The IoT: transforming building design and construction

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Advances in technology is having a huge impact on the AEC Industry and we are finally starting to see the AEC industry begin to incorporate Internet of things (IoT) ideas and technologies into how buildings are designed, constructed and managed.

So what is the Internet of things?

Well to put it simply, The IoT is an ecosystem of information. This information can be extracted from everyday objects connected to the Internet which are capable of collecting and exchanging the data. With I0T, an object represents itself digitally and relates to a person, other objects and data.

The IoT is a really hot topic nowadays and for good reason…

The number of IoT devices is estimated in the four billion to five billion range today and is expected to grow in fact, by 2022, Intel believes that there will be a network of 50 billion connected objects.

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We are clearly gathering data at a rapid pace…

More connected things mean big data is set to get even bigger. We’re not just generating data; we’re capturing it at an unprecedented rate, first through websites and now more frequently through mobile apps and sensors. Many industries are now dependant on big data one way or another and the AEC industry has certainly started to adopt it.  As we see more and more data moving to the cloud this gives way to cloud-based tools now being used for advanced data management.

Big data – what’s the big deal?

When talking about ‘Big data’  this refers to the data created via IoT technology which is then captured stored and analysed. It is a set of tools and technologies that allow computers to process information at high speed. Big data has the ability to enable us to learn new insights and apply them to the physical world to make it work better.

How will IoT impact the AEC Industry?

The AEC is a sector in which the IoT could have a major transformative impact.

The IoT has the capabilities to be a valuable asset during early construction phases. Adoption of these technologies can improve efficiency of the construction process, measurement of performance and transparency of the overall project.  For example, the IoT is being used to power smart connected tools allowing data and equipment to communicate with one another. With the advanced sensors available today, machinery can self-detect the need for a repair before it becomes a bigger problem. Lack of supplies or indeed personnel on- site can put projects at risk, with the use of IoT, systems have the capabilities to alert site managers when resources are getting low and reinforcements are needed, these adaptive tools and machinery are speeding up daily processes.

Engineers are already utilising the power of the IoT to collect and analyse data relating to the condition of structures through an automated, regular process. This allows them to identify issues and be able to prioritise maintenance tasks better thus prevent future accidents.

IoT is making a big impact on commercial as well as residential buildings. We’ve all seen or heard of  the capabilities of a ‘smart’ residential building with it’s in- house sophisticated appliances.  For commercial buildings, the application of IoT ideas can not only help designers create more efficient buildings but also play a part in eliminating wasted energy costs as well as vastly improving day to day operations and facility management. There is large potential to explore as well as anticipate the needs of the occupants of the building; Building automation Systems deployed could include daylight sensing systems, radiant cooling and heating systems and ventilation controlled by demand. Advanced IoT applications can also provide increased security systems, aid assisted living and enable monitoring through remote locations within cities.

Smarter cities are happening already and with the capabilities of IoT we will continue to monitor and control elements such as traffic, air and crowds. Construction and planning projects are being completed on shorter timescales as big data is started to be used to predict and respond more efficiently to changes in a particular environment.

IoT is an important movement that has the potential to have an effect on every aspect of every project from design, fabrication and construction to facility management. The IoT can transform the AEC industry if adopted correctly and the possibilities are endless.