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How Big Data Will Drive Construction in the Future

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Construction is taking on one of the biggest challenges of its time with the entrance of big data. Big data is defined by three characteristics: 

  1. Volume – extremely high as in hundreds of terabytes of raw data. 
  2. Velocity – incredibly fast, sometimes millions of recordings per second.
  3. Variety – many different sources and formats that need to be sorted out.

Big data has such great volume, velocity, and variety that it can no longer be easily inputted or searched in conventional databases. Special technology is required to make it useful.

Spurred by increased connectivity and internet usage, construction is seeing a rapid increase in big data collection, which creates a challenge and an opportunity at the same time.

Smartphones, tablets, drones, wearables, sensors, and GPS systems capture a whole raft of raw data, and even more, is on the way as developments improve the use of IoT (Internet of things) technology for construction. It can be overwhelming as companies try to put this huge amount of data to work. 

Skilled project managers already know that crunching data is required to optimize cost and efficiency on the jobsite. With the ability to access more useful data than ever before, fast and functional technology solutions are essential for reaping the benefits of analytics.

Let’s look at four key benefits that arise when big data and construction work together:

1. Increased Productivity and Reduced Risk

As construction companies integrate real-time cloud-powered applications, they have an opportunity to run projects more efficiently by quickly processing and structuring large amounts of data streaming in. With mobile apps, companies can coordinate with outside stakeholders, e.g. architects, engineers, suppliers, sub-consultants. Projects flow more seamlessly and costs will be kept under control even as inevitable changes occur. In addition to increasing productivity, faster and more accurate data processing reduces the risk that results from miscommunication and disputes. Greater amounts of data, if well organized and accessible, can save companies not only money and time but the grief that ensues from mismanaged or missing documentation. 

2. Tracking and Managing Projects

Most companies have several projects happening at one time. With the advent of big data, that means information is coming in fast from multiple sources such as sensors and software used in the field and back-office. By using big data technology, firms have more information available to better track important indicators, for instance, agreed-upon milestones, budgets, and progress reports. They can more easily compare performance across multiple projects to see which teams are most efficient and where improvements can be made.

3. Better Budgeting

Big data collection in the cloud allows project managers see key data points in real-time. This information can be used to make better decisions that affect the budget and can help coordinate logistics. Big data can also be used to help manage costs, human resources, and update financials.

4. Improved Communication and Decision Making

On a construction site, there are always a lot of people, materials, and vehicles present at any time. This is true whether it is a very large construction site or a small site where there’s only room for one or two trucks.  Teams need to work together. They are often working under pressure with a tight deadline. Big data can provide insights into the history of a project to track performance and progress. The resulting analysis can help teams make better decisions on how to allocate company-wide resources.  More data and better insight into operation results in better communication and more informed decision making. 

 As companies embrace and capitalize on the flow of big data for daily use on the jobsite, they will find that they are better able to control project outcomes. Ultimately, big data in construction is all about helping companies make smart and effective improvements that lead to better efficiency and more profitability.