There is a huge amount of data that is generated at every step of a construction project. Traditionally this data was generally collected on paper and was in an extremely unstructured form. Thus retrieving past data for reference was a task which was cumbersome and time consuming while there were also times when valuable data would get lost due to mishandling. Big Data has been the one factor which has been able to successfully solve all data woes related to the construction industry. In fact this industry is only just waking up to the benefits of data sharing in real-time, predictive analysis and Big Data.
Today, with the digitisation of the construction industry, collection of data has increased manifold since smartphones, wearables, GPS, telematics, drones, jobsite sensors etc., are working throughout the day to gather data. Organisation of this innumerable amount of data in a structured manner and then storing them can seem overwhelming and pose quite a challenge for the construction industry.
What is Big Data
Simply speaking Big Data refers to all information that can be converted into binary form for facilitating easier processing by laptops and computers. This Big Data is generally used to:
- Predict market trends,
- Understand customer preference and
- Optimise business processes.
Uses of Big Data in construction
Specifically speaking, Big Data helps to gain better insights thereby facilitating better decision making by significantly assessing more data and analysing them properly to ensure practical construction project conclusions. Some important ways in which Big Data helps benefit the construction industry are:
Designing: Construction project built on the right space using the right design and correct tools ensures success like nothing else. But in order to start designing for the project, historical data needs to be assessed and analysed so that patterns and design probabilities can be looked into and pitfalls can be avoided.
Building: The speed of the construction and its successful completion depends on certain external factors like:
- Weather conditions,
- Community activities,
- Traffic on the roads,
- Business undertakings etc.
- A thorough knowledge of these factors enables project heads to decide on the optimal phasing and proper utilisation of construction activities. Sensor inputs obtained from drones and other means of artificial intelligence help determine the best mix of activity and idle time. This in-turn enables construction companies to:
- Decide which equipments to buy and which to lease,
- Enable better utilisation of fuel and energy,
- Lower every day running costs and
- Keep a check on the ecological impact.
- In fact equipment geolocation enables project workers to keep a tab on the location of their equipments and vehicles, ensures the availability of spare parts in case of technical faults thereby reducing downtime to a great extent.
Operation: Sensors present on the jobsite enables construction project managers and heads to monitor the construction website thoroughly. In fact Big Data from them can also be analysed to check for possible violation of rules and regulations thereby ensuring their conformity to the sanctioned plan. In fact Big Data collected can also be fed into systems involved in BIM or building information modelling to enable proper scheduling of maintenance activities.
Big Data trends in construction
Thus Big Data can be said to help make a construction worksite more digitised and accurate by:
- Keeping a track of even the remotest of areas in the construction project,
- Making better estimates with regards to the cost estimation, scheduling and planning,
- Lowering construction project risks by checking for the viability of the design with the help of project worksite design simulation,
- Proper analysis of Big Data also facilitates proper utilisation of manpower etc.
The ability of Big Data to make the right decision at the right time ensures that the construction industry grows at a faster rate with better output.
There have been several technological advances in the field of construction like:
- Individual effort to team management,
- Paper intensive chaotic management to the introduction of project management software,
- From personal meetings to virtual room meetings,
- Paper plan blueprint has given way to BIMs.
All these technological advances have been assisted and at times also hastened with the application of information stored in Bid Data. Thus use of Big Data in the construction industry is there to stay and ensure the development of the industry as a whole.