Is the construction sector the hidden opportunity of the IoT?

The construction industry employs about 7% of the world’s working-age population. Although many people think that robots will take away their work, masons should not be worried at this time.

In 2017, McKinsey Global Institute published a surprising report: labor productivity in construction has decreased by 50% since 1970. In addition, McKinsey believes that productivity in construction has registered zero increases in recent years. While other industries have been transformed, construction has stalled. The effect is that, when adjusting to inflation, a building today costs twice as much as 40 years ago.

And even though the construction industry is a growing market, there are still some problems that need work to improve. The main issues facing the construction industry in 2019 are:

  • Shortage of skilled labor
  • Rates have raised the price of steel, aluminum, wood and other materials
  • Growth is slowing
  • Productivity and profitability
  • Low performance projects
  • Sustainability
  • Security problems
  • Consistent use of technology

The construction sector has been positive for four years, mainly due to the recovery of residential construction. After the precedent of the past decade, 2020 will still remain in the positive zone with 3.5%, but won’t stay in the positive any longer by 2021, decreasing to -3%.

The adoption of IoT in construction

The construction industry is notoriously slow in adopting technologies, such as IoT which could boost productivity and ultimately profitability. Even though it is believed that construction companies that adopt this technology would attract new labor groups and have a significant advantage over competitors, the reality is this is not happening.

The construction sector is in the tail end of the digital transformation as evidenced in the report “Global Survey of Construction and Engineering,” prepared by EY. The construction and engineering companies see the need for change, but in one way or another they resist.

One of the great characteristics of the construction sector is its enormous capacity to reinvent itself. The integration of technological trends such as IoT will facilitate many of the tasks of the sector, optimize resources, and improve compliance with deadlines and quality in tasks. To obtain a competitive advantage over other companies in the sector, it is necessary to take advantage of the opportunity offered by IoT and recognize the changes that are taking place in the sector.

The opportunity of IoT in construction

Investors’ appetite for startups in the construction sector is growing, although not many are in the IoT industry. There are still few examples of companies in the sector that are adopting IoT.  Although IoT will positively affect this industry, none of the productivity, maintenance, security and safety drivers seems to convince organizations at the moment.

There are four areas of IoT innovation in construction:

  1. Machine control
  2. Construction site monitoring
  3. Fleet management
  4. Wearables

Construction site monitoring includes anchor load monitoring from installation, control of the deformation of the ground during the construction of the tunnel, monitoring changes in pore water pressure during soil consolidation, and monitoring of the settlement process during the soil recovery works.

Some practical examples of IoT in construction include remote operation, replenishment of supplies, equipment construction and monitoring tools, maintenance and repair of equipment, remote use monitoring, and energy and fuel savings.

Key takeaways

IoT and other emerging technology can improve productivity, reduce costs and boost security in the construction industry. Construction companies, real estate and engineering firms should continue their investments in IoT. These companies should not fall back into the same mistakes and should not fear the loss of jobs due to the new technologies like IoT or AI. The adoption of IoT is unlikely to replace the human element in construction. Instead, it will modify business models in the industry, reduce costly mistakes, reduce injuries in the workplace and make construction operations more efficient.

Smart construction is key to build smart cities with smart buildings, smart transportation and smart healthcare. Our imagination is the only limit in using IoT for construction.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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