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Insights How the IoT is shaping modern engineering

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR or Industry 4.0) describes the digital transformation that we are currently experiencing, which blurs the boundaries between the physical, digital and biological worlds. This includes the emergence of technologies that have become even more accessible and less costly in the last few years.

According to PwC , there are eight essential technologies that matter most for business today: artificial intelligence, augmented reality, Blockchain, drones, the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality and 3D printing. These technologies are creating opportunities for sustainability, growth, productivity, and efficiency in the built environment, and the economy relies upon their output.

graphic of a crane constructing a bridge

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things refers to the global network of ‘smart’ physical objects, or ‘things’, which constantly collect and share data across the internet. Essentially, any device which connects to the internet and other devices and can be turned on or off is part of the IoT. A commonly used IoT device is a Google smart home that uses voice control or a smart plug from which you can turn on/off devices from a mobile phone.

McKinsey state that around 25% of businesses were using IoT technologies in 2019, up from 13% in 2014, and this is only set to increase. The IoT enables accessibility by integrating data from different devices and shares the most valuable information which can be used to detect problems and solutions before they occur. The World Economic Forum (WEF), in their State of the Connected World report, state that by 2025, 41.6 billion devices will be capturing data on how we live, work and move through the world, and operate on machines we depend on.

How is the IoT shaping the future of engineering?

As an emerging innovation, the IoT offers huge advantages as it enables designers and engineers to gather new insights into the inner workings of infrastructure, machines, and much more. By constantly collecting data, the IoT provides transparency on-site and encourages innovative thinking, which leads to the creation of efficiencies, reduction of waste, and increased safety on construction and engineering projects. Collecting and combining data sets significantly increases insights in performance.

With the growing and ageing population, and the need to drive sustainability, the construction market faces both opportunities and challenges. However, when used right, the IoT can help to mitigate these challenges as it revolutionises the industry. We are increasingly seeing the use of modular construction because of its vast sustainable benefits and by combining this with IoT technologies, there is an even bigger opportunity to advance sustainable development in construction. For example, IoT devices can be integrated in the manufacturing process of building materials, to monitor the process and optimise where necessary. This reduces waste and the likelihood of delays or mistakes made on site.

With every passing year, construction planning brings a whole new meaning to the word innovation. In response to the growing complexity of projects - impacted by circumstance such as COVID-19 and extreme, unpredictable weather - Digiteum state that the IoT can improve the precision of time estimates, allowing engineers to have more confidence in planning and delivering projects. The IoT is transforming engineering by facilitating the creation, collation and exchange of shared models and corresponding structured data. This data, when used in BIM, can be shared with the client, team, and all other stakeholders to understand insights visually. It also plays a key role in waste management, health, and safety, reducing project costs whilst facilitating quicker decision-making. Another core feature of BIM is avoiding the loss of information

We are frequently seeing large site machinery such as excavators being fitted with sensors to enable remote work on projects, thus ensuring operations are safer and more efficient. Equipment such as Hyundai’s monitoring system facilitates engineers to track machinery and tools more easily and gives them a view of the whole worksite, so safety, productivity and efficiency can be managed. Many engineers are also using IoT devices to access and view live drawings and other important documents on-site, which is especially helpful on large projects, such as Heathrow Airport.

Seize the chance to develop your technical skills with AtkinsRéalis

At AtkinsRéalis , we’re building towards a digital and sustainable future, and we’re excited about the possibilities it will bring.

Are you looking for a new and exciting opportunity where you can be creative and use ground-breaking technologies? We’re looking for innovative engineers who can help us deliver our global portfolio of projects sustainably by utilising the newest digital technologies.

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