Toolmaker Dewalt is looking to tap into the IoT in order to help workers on construction sites become more productive.
Who used that power drill last – and where did they put it? These are the sorts of questions that contractors working on building sites often need answering, but Dewalt reckons that, while sharing data has never been so important in this industry, connectivity options are as yet pretty limited.
With that in mind, the company has announced it will be making an “unprecedented effort” to make building more connected and more efficient. Over the coming months, it will launch a fully connected system, including a WiFi mesh network and, later, an IoT platform, to tackle current shortcomings in on-site connectivity and asset management.
Rugged by design
The planned WiFi mesh network will feature ruggedized access points built to withstand the harsh environment of a construction jobsite. This will allow contractors to collaborate in real time and access critical site information such as schedules, budgets and requests for information (RFIs).
The network, in turn, will lay the foundation for a Dewalt IoT platform, which will enable contractors to identify the location of tools on-site and get data into how they’re being used. A key element in this IoT platform will be an inventory management system called Tool Connect.
In order to make this a reality, Dewalt is partnering with Procore, a provider of cloud-based applications for construction. It seems that its IoT offering will be built on top of Procore’s Construction OS platform.
“Dewalt understands how vital the building and construction industries are to local and global economies,” said Tony Nicolaidis, vice president of marketing for connected systems at the company. “Leveraging technology, our goal is to provide solutions for gathering in-depth jobsite data for better decision-making by general contractors and trade contractors, thus enhancing productivity and safety.”
Dewalt said it will provide more details on its plans in the future and accepting pre-orders.
Ripe for disruption
Last year, researchers at strategy house McKinsey & Company singled out construction as an industry “ripe for disruption”. Large projects typically take 20 percent longer to finish than scheduled and come in over 80 percent over budget, they claim in the report, Imagining Construction’s Digital Future. Worse still, construction productivity has actually declined in some markets since the 1990s, and financial returns for contractors are often relatively low and prone to volatility. In other words, even small setbacks on sites can put a large dent in profits.
“The Internet of Things is a reality in many other sectors; sensors and wireless technologies enable equipment and assets to become ‘intelligent’ by connecting them with one another. On a construction site, the Internet of Things would allow construction machinery, equipment, materials, structures and even formwork to ‘talk’ to a central data platform to capture critical performance parameters. Sensors, near field communication (NFC) devices and other technologies can help monitor productivity and reliability of both staff and assets,” says McKinsey’s report.