We are starting to see machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions in many areas of our lives – from bridge toll devices and tracking on courier packages to remote medical monitoring. With more than 50 billion connected devices projected by 2020, M2M solutions are the next big opportunity for Canadian wireless companies.
M2M opportunities in mining, manufacturing and agriculture were outlined in my previous posts in this series. This time the focus is construction, an industry that is custom-built for M2M solutions.
Canada’s construction industry employs about 7% of Canadians and accounts for 6% of national GDP, or $73.8 billion. Employment in construction increased 50% between 2000 and 2010.
M2M solutions offer two tantalizing benefits for the construction industry: accelerating project build schedules and minimizing expenses. What’s not to like?
“Imagine a jobsite where tools check themselves in and out; trucks send you notifications when a certain speed limit has been exceeded; safety harnesses accumulate detailed information for inspections; materials are tracked in a matter of seconds; cellphones become tools to manage driver safety; and employee badges track down which employees are clocked in.” Constructech, January 2012
The construction industry is ideal for the adoption of wireless productivity solutions. Personnel are rarely in one location for a long period. Suppliers must coordinate and deliver to various locations at various times. Changes require instant communication and coordination in the field.
Construction firms have been early adopters of wireless technologies. Some of the M2M solutions currently being used in the Engineering Construction phase include the 3D design and costing tool known as Building Information Modeling (BIM), electronic bid distribution and submission, and remote communications for locations outside cellular coverage.
Residential construction employs a greater variety of solutions such as back-end office systems, SaaS forms, wireless mobile forms, tracking of large assets by GPS and customer relationship management systems. In Commercial construction, general contractors use mobile field tools.
Some of the key opportunities for growth in M2M solutions include tablet PCs enabled with BIM, mobile forms and asset management tools.
Like other industries, cost is a barrier to technology adoption. Labour rules can also be an issue in construction, along with training requirements and a fragmented industry that is reluctant to share technology.
Canadian companies that are successfully marketing M2M solutions for the construction industry include Mentor Engineering (asset tracking), Flowfinity (cloud-based information exchange between the mobile trades people and the office) and Toolhound (radio frequency identification, or RFID, tracking of tools and equipment).
Join the Wavefront Community and read more about M2M in construction in the Wavefront report, “Digital Solutions for Productivity in the BC Construction Industry”.