Building an IoT Practice for the Construction Industry
CONNECTED DEVICES are radically changing almost every industry. Few industries, however, are as rife with opportunity as construction. Smart buildings, smart houses, and connected infrastructure are at the foundation of the Internet of Things, and interest in them is growing rapidly.
The appeal of the IoT in construction and related industries is simple: It unlocks efficiencies, speeds projects, improves safety, and slashes costs. “The IoT is transforming construction sites,” says Rob Moyer, senior vice president of cloud services, mobility, and IoT for distributor SYNNEX Corp.
For managed service providers and systems integrators, opportunities in the construction industry are on the rise. Sensors and connected machines are increasingly used in solutions for asset tracking, remote monitoring and controls, safety and security, fleet optimization, construction systems and equipment, digital signage, and building management systems. “Additional opportunities can be found in virtual reality, virtual design and construction, unmanned aerial vehicles, and control centers,” Moyer says.
Moreover, residential and commercial builders are incorporating connected devices and smart systems into their projects. “Energy management, lighting, locks, and video are all important considerations for new construction and existing structures,” says Syed Z. Hosain, CTO and co-founder at Aeris, a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of IoT services.
Designs on ROI
Success isn’t as simple as dropping IoT components into place and expecting stellar results, however. Hosain says a starting point for working with construction firms, including commercial and home builders, is to focus on automation and systems that work together seamlessly. This requires a deep understanding of a client’s needs along with the equipment and systems, including sensors, platforms, and software.
“In the consumer space, things have to be plug-and-play. In the business space, companies have IT specialists that can address issues and usually make things work. But a solution is only as good as connectivity and its ability to work with other connected devices and systems,” he says. Connectivity, battery life, data standards, and security can make or break projects. For homes and smaller businesses, it’s critical to place systems on a platform from a major tech provider such as Apple, Amazon, or Google.
Flexibility and scalability are also critical. An IoT framework must deliver immediate results but also support other sensors, devices, software, and components in the future. For example, a hotel that’s remodeling may want to first include video capabilities that boost safety and security, but later add smart locks, smart speakers, and advanced energy management tools.
Building on Success
The good news is, there’s no shortage of opportunity. According to a report from IDC, global IoT spending is growing at an annual rate of 13.6% and is projected to reach $1.2 trillion in 2022. “The IoT market is at a turning point—projects are moving from proof of concept into commercial deployments,” noted Carrie MacGillivray, group vice president, Internet of Things and Mobility, in the report.
Hosain says it’s critical to identify high-value areas where the IoT makes a difference—with a focus on the industry and the specific business. In many cases, it’s wise to start with solutions that save money or improve productivity, adds Moyer. In the construction industry, think lighting and security, door locks, automated sprinkler controllers, and systems that automate rote tasks such as checking smoke alarm status.
And although new construction offers opportunities to install IoT devices in broader and deeper ways, channel pros shouldn’t overlook retrofitting older buildings, facilities, and structures.
Finally, remember to show IoT’s value add, Moyer advises. "One of the key barriers for end users to adopt the technology is budget, and resellers need to be prepared to address this head-on. It’s critical to demonstrate tangible ways contractors can reduce costs and improve efficiencies. The very nature of the technology is that it involves collecting enormous amounts of data, providing a ready path to an analysis that demonstrates value."
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