By Jeff Winke
Probably the best definition of the Internet of Things (IoT) is offered by the futurist Jacob Morgan, who said the IoT refers to “basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other).” This includes everything from smartphones to lamps. It also applies to the heavy equipment that milling and paving contractors own.
Which begs the question: why? Why would we want a paver connected to the Internet? The answer is we want to remotely collect information from it, communicate with it, and create a data history with it.
Construction is On IoT Platform
The technologies behind the IoT have existed for many years in the construction market. Features like remote access, office-to-field data exchange, cloud computing and data storage are not new. Granted, not all milling and paving contractors have invested in these new technologies. Connected devices and real-time communication exist, and now, contractors who accept and invest in the technologies have an efficiency edge. The technology developers in the construction market now focus on creating easier, reliable access to the abundance of data.
“Interconnected smart technology is central to how we engineer our solutions and their functionality in the hands of our customers,” said Ivan Di Federico, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Topcon Positioning Systems. “The power of IoT provides comprehensive planning, process control, workflow monitoring and extensive reporting that will bring our customers the full advantages of connectivity.”
What is referred to as the “IoT Platform” is the operating world in which the construction market has been evolving. The IoT Platform is meant to provide milling and paving equipment manufacturers and the end-user contractors with analytics and reports about various aspects of their tasks and assets, in order to enhance the decision-making process and obtain the best possible management of resources, fleets and personnel.
Equipping each piece of machinery with the capability of sending and receiving data allows the platform to reproduce a digital detailed representation of the product itself—a digital twin.
“Thanks to the digital twins of our products, activities like monitoring, diagnosis and repair can be completed remotely,” Di Federico said. “What this means is we can have experts based anywhere in the world able to provide monitoring, troubleshooting, and/or repairs without needing to be physically there at the worksite or contractor’s location. This would result in tremendous savings of time and travel expenses. Moreover, there can be direct collaboration between on-site personnel and equipment operators and our experts.”
Rely on Data
Smart, connected heavy equipment provides tracking of how machines are being used. Through the accumulation of historical data, the IoT platform can build information patterns to better understand necessities, the environment in which they operate, and provide advanced solutions to fit needs. Indeed, data collected from smart, connected products and systems provide detailed information on how the products’ features are used, which are most useful, and which are ignored.
The collected data, which is called Big Data, provides numerous and detailed information that can be selected according to the need at the time. This enables making effective and profitable choices. It is possible to retrieve virtually any useful information, from fuel consumption to equipment productivity, from maintenance services to, in the near future, prognostics. In addition, most of the functionalities are completely customizable, for meeting specific contractor needs (e.g. dashboard layout, alarms and notifications, CAN-Bus parameters, units of measurement, language).
For the contractor, analytics is possible to compare usage patterns to improve services, increase productivity, ensure better quality, reduce costs, and create more accurate pricing and bidding strategies.
“Interconnected smart technology is both central to how we engineer our solutions and produce their functionality for our customers,” Di Federico said. “The challenges, as with most innovation, have mostly to do with adoption.
Once construction contractors have an opportunity to see first-hand how the solutions we provide make them more efficient, the concept of IoT makes perfect sense. Greater productivity means undeniable higher profits for their businesses, and assists them in reaching the meeting point where construction productivity is improved by applying intelligent positioning technology, and clearly IoT is part of this bigger picture.”
For Topcon and other technology companies in its niche, providing connected solutions enables milling and paving contractors to have comprehensive monitoring of conditions, operations, and the work site through sensors and data. This means assets can be monitored from everywhere. It enables real-time communication and task management with machines and crews on the work site. Additionally, the entire fleet of machines working at the site can be connected.
“We call it ‘descriptive, predictive and prescriptive’ analytics,” Di Federico said. “The result for customers is higher productivity, less downtime and waste, and ultimately more profitability, combined with less stress.”
The IoT is here to stay. In the construction market, the success of technology that enables construction contractors to bid projects more accurately based on their own historic production data and get their jobs completed more quickly, more accurately, and more efficiently using intelligent interconnected technology, has raised customer expectations.
Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
As employers continue to spend billions of dollars annually on worker safety programs, injury rates over the past several years have remained stagnant. That statistical plateau has leaders in the safety industry tapping into another resource to take worker safety to the next level: the workers themselves.
The announced partnership between innovation-focused safety gear manufacturer Ergodyne and IoT safety platform developer Corvex Connected Safety aims to do just that by connecting smart personal protective equipment (PPE) to a platform focused on producing real-time data to and from workers relating to the key safety categories of PPE management, risk management, safety communications and worker engagement.
“Our goal has always been to encourage a proactive attitude toward safety among workers and safety professionals, which is why we put so much focus on designing gear that not only protects, but performs exceptionally well, and looks good and feels good to boot,” said Tom Votel, president and CEO of Ergodyne. “For the past three years, we have been actively exploring opportunities to take our products to the next level: from inert to intelligent and connected. We see it as the next logical step in our somewhat utopian-sounding, but very real mission of driving toward zero workplace injuries.”
“Advancements in sensor technologies and IoT ecosystems have opened the door to obtaining real-time data at the point of safety—the worker,” Corvex CEO Ted Smith said. “Safety happens in real time, and the data we use to prevent injuries should also be the same. Leveraging intelligent safety gear to accelerate meaningful communication between safety professionals and workers—and the time it takes to act upon it—means not only preventing injuries, but, from a very practical business sense, reducing costs and increasing productivity.”
“We’re still in the early stages, but already working diligently on building connected intelligent safety solutions that are pretty exciting,” Votel said. “At the same time, we’re aware that this exciting leap forward needs to be grounded in real world applications. Corvex has leadership with great experience and, critically, they are very practically minded thinkers.”