Applications of wireless sensor technologies in construction
2011-01-28T12:35:01Z (GMT) by
The construction industry is characterised by a number of problems in crucial fields such as health, safety and logistics. Since these problems affect the progress of construction projects, the construction industry has attempted to introduce the use of innovative information and communication technologies on the construction site. Specific technologies which find applicability on the construction site are wireless sensors, and especially radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. RFID tagging is a technology capable of tracking items. The technology has been applied on the construction site for various applications, such as asset tracking. There are many problems related to health, safety and logistics on the construction site which could be resolved using RFID technology. In the health and safety field, the problems which exist are the monitoring of dangerous areas on the construction site, such as large excavation areas, the collisions between workers and vehicles, between vehicles and equipment and between vehicles, the detection of hazardous substances on the construction site when the construction work has been completed and the collection of hazard notifications from specific areas of the construction site as feedback for the prevention of future accidents. In the logistics field, the tracking of a material during its delivery on the construction site, its transportation to specific subcontractors and its future utilisation as well as the monitoring of the rate of use of materials on the construction site, the checking of the sequence of steel members and the monitoring of the temperature of porous materials are issues which can be realised using RFID technology. In order to facilitate the use of RFID technology for the specific health, safety and logistics problems, a system has been developed. The operation of this system is based on the combined use of hardware and software elements. The hardware elements of the developed system are a wireless local area network, RFID readers and tags. Its software elements are a software development kit based on which, a number of graphical user interfaces have been created for the interaction of the users with the REID tags, and Notepad files which store data collected from REID tags through the graphical user interfaces. Each of the graphical user interfaces is designed in such a way so that it corresponds to the requirements of the health, safety or logistics situation in which it is used. The proposed system has been tested on a simulated construction site by a group of experts and a number of findings have been produced. Specifically, the testing of the proposed system showed that RFID technology can connect the different stages which characterise the construction supply chain. In addition, it showed the capability of the technology to be integrated with construction processes. The testing of the system also revealed the barriers and the enablers to the use of RFID technology in the construction industry. An example of such a barrier is the unwillingness of the people of the construction industry to quit traditional techniques in favour of a new technology. Enablers which enhance the use of RFID technology in the construction industry are the lack of complexity which characterises the operation of RFID tagging and the relatively low cost of RFID tags. In general, RFID technology is an innovative sensor technology which can help the construction industry through its asset tracking ability. However, further research should be done on the improvement of RFID technology on specific characteristics, such as its inability to provide location coordinates and the resilience of the electromagnetic signal emitted by the RFID reader when there are metallic objects around the reader.