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By John Biggs
October 29, 2018
Construction projects have a lot of moving parts. Everything from materials being hauled around, to the trucks doing the hauling, to the workers driving the trucks are frequently in motion. Multiply that by the number of active jobsites, and the sheer volume of assets needing to be kept track of soars to dizzying heights.
There are a lot of compelling reasons to implement a Real Time Location Sensing (RTLS) solution for tracking the location and other data about company resources, be they living, breathing laborers or machinery and other materials. By simply affixing a small transmitting device to people, vehicles or anything else that moves, important location information can be tracked and collected that helps companies keep their workers safe, boost productivity and locate key equipment at all times.
RTLS sensors typically use radio frequency (RF) technology to passively broadcast location data to a nearby centralized hub, which then determines the precise location of the person or piece of equipment wearing the sensor, when it arrived, how long it was there and when it departed. The transmitted data is then processed by software and interpreted visually. This kind of short-range location awareness technology is especially useful indoors or other locations where GPS isn’t reliable. It’s the same tech used by many hospitals to keep track of patients and medical equipment.
One company pioneering innovation in RTLS technology is Redpoint, which has developed a system they call “indoor GPS” leveraging Ultra-Wideband technology, which uses short radio pulses that work similarly to radar to determine location.
“Radio transmitters referred to as anchors are placed inside of the building under construction. They are affixed at known locations within the structure at modeled control points,” Redpoint explained to Spar3D. These anchors “transmit unique timing signals. Workers in the building carrying UWB receivers (or tags) receive those timing signals which then calculate a precise 3D position within the building model.”
Typically the tag-to-anchor communication is only one way, with the tags independently broadcasting directly to the anchor. But Redpoint’s tags can even communicate with each other, which makes it possible to not only instantly see the location of every tag with a smart device, but also to view historical data about every single movement the tags have ever made across an entire jobsite.
Redpoint's RTLS system also integrates with BIM models, allowing workers or supervisors to see their own precise location within a structure using a "you are here" point displayed on a BIM model in real time. This capability, according to Redpoint, “will save contractor time by automating model navigation and will reduce errors due to location misidentification.”
Monitoring jobsites for productivity the old fashioned way involved physically observing the workers to determine how productive they were being. However, this only provides a snapshot of a single day or shift, which is far too limited a sample to glean any meaningful data. Using RTLS, managers can get a much broader overview of location data, examining long-term trends or zooming in on a single day at will. This helps with project planning and scheduling because managers can actually see where their assets have been, where they’re needed and where they’re currently deployed in real time, enabling data-driven decisions in response to jobsite conditions.
RTLS systems can also be used to establish safety zones within construction sites, triggering an alert if workers or equipment wander into a dangerous area. It also monitors equipment leaving a predetermined area, giving managers a broader overview of their key asset locations and ensuring everything needed is where it needs to be. This has workflow and logistics implications but also reduces the chances for equipment misuse and the potential for liabilities, injuries and other assorted headaches that accompany it.
Real time location monitoring solutions provide site managers with deeper insights around how every moving part of the operation fits into place, whether everything is where it’s supposed to be and whether it’s performing at maximum capacity. Construction sites are by nature dynamic environments with many variables that are changing or in motion. RTLS technology is a low-impact technological solution to gather valuable, actionable data that’s collected automatically and passively with a tiny transmitter tag.
GPS Technology Keeping Construction on Track
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