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The Data Journey in Construction: Overview, Challenges, Stakes, and Tomorrow’s Expectations

Wednesday, January 10, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: AEMP
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by Maria Cassagne, CNH Industrial

International Telecommunications Union (ITU) experts estimate that the Internet of Things (IoT) will consist of about 30 billion connected objects worldwide by 2020. When it comes to big data, according to the French Association of Software Developers and Internet Solutions (AFDEL), the value of these devices should represent 8% of the European GDP in 2020. Henceforward, IoT and big data are essential in the digital transformation revolution and thus key players in today’s and tomorrow’s construction industry.

But let’s start from scratch. What is IoT? Jacob Morgan defines IoT as “connecting any device with an on and off switch to the internet.” Dr.-Ing. Norbert Pralle, head of development and innovation at Strabag Züblin, Germany, sums IoT up as “cognifying the world”. The Internet of Things includes anything from sports devices monitoring running performances (vital signs, path track), to car traffic apps notifying drivers of road congestion to structural vibration monitoring devices that help detect and prevent deterioration or collapse in buildings, bridges or historical monuments. 

IoT concerns relationships between people and between things but also between people and things. For instance, a traffic app is a people-thing-people triangle: one driver signals congestion to the app which then notifies other drivers – every stakeholder is interconnected with a little bit of Internet magic.

In the construction field, IoT examples include telematics, remote diagnostics of systems, digital fleet management and machine control. In these solutions, data is at the core. Sensors on and around vehicles collect data to provide a digital representation of the construction site environment. This data is shared with the IoT platform (the sensors’ “digital twin”) which processes it to deliver smart data and analytics to people (OEMs, dealers, contractors, end-users) and, sooner than you might expect, to things. 

The IoT platform can deliver descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics. Descriptive analytics state current ground situation and provide reports.  Predictive analytics forecast probable events such as failures or breakdowns. Prescriptive analytics feed machines with corrections and adjustments, lifting the veil on new possibilities such as automation and off-board machine learning. 

Even today, without jumping to such futuristic solutions, this data processing allows new smart technologies that are still under-used. In telematics for example, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) point out that some fleets do not use the technology benefits at its full potential. Jay Quatro, field application and training specialist for Wacker Neuson, states that “when most users hear ‘telematics’ they think about simply locating or tracking the machine. However, as technology has increased over the past several years, telematics services go beyond simple location tools. Users are also able to monitor critical machine functions, such as fuel level and battery voltage, as well as set up maintenance schedules and automatic alerts. Service departments should be taking full advantage of this technology to manage machines that spend the majority of their time in the field”. Tyler Peterson, JCB’s product manager for large excavators, adds: “we are seeing strong indicators, however, that owners and fleet managers are beginning to understand the full potential value of telematics systems for enhanced asset utilization, maintenance planning, and improved machine security”.

In the end, as Ivan Di Federico, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Topcon Positioning Systems, states: “the challenges, as with most innovation, have mostly to do with adoption.” Antonio Marzia, Precision Solutions and Telematics vice president in CNH Industrial, relies on the company expertise in the off-highway machines’ sector to be confident on this question:  “We are pushing efforts to create a strong synergy between all our fields of activity –among them construction, agriculture, commercial vehicles, power trains. It allows us not only to deliver state-of-the-art technologies but also to take advantage of our eclectic experience to train customers to adopt innovations more rapidly.”

What lies ahead of us in the near future? Do we need to expect “an entirely new construction ecosystem?” In his October Equipment World article “Computer vision, machine learning, cloud computing will create entirely new construction ecosystems” Tom Jackson forecasts most probably, yes! Big data processing will unleash a whole new set of connected and innovative solutions such as prognostics, machine learning, automation & autonomous technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, drones, augmented reality, 3D and computer vision. Most of these technologies are already on the field: drones are used to complete ground survey, 3D recognition is common use in machine control and prognostics are made all day long in telematics maintenance reports. Concerning the others, it is just a matter of time before they become part of our day-to-day construction landscape. Many companies are working on shaping this future construction ecosystem: Built Robotics already launched its autonomous track loader, Microsoft joined forces with Trimble to develop HoloLens advanced holographic platform dedicated to architectural needs for construction sites and Komatsu is working with NVIDIA on intelligent cameras to bring AI on the jobsite. 

Despite this promising construction future full of high-tech, some challenges remain regarding big data. The first inevitable pending issue is volume explosion. How will the massive amount of data will be stocked and processed in the next years? It is incumbent upon OEMs and the industry to get ready to address data privacy, data protection and data ownership questions. 

According to Goldman Sachs, construction will become the largest user of drones in the USA very soon. This gives us a preview of the foreseeable data quantity that will flow in our industry in a couple of years and a glimpse of challenges ahead. The response might lie in homogenization, harmonization and collaboration as promoted by the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) commitment, along with major OEMs, to telematics data standardization. The goal is to put the power in customers’ hands; allowing them to access their machine data, regardless of the brand, in one Application Programming Interface (API). Nonetheless, the AEMP raison d’être is a long-term endeavor which should not only concern telematics but also needs to be expanded to every construction high-tech domain. Let’s roll up our sleeves!

Want to get connected with other Equipment Management professionals and learn more about how they are managing the data and technology within their fleets? Register today for AEMP's 36th Annual Management Conference and Annual Meeting - March 20-22 in Orlando, Florida.  Click here for more info...

*** Sources available upon request


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