There are promising signs of engagement when it comes to GPS and telematics within the construction industry, but more education on the benefits is required to get everyone on board. Katherine Weir reports
The Leica ConX platform from Hexagon is said to create a ‘connected ecosystem’ by merging sensors on site so all stakeholders are aware of a project’s status in real-time
When it comes to the uptake of digital technologies, the construction industry has been slow on the uptake when compared to other sectors.
Telematics and GPS help to bring together an entire construction site, giving a clear overview of the whereabouts and functionality of the equipment being used in real-time. The scheduling and reporting functions are also important, allowing users to programme machines so that they automatically carry out instructions and produce reports with all the data needed.
Although advancements in this technology continue to drive the digital evolution of the construction industry, many of its professionals are still confused as to how it can benefit them.
Flow of information
Comms365’s Continuum provides high quality, reliable, fast internet which can be deployed rapidly where you need it
So what aspects of this technology are most important for the industry?
Fabrizio Dell’Acqua, machine control and telematics specialist at Topcon Positioning Group, said, “To deliver projects on time and within budget, we must ensure that we optimise speed, accuracy and efficiency. This is why GPS and telematics are important in every aspect of the construction industry.
“Perhaps the most active users of telematics in construction are OEMs. The adoption of telematics is extremely important to them because they must collect working data to inform them on diagnostics in line with the warranty – this is critical given the cost of production. The data collected is also important in helping to advise on the design of future products.”
Dell’Acqua believes that the best telematic communication is information-driven, rather than data-driven.
“The fast-paced and unpredictable nature of construction means that changes often need to be implemented on site instantly – it’s not feasible for someone hundreds of miles away in front of a PC to come on site with the information needed to make these changes,” he said. “The application of telematics is vital – this fluid flow of information makes workflows cheaper, easier and faster, and results in fewer costly mistakes.”
Topcon says that all its products use telematics to some degree, from machine control on equipment such as excavators, dozers and pavers, to its GPS total stations.
“Our data management tools such as Sitelink3D and Pavelink ensure that all machines within a project ‘talk’ to each other,” Dell’Acqua said. “Sitelink3D provides office-to-machine, machine-to-office and machine-to-machine communication. From your desk, you have remote access to every machine and can conduct file transfers, messaging and advanced volume reporting. With real-time, as-built mapping, you can see how close to grade every location within the site is at any moment.”
The manufacturer’s Pavelink product is a mobile application that uses telematics to provide a connected ecosystem workflow between the asphalt plants, delivery trucks, the company office and the paving site, all delivered via a cloud-based logistics application designed to connect every stakeholder in real-time throughout the paving process.
Back in April, the company released its GTL-1000 – a unique combination of 3D scanner and integrated total station. It is designed to speed up construction workflows from what traditionally took days to now only hours to complete, Topcon said.
The GTL-1000 processes information with Magnet Collage and completes the workflow with ClearEdge3D Verity, an advanced software tool that automates construction verification. It is said to allow operators to confidently lay out points in challenging construction environments by using prism-tracking.
Just before the Bauma, Munich, exhibition in April, Continental announced that it would be taking a more active role in the area of fleet management systems for the construction industry, with a ‘special focus’ on digitalisation and telematics.
At the exhibition itself, Continental and fleet management solutions company Zonar (in which Continental owns a majority stake) presented hardware devices, as well as a telematics platform that is designed according to off-highway requirements and ready for upgrading to 5G communications technology.
Mario Branco, head of business development, off-highway applications at Continental, said, “Over the last few years, we’ve seen significantly improved fitment rates for telematics hardware. A huge topic right now is 5G-enabled hardware. With our strong footprint in the automotive sector, we are a leader in 5G technology for passenger cars. As such, we are fully prepared to offer connectivity up to 5G for the construction market.”
Looking towards the future in GPS and telematics, Branco said, “From asset trackers to 5G telematics, we have it all on our roadmap. We are a partner of the OEM as well as the fleet, supporting them with value added services that enable them to gain actionable insights into the status of their fleet and projects.”
Communication takes flight
Managed solutions provider Comms365 is exploring how innovations in digital technology, such as GPS and drones in surveying, 5D building information and augmented reality, are fostering change within the construction industry.
Nick Sacke, head of IoT and products at Comms365, said, “At every level, from the conceptual design all the way through to the physical construction and continued upkeep of the building, new digital devices, applications and methodologies are starting to prove their worth. Yet, IT investment within the construction industry has typically lagged far behind other industries, with less than 1% of revenues being spent on IT compared to more than four per cent being invested by the automotive sector.”
Some of the most forward-thinking organisations are seeing the full value and opportunities that investing in innovative digital technology can provide, and are leading the way in revolutionising how construction sites operate. However, another key issue is that while there is a lot of innovation in the industry, for many, some of the most basic requirements of running a site are still a challenge. Such as gaining access to high speed, reliable internet networks to support people, applications, devices and processes wherever the site may be located.
The company even has a guide dedicated to this problem with The Simple Guide to Construction Site Internet.
Sweden-based Hexagon – known for sensor, software and autonomous solutions – has been focusing on two trends in telematics with machine-to-machine learning and sensor merging. Earlier this year, the company released the Leica MC1 software and updates to the Leica ConX platform.
The MC1 software (a common software interface across platforms) brings all machines on a construction site together to learn
from each other and hit ‘key performance indicators’, said Hexagon. The ConX platform is said to create a ‘connected ecosystem’
by merging sensors on site so all stakeholders are aware of a project’s status in real-time.
Holger Pietzsch, heavy construction VP of marketing at Hexagon’s geosystems division, said, “The interoperability and ease of use of these technologies is key for a successful project. When telematic technologies are guided by the precise positioning of GPS in a simple manner to implement, such as the Leica iCON line of machine control solutions, then operators can confidently perform the work needed across a variety of applications.”
Understanding the value
One of the biggest obstacles when it comes to the adoption of telematics is the cost of installation, which can be off-putting to companies, particularly when it comes to installing aftermarket telematics systems. Another challenge is convincing stakeholders at all levels of the benefits of telematics.
Dell’Acqua at Topcon said, “All parties need to understand the added value the correct use of telematics can provide to their business, but it requires a commitment from OEMs and technology providers to provide adequate education. Then, once up and running, all parties involved need to evolve their knowledge and continue to learn how to use the systems to their full advantage, which can ostensibly seem like a burden – but the results speak for themselves.”
Hexagon also talks about the barriers to progress in telematics within the industry.
Holger Pietzsch said, “The heavy construction industry has been known as a laggard in technology adoption for some time, but we see that changing rapidly as digital transformation grows throughout the industry. Adoption can also be inhibited due to the learning curve of new solutions. Though we understand there is some hesitation to adapting an entire machinery fleet on the front end, educating the industry about the overall cost-effectiveness on the back end and incorporating ease of use in new solutions is the means to overcoming barriers and initial resistance.”
Mario Branco at Continental believes that the construction industry has only just begun its digitalisation age. He said, “Proprietary solutions are being replaced by open solutions thanks to standardisation but there is still a long way to go, especially when we compare this sector to the transport and logistics sector.
“Costs for telematics equipment are generally declining, so this former barrier is not as important anymore. Fleets will also be putting more pressure on technology providers to offer more functionality in the future.”
Into the digital future
There are promising signs of activity and engagement with digital technology in the construction sector, but it is important to tackle the basic need of reliable and fast internet networks first.
Comms365’s Nick Sacke said, “To effectively deploy digitalisation at sites, the basic requirement of high quality, rapidly deployed, portable and reliable internet networks to support applications and collaborative processes is a must, which needs to be taken care of first, not last. Firms should work with an ecosystem of experienced and trusted providers who can supply the connectivity and IoT services required by sites. The potential rewards to firms that ‘seize the digitalisation day’ will be instantaneous.”
Running the construction sites of tomorrow
n Advances in surveying - With new photographic and geographic information systems integrated into affordable drones and unmanned-aerial-vehicle (UAV) technology, surveying accuracy and speed has been drastically improved, coupled with easier access to areas that historically were inaccessible.
n Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Augmented Reality (AR) - 5D BIM allows for a project to be fully designed in principle, before building work starts. Users can analyse the planned design in detail, as well as record and measure any potential changes to the design or scheduling, taking costs and timings into consideration. AR software can also be used to enhance the 5D model using wearable technology and mobile devices.
n Collaboration and mobility – Large scale construction projects typically take 20% longer to finish and can be up to 80% over budget with traditional methods (paper-based and manual processes). The adoption of digital-collaboration solutions is already significantly improving processes in the industry, positively impacting supply-chain orders and progress reports. Cloud-based software as a service application have risen in popularity as a result of the availability of lower cost wireless connectivity and ensures the efficiency and mobility of the construction team.
n Risk sharing and change management - Risk management remains one of the largest components that determines the final cost of any construction project. With companies starting to become part of joint ventures, where risk allocation is recognised and managed, there is a level of transparency that allows for a fair share of risk and success for all parties involved. Change management will enable organisations to have clear direction of where these new innovations will take the organisation, and what impact they will make.
Telematics and the data sharing economy
The company’s telematics solutions are designed for OEMs, rental companies, distributors and end users. In fact, its goal is to create harmony across all these stakeholders in a shared data economy, by effectively being a data broker.
A burning question for many involved in telematics, is, ‘who owns the data and who has the right to use it?’ But Hassan has a different perspective on the subject, “I don’t think the data ownership challenge really exists,” he says. “Truly, the equipment owner owns the data, that’s pretty clear in the marketplace. I think the real challenge is, can we create a community of players that is willing to actually play in sharing the data?”
Hassan says that the only way it will work is if it provides benefits for all. “If you are going to be part of the sharing community, it’s not simply about getting the data and going away, you have to be providing benefits to other constituents in the community, otherwise there is no real value in sharing.”
The data comes into ZTR’s ONE i3 cloud service platform and ZTR helps to manage the flow of data on behalf of the data owner and makes sure its securely delivered to the right players in the right form. “All the data comes into us, so we are actually able to broker that information to all the parties.”
Continental: trending in telematics
- AMP telematics standard ISO 1543 finally enables integration of third-party information
- Third party integration of services and related new business models – this is something we are currently exploring and developing thoroughly
- Over-the-Air software/firmware updates
- Remote diagnostics
- Asset management
- The ‘sunset’ of 2G and 3G
- Emission regulations in China: From mid-2023, all Chinese CV and OH fleets must send emissions near real-time via GNSS. We expect further regulations coming up that demand tracking and reporting via GNSS or mobile networks
- Position tracking is getting ever more exact with an accuracy of centimetres
- Machine automation