ConstructionPro Week has reported several articles on the application of the Internet of Things (IoT) to construction and building operations and maintenance. In a nutshell, an IoT device is a way of connecting sensors tied into building equipment, structural components and security devices to the cloud (Internet) for the purpose of measurement and/or control of the connected items. In simple terms, consider smart thermostats like the Nest, an alarm system, electric blinds, the garage door or even the refrigerator in your home. With your smartphone, you can be virtually connected to all these devices to see their current status and to make changes. For example, you can turn off your ice maker and put the thermostat on 78 degrees while your on vacation for four weeks.
In addition, these sensors can have the capability of reporting on the operating conditions and upcoming maintenance requirements, or even just keeping track of the location of an item. On a bigger scale, sensors can play a significant role for all types of structures, from buildings to infrastructure, and not just after the building is complete. During construction, IoT can play a role in production, logistics, project controls and safety.
IBM is getting into IoT in a big way, having recently completed a new IoT headquarters in Munich, Germany to develop IoT devices and applications for processing the data. IoT will create massive amounts of data that needs to be tracked, analyzed and managed. Think about it. If an office building has hundreds or even thousands of sensors measuring everything from temperature, thermostats, light levels, power usage, equipment operations, elevators, door positions, window positions, security keys, bathroom supplies, sound levels, wifi strength, you name it, the computer processing requirements will be intensive. But the benefits will be smoother operations, optimized maintenance, improved tenant comfort and savings in energy and costs.
Regarding the construction process, Jacqi Levy in a recent blog post, the first of a four-part series, describes what we will call the four big uses of IoT during construction:
- Building Information Modeling
- Green Building
- Intelligent Prefab
- Construction Management
Levy describes, for example, how RFID tags can aid the logistics in tracking the fabrication and installation of prefab units, including feeding the data into the BIM model for real-time rendering of the building in progress (i.e., automated 4D scheduling). IBM has developed a large amount of content on the promise of BIM and the role it hopes to play. Check out the links at the end of Levy's blog post here.