A new era for construction

Global spending on infrastructure is set to top £12 trillion over the next five years, according to IHS Global Insight. That spending is being driven by trends such as the need to update power transmission lines, highways and road networks in advanced economies. Environmental targets are driving the water and utilities sectors to update their infrastructure. And in emerging markets, urbanisation and economic growth continue to drive investment.

While the prospects for future growth are good, many construction businesses currently see their projects failing to deliver. The main causes of inadequate performance, according to KPMG’s 2013 Global Construction Survey, were: project delays (51%), poor estimating practices (50%), and failed risk management processes (47%).

M2M (Machine-to-Machine) technology is the key to improving performance and helping you seize the opportunities ahead — as well as cutting delays. It:

• Underpins smart building initiatives; with the deployment of connected sensors making urban areas more intelligent.

• Supports sustainable development practices both in reducing the environmental impact of construction work, and making the buildings and infrastructure more eco-friendly. Here, M2M technology gives companies the information they need to cut their own carbon emissions and waste.

• Helps improve your operations. It can reduce theft of machinery, cut CO2 emissions for your fleet, improve site safety, and reduce project delays.

Guard your vital assets

The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that almost $1 billion’s worth of equipment and tools are stolen each year from US construction firms.

This isn’t just theft of metals and other valuable materials: the thieves will take excavators, forklifts, loaders, even bulldozers. They target equipment that is both valuable and easy to move — and often stored in remote or unsupervised locations.

Construction companies can be hit doubly hard by theft, with the knock-on effect of project delays adding to the financial loss. With M2M trackers installed in your assets, you can track their location and status. That can reduce instances of theft and create operational efficiencies. You can even receive alerts if plant machinery is moved outside of a pre-defined boundary.

In the UK, hire company HSS uses Vodafone’s Wireless M2M technology to track the location of assets such as plant equipment in real time, helping it pinpoint its resources and reduce the risk of its going missing.

Tighten site security

Vodafone has worked with international security firm iDefigo to produce wireless surveillance cameras, which can send footage back to monitoring centres. These solar-powered cameras use mobile networks to transmit data, making them suitable for deployment on sites where there isn’t yet supporting infrastructure, such as electrical power. Intelligent image recognition software increases the power of these surveillance cameras, enabling you to automatically identify employees’ faces, or check licence plates on vehicles coming and going from sites.

Surveillance cameras don’t just stop thefts; they can help improve safety — verifying that an area is clear before demolition work begins. Heavy machinery can be fitted with motion detectors, to safeguard passers by.

Improve fleet utilisation

When your fleet vehicles are reporting on their location, you can streamline operations across your supply chain. Connected fleet management systems improve your capacity planning, making optimum use of assets such as cranes or cement trucks, by aligning vehicle location and project requirements.

On-board GPS sensors add further value, helping slash fuel costs. One company with a fleet of just 61 vehicles deployed a fleet management system from Vodafone and TomTom. It cut monthly fuel bills by $16,500, and achieved a 27% reduction in CO2 emissions.

M2M can also promote better machine utilisation, reduction in fuel consumption, and enable more efficient maintenance and repair schedules. It can help fleet operators with safety compliance by enabling them to control site access through the use of the “geo-fence” features.

Telematics penetration in the construction equipment sector will exceed 30% globally by 2019, forecasts ABI Research.

A greener future

Waste is a big issue in construction today, with governments across Europe keen to reduce the industry’s environmental impact. For example, the Welsh government has set a target for 90% of construction waste to be re-used or recycled by 2020.

Using M2M technology in the supply chain can help you meet these targets. Improvements in capacity planning help you move to a just-in-time operation, reducing the likelihood of unnecessary materials being delivered to sites, or vehicles, equipment, or people sitting idle.

By tracking the status of shipments throughout the supply chain, you can also reduce the risk of damage or contamination. M2M connected products can be used to track the materials you use through the supply chain, auditing goods for compliance with standards such as Forest Stewardship Council approved wood or recycled glass, plastic and steel.

M2M can also help you keep on top of noise pollution, using time-fence features to enforce compliance with noise limit requirements. Telematics are well established in helping ensure drivers obey the rules of the road. But in-cab cameras can help too, ensuring your drivers treat other road users with respect, and ensure a positive company image — or in the event of an accident, that the driver at fault is fairly identified.

By utilising M2M technology construction businesses can transform their assets into intelligent devices that enable them to save time, money and reduce their environmental impact. For construction businesses adopting M2M solutions could improve their competitive advantage as well as increasing safety for their employees.