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Application fields and relevance of mobile applications in the construction industry

In the recent decades, mobile communications have gained a lot of importance, not only in the private sector, but also in the industry. Mobile applications allow for data acquisition, digitization, and automation of industrial processes. In the past few weeks, we have already occupied ourselves with general application areas in the Industry 4.0 and specific case studies from the energy industry. In this article, we want to take a closer look at the construction industry and discuss the relevance of mobile applications in this particular industry, as well as several specific case studies.

In the recent decades, mobile communications have gained a lot of importance, not only in the private sector, but also in the industry. Mobile applications allow for data acquisition, digitization, and automation of industrial processes. In the past few weeks, we have already occupied ourselves with general application areas in the Industry 4.0 and specific case studies from the energy industry. In this article, we want to take a closer look at the construction industry and discuss the relevance of mobile applications in this particular industry, as well as several specific case studies.

So far, the digitization process in the construction industry has progressed only at a slow pace. Among other things, this could be due to the good order situation and, consequently, the high workload of the companies: there is no time to plan and implement digitization projects. This is the reason why more efficient processes were necessary: according to a study by McKinsey, constructors spend on average up to 70% of their working time not on actual construction tasks, but on transport, procurement of materials and construction-related activities. Mobile-based, digitized and automated processes could offer enormous advantages here, with the potential to support the necessary increase in efficiency, speed up the implementation of construction projects, and reduce overall costs.

Application example:Video surveillance of the construction site

A comparatively simple application of mobile communications in the construction industry is the video monitoring via smart systems. Now, these are mostly used on construction sites. Monitoring systems not only control the construction progress, but also prevent theft and the like.

Camera systems, which are connected to the Internet of Things, allow for buildings to be monitored around-the-clock. The resulting recordings can be automatically transmitted to the provider of the security systems via mobile radio, and then stored on their servers. A real-time transmission, which all users can access at any time via their smartphone or tablet, is also possible using the wireless technology. The restricted access, for which access data is required, guarantees the necessary security.

The control of the monitoring system is also possible via mobile communications. Networking the cameras with smart image processing systems also allows for a direct assessment of the collected data. Conspicuous behavior or special events are detected independently and in real time, and the security control center can be automatically alerted, if necessary. Thanks to the mobile communications, the seamless monitoring of all construction sites is technically possible.

Application example: monitoring and networking of construction machinery

The development and spread of smart construction machinery is currently on the rise. Such machines can be connected to each other or to company headquarters, monitoring or control elements via the Internet of Things.

GPS applications are often used here in particular: networked via mobile communications, devices, materials and machines can be monitored remotely. Even simple applications can be used to determine positions in real time, transmit travel speeds and routes, and thus determine the use of the respective device. This allows for a predictive maintenance of the machinery, and an energy-optimized use of the respective fleet.

Mobile communications not only allow machines to communicate with one another, but they also make it easier for people to control heavy-construction machinery. To this purpose, many producers are developing smart driver cabins, which are equipped with a central control display. Devices such as ultrasonic and video sensors can carry out a precise monitoring of the environment, thus increasing safety in a workplace. Smart systems allow for the comprehensive integration of such assistance applications. Thus, tasks can be partially automated. The driver cabin functions as a central interface, allowing all data to be retrieved and processed to be coordinated, with a mere tap of the finger on the display.

Robots can also be used on construction sites: they can transport materials and devices to where they are required. This allows workers to focus on essential construction tasks. Time and physical labor, as well as money, can be saved as a result.

Application example: Survey work

Surveying is another area of work where the networked construction machinery makes the digitization process possible. Such smart surveying works represent a prime example for the efficiency increase, which is so desperately needed, especially in the construction industry.

Traditional surveys, where a team of specialists goes from one project to the other, are very costly and time-consuming. However, the ongoing documentation of the construction progress is important when it comes to maintaining the project schedule and budget. For this reason, more efficient processes could have a positive influence when it comes to the surveying of the entire construction process.

Various companies are currently developing innovative methods for the construction site documentation, where smartphones and mobile communications play a significant role. Such surveying processes are not only uncomplicated and quick to carry out, but also very precise: through the use of GPS applications, which are integrated in smart construction machinery, the coordinated of survey points are identified with precision. These so-called „control points“ will be transmitted via mobile communications directly to the surveying centers. Site workers then use their smartphones to record videos of the respective areas, which are also transmitted to the survey center. The collected data can be processed into accurate 3D models of the construction site using specially-developed software. In turn, these models are transmitted – again via mobile radio – to the site manager, who can then check the correctness of the construction-related activities.

The whole process can be completed within a very short period of time, sometimes in even less than an hour. Other automation processes, based on the survey results, would also be possible: thanks to the M2M communication and construction machines, which are connected to the Internet of Things, the 3D plan of the construction project could, for example, be transmitted to the control element of an excavator, which could then automatically plan the next work-related steps. The entire construction site documentation can be shared with customers as well. Thanks to the use of mobile applications, both time and costs are saved, and the collaboration process is facilitated.

Are you planning on installing new devices for mobile communications (2G/3G/4G/5G/LoRaWAN, wM-BUS/LTE-M/NB-IoT) or do you want to upgrade your existing infrastructure to the new standards? Our network testers for mobile communications can be of help! Feel free to visit our online shop, write us an e-mail in case of further questions, or call us at +49 40 35 73 20 65 !