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Q&A: Contractors adopt IoT to lower insurance premiums (Includes interview)

The new study comes from Dodge Data & Analytics, in partnership with Triax Technologies (a provider of technology for the connected jobsite) has found that while contractors continue to struggle with construction site risks, they recognize the benefits of using IoT to mitigate them.

According to the report “Using Technology to Improve Risk Management in Construction SmartMarket Insight” nearly three-quarters of respondents believe IoT will help them control occupational risks, and about half expect it to reduce risks to the public, as well as financial risks and those related to property damage and construction defects.

To understand more about the application of IoT for construction contracts, Digital Journal spoke with Donna Laquidara-Carr, Industry Insights Research Director at Dodge Data and Analytics.

Digital Journal: What types of technologies are helping to transform construction?

Donna Laquidara-Carr: The number of different technologies currently being developed in the industry is astounding. Certainly, there is a lot of interest and engagement around wearables. In addition, though, we are seeing strong contractor interest in everything from virtual and augmented reality, to AI, to RFID tagging and Reality capture. At this point, there are so many interesting, promising technologies, that the real question is which ones will be able to capture the market effectively and deliver on greater productivity, profitability, improved safety and project quality in the future.

DJ: How mature is the construction industry in terms of digital transformation?

Laquidara-Carr: We see maturity varying widely, with some very sophisticated firms and many still lagging. The biggest challenge to their progress tends to be having the resources to select the best technologies, to invest in them, to train workers on how to use them and to capitalize the data they provide. Therefore, we see large companies typically leading in the area of digital transformation, with the rest of the industry lagging behind.

This is also the reason why we see usability as such a critical factor in the success of technology adoption: many companies can’t support major training and change management programs, so the technologies need to be able to be easily adopted with minimal commitment on the part of the company to be able to take hold in the wider industry.

DJ: What types of site risks exist with construction sites?

Laquidara-Carr: Contractors face a variety of risks onsite, including physical safety risks to workers, risks to the public and property damage. Work onsite (as opposed to the increasing amount of work being done offsite) also increases the risks they face for construction defects, which then impact schedule and financial performance.

DJ: How can IoT technology assist with addressing these risks?

Laquidara-Carr: We had an extensive conversation with executives at insurance companies and brokers on this very issue. Occupational risks can be addressed by a variety of technologies, from wearables that can detect worker falls, to biometric devices that can reveal when a worker is impaired, to AI analysis of site images that can reveal hazards. AI analysis of site images also helps address risks to the general public. Construction defects can be reduced through RFID tagging (making sure the materials/equipment spec’d is what is actually installed). And productivity data and improved safety from wearables can directly impact financial performance on a project, thus addressing the question of financial risks.

DJ: What are the leading types of connected technology?

Laquidara-Carr: One good example is smart construction equipment, which can now communicate with project design and management software to control the work being done, monitor its accuracy and track completion compared to plan nearly in real time. Another example is augmented reality headsets which show workers exactly what work needs to be completed at what’s known as “the workface”, meaning its specific location. All of this is facilitated by the growing use of the cloud to connect formerly separate pieces of information into multi-party integrated digital workflows.

DJ: Are there any cybersecurity concerns?

Laquidara-Carr: In previous studies, we’ve featured concerns about cyber security. Construction IoT technologies face many of the same issues that others across many sectors face in this area. And like many other industries, this is a challenge that needs to be addressed. Data which comes from design plans is a matter of public record anyway so the risk is low. But financial and personnel-related information needs to be secure.

DJ: Are there limitations with IoT technology that you’d like to see overcome?

Laquidara-Carr: The limit isn’t with the technology: it is with the ability of contractors to fully take advantage of it due to limited resources. The study showed that only 10% of contractors have a dedicated innovation budget, and that most are just absorbing or passing on the costs of their technology investments as part of project budgets instead of intentionally funded initiatives being managed towards established goals. This issue will slow adoption of technology in the industry, and it is something that the industry as a whole needs to consider and address. Contractors often work on tight margins, and their capital commitments are tied up in their projects, so the solution may need to come from elsewhere for this issue to be resolved.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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