Two-Way Data Flow Technology Creates "Connected Construction Site"

Two-way data flow provides the opportunity for real-time exchange of information between machines in the field and the office, making the "connected construction site" a reality.
August 11, 2010

If you think about it, information has become the grease that lubricates the wheels of a construction project. When a design change is made to a site plan or a machine operator encounters a 2+2=5 inconsistency, both heavy equipment and worker must grind to a stop until information is exchanged between the field and office or vice versa.

A concept fast becoming reality is that of the "connected construction site." Before elaborating, let's look at the facts:

Engineering and construction have been generally separate processes.Information is traditionally paper based.Data integrity is threatened due to manual re-entry.No standardized data and position information exchange are available.High amounts of rework occur because of action being taken based on faulty information.Time delays occur when communicating information from the field to the office and then back from the office to the field.

Get ready to shatter the crystal goblet holding those facts.

The technology for enabling two-way data flow between field and office is fast becoming available to contractors engaged in site prep and roadwork. For some time, similar capability has been used on massive mining sites where the practicality of shuttling information between a dangerous site and remote office proved impractical.

Many of today's construction sites are also huge. With the availability of GPS machine control where multiple pieces of equipment can operate off the same digital site plan, the necessity for near-immediate information flow and site-plan updates is becoming crucial.

Certainly, the ability to place an entire digital construction site plan or design change on a disk, which a machine operator can download into a GPS-based machine control system, has been a tremendous advance. Yet, the compact flash card needs to get to the machine operator who could be idling somewhere on a huge site waiting for the crucial information to arrive. That all takes time, which can eat at timetables and productivity.

With the availability of two-way data, the connected construction site will experience a number of advantages.

Information, the grease that keeps a construction project going, will be easily exchanged between heavy equipment that may be out in a remote area of a site and the field or centraloffice. The physical logistics challenges of needing to visit and deliver or collect data from a job site or multiple job sites will be solved. The time for data flow between the machines doing the work and an office managing the project changes can be compressed — saving hours or even a day's worth of time.

Information-rich data logs can be maintained to show exactly where a machine's blade has been. "As-built" data can be collected to document progress and analyzed for improving project productivity.

A two-way data system generally requires no extra equipment or special hardware. Since it is not cell-phone based, spotty coverage areas are not problematic.

A two-way data system is Internet-based and taps into the user's LAN infrastructure and uses common 900 megahertz radios. Certainly, two-way data can provide the timely exchange of information needed to "lubricate" a construction site's progress. n

         
 

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