories, including a substance with sensors built-in as well as material that can respond almost instantaneously to weather damage. Self-repairing polymers can repair their own cracks. When heat, light or water damage chip away at the coating, it can adapt and react with helpful changes all on its own.
7. LiDAR scanning
A sophisticated technology for scanning and rendering 3D visual models, LiDAR is helpful for mapping terrain and conducting accurate surveys. With more accurate geographic information about a building lot, you can plan and carry out construction project management work more effectively.
8. Autonomous equipment
Digging trenches, loading and other routine construction tasks are good candidates for autonomous equipment development (while complex tasks are generally the hardest to automate). Although most construction equipment is unlikely to be fully autonomous for a while, software and hardware designed to assist equipment operators has the potential to improve safety and productivity.
9. Business software
In addition to back office, accounting, invoicing and productivity software, there’s also construction-specific software that may be helpful with running a construction business. Construction project management software can help track multiple projects and keep managers aware of the finer details associated with each project.
Worth the investment?
As exciting as new technology can be for your business, you’ll want to be sure the investment is worthwhile. A simple cost-benefit analysis is a smart place to begin. How long you’ll have to use the technology before it pays for itself, how often you’ll actually use it and whether or not it solves a significant business problem are all factors to consider.
You may also want to consider the costs associated with starting the new technology and training your team to use it. If the technology is too cumbersome or impractical to use regularly, it’s unlikely to deliver the benefits you’re looking for. On the other hand, a technology that streamlines and improves your business operations can be a smart investment.
You’ll also want to make sure your new technology is secure. The manufacturer or developer should have information about what they do to protect your data, and they should also have basic security recommendations.