Next Steps for Construction
I recently asked Microsoft's Sam George, Corporate VP of Azure IoT (Internet of Things) to take a deeper dive into the future of the IoT and sustainability. As part of that discussion a very important question came up that every construction professional needs to consider for themselves and their companies. Once we get past the COVID-19 pandemic-because at some point we will-how do we start to think about getting back to some kind of normalcy? The answer lies in the ways in which we tap into technology.
"IoT enables visibility into things that were not visible before. Physical environments, workplaces, construction sites, factories, entire environments-and that can be a really powerful thing, especially in this day and age where that visibility becomes very, very important and the way that that visibility is playing out, certainly in sustainability," explains George.
He points to one example on its own campus where in the last couple of years where Microsoft has been able to reduce its annual energy consumption while also growing its employee base simply because it has IoT solutions connected to its building-management systems, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), and lighting. He proudly states, this enables the Redmond., Wash.-based firm to provide better workplaces for its employees, reduce the amount of energy that's being used, and contribute to its own sustainability goals.
During the pandemic so much in the tech space has been focused on helping companies go remote and enabling those remote workers to do their jobs. However, going forward, there might be an even bigger takeaway for businesses. George believes businesses are going to begin to realize that the IoT will be an important tool in their toolbox to really help them with everything from making better use of their resources to finding ways to reduce energy consumption and natural resource usage.
"As you and I have talked about in the past, we see a predictable journey in IoT, which No. 1 is connecting and monitoring something that you didn't have visibility into before," he says. "And so there's this first phase of connecting and monitoring to things-and that could be high value assets that could be your first line employees or that could be how your products are being used by your customers. The next stage is to take that insight and that data, as you astutely point out, and use that as a tool to gain insights into something that before wasn't visible to you."
Naturally that leads to more questions about what to monitor, which leads to more insights. Microsoft calls that loop a digital feedback loop, which is to gain insights that leads to new solutions, which provide even more insights.
For a company looking to get started, George says the first thing is to take something that's really core to your business and simply monitor and analyze-and then later transform the business. Some examples of this could be the efficiency of your jobsite or the energy efficiency of your buildings.
"The most important thing is to start small and work incrementally," he says. "We see this again and again. The companies that do this really will take a high value yet relatively straightforward item to connect or something in their business to connect, find insight from that, and drive real business results." That will then give companies the confidence to move on to that next turn in the digital feedback loop.
For companies looking to take this leap into the Internet of Things today, George is joining the lineup of speakers at the annual Constructech Technology Days Conference, which will take place on August 19 - 20, in Chicago, IL. At the event, I will sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with George to discuss how to inspire the construction industry with technology. This conversation uncovers what comes next with technology.
George will also present during a session that looks to the "Technology of Tomorrow." Looking ahead, with a futuristic prediction about what is yet to come, this session will give a peak to the future of technology and will identify what needs to happen today in order for the construction industry to get there.
New technologies are coming fast and furious to an industry that is in need of new methods and processes to heighten efficiencies and create sustainability, amid a labor crisis. Will these new technologies be the solution to bring construction into a new era of innovation?
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