The construction industry is progressing rapidly when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT). All types of companies are contributing to advancements, from those developing applications and platforms, to equipment providers and construction organizations. These companies see the potential of IoT to implement smarter, more precise construction techniques to power growth and increase efficiency.
GE, for example, has a dedicated software group for building industrial IoT applications, Predix. Predix Machine is GE’s device-independent software stack to connect machines to the Internet. It brings data from various sensors and devices into the Predix Cloud for analysis and business improvement.
PTC has developed the ThingWorx platform, an end-to-end technology platform designed for the industrial IoT. The vision is to underpin the next era of IT-driven productivity growth by enabling smart, connected products.
United Rentals is one of the largest rental companies in the world. The company rents equipment and makes sure it is fueled, cleaned, operational, charged, and delivered on time. To accomplish this task, United Rentals uses Total Control, its telematics-enabled, fleet- and equipment-management system that provides visibility into both rented and owned equipment to improve utilization, maintenance, and uptime. With the data acquired from Total Control, United Rentals provides customers with reports on on-time delivery performance. Running reports on past behavior has value, but one of the reasons why utilization can be enhanced for United Rentals customers is that Total Control sends automated emails if a machine is sitting underutilized for a configurable number of days. These alerts are vital because a construction company can avoid having workers stand around waiting while expensive equipment goes unused and revenues drop.
One major contractor is part of a larger group that generates more than $1 billion per year in revenue among all its companies and has done a number of major projects, including building multi-million-dollar bridges, dirt and rock excavating, laying gas and water pipelines, and building several water and waste treatment plants in the U.S. Given the squeeze between customers’ desires to reduce costs and increasing equipment expenses, the company is connecting machines to optimize their use. They engineered their own system to capture telematics data (e.g. hours, location) along with fuel consumption. On the back-office side, the company ties training completion to an operator’s security card so only those with the proper training and credentials are able to start it. They can also track individual operator runs and idle times, and thus get an idea of individual performance.
Oracle is using DAQRI’s Smart Glasses to transfer data to the Oracle IoT Cloud service. This enables device data from the field to be made available in real time for analysis and integration with enterprise applications, web services, and other Oracle cloud services. Through this process, Oracle has a wealth of device management data, such as what applications are installed on which devices, and software patch levels.
Takeuchi has created a connected track loader, a piece of equipment that performs almost every task on a job site, making them part of many companies’ fleets. Takeuchi has added a tracked chassis with a loader for digging and loading material. The Takeuchi TL12V2 includes a ZTR Control Systems’ (ZTR) telematics hardware unit that gathers data from control units. All of the track loader’s onboard sensors feed into it. This provides a range of sensor-based information, including engine torque, injector-metering rail pressure, hydraulic oil pressure, machine location, engine speed, battery voltage, engine oil pressure, engine coolant pressure, fuel pressure, fuel consumption rate, trip meters, last communication, and more.
Many Business Benefits
So what are the outcomes of connecting Things to the Internet? For users, connectivity allows equipment to “phone home” and report any potential problems, thereby improving quality of service. Manufacturers benefit by connecting their Things to the Internet, not only are there potential additional revenue streams, but also there is the ability to provide better service, availability, security, performance, and change management.
There are a lot of ways companies can reduce costs, too. By connecting machines, they can diagnose problems remotely and be sure they’ve brought the right tools for the job to reduce the cost to deliver a service. Operational costs can also be cut. By connecting Things to the Internet and learning from them, operators can make different decisions on how to fly the plane or configure the printer to optimize the consumption of fuel, ink, or energy. They also can make better decisions about just-in-time inventory and equipping workers in the field and determining whether it makes more sense to buy or rent equipment.
Needed: A New Way to Manage Assets
All of these scenarios hold significant promise to unlock efficiency, safety, and productivity in the construction world. However, the necessary prerequisite is to be able to manage all these new types of Things. IT professionals in construction need to be aware of changes in the lifecycle of every asset, whether it is fully operational, stolen, lost, in need of maintenance, at the end of its rental contract, or ready to be decommissioned. Tracking Things accurately is vital for back-end processes such as security, budgeting, forecasting, auditing, compliance, reporting, employee on-boarding and off-boarding, and other practices—but this is all in addition to powering fundamental construction processes in the field.
For the construction industry to advance into the IoT era, smart, end-to-end Thing Management is essential. Despite the heavy demands of Thing Management and security, most responsible for managing assets in the construction field rely on time-consuming, work-intensive processes and cumbersome, paper-based work orders. They may have to dig for information on paper work orders or housed in departmental systems that inevitably hold different data. These legacy asset management tactics result in poor data quality, higher costs, and unnecessary manual effort. They also prevent the construction and contracting industries from having a single source of truth about the machines that power their people and projects
Until recently, asset management was aimed almost solely on computers, laptops, smartphones and data center gear like servers and networking. But today, companies like Oomnitza have emerged that realize that tomorrow’s connected Things are as smart or smarter than today’s cell phones. They have repurposed the Thing Management software they built for laptops and smartphones to manage the Things of today and the near future. This capability is especially vital the construction and contracting world, where equipment such as excavators and cranes typically cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Smart Asset Management in Construction
With comprehensive, end-to-end Thing Management from companies such as Oomnitza, construction professionals can operate more efficiently and cost effectively by automating asset management processes. They also can worry less about securing valuable equipment and ensuring that employees are continuously productive.
CIOs and other IT professionals have access to all the information in a single place they need to optimize asset utilization and reduce the manual effort needed to understand the organization’s complete inventory. By having a single source of truth for every asset, construction companies can reduce downtime, lower operating costs, increase efficiency and productivity, and improve security and safety. A fundamental underpinning, however, is robust Thing Management.