Indoor positioning technology for the construction industry

Thursday, 08 July, 2021 | Supplied by: Avalue

Looking to reduce industrial accidents and increase precision in Taiwan’s construction industry, Avalue Technology has collaborated with the National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE) and National Taiwan University Department of Civil Engineering (NTUCE) Joint AI Research Center, Sinotech Engineering Consultants and GIPS Technology to build an indoor positioning system for the newly built National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering Extension Building.

Many construction companies today have their own plants to manufacture the building materials they require. To manufacture a wide and diverse range of building materials, however, there are many people, component parts and areas to manage, often resulting in problems such as insufficient management personnel and loss of assets.

Indoor positioning enables the administrator to locate the positions of various targets on a device, just like opening Google Maps. The administrator can manage the location and incoming/outgoing of people and assets, using an electronic fence to manage access to prevent asset loss. This increases the efficiency of plant management, reduces burden on management personnel and shortens search time while preventing loss during asset movement. Indoor positioning has been used as an auxiliary management system in the industrial domain for years; Professor Jen-Yu Han from NTUCE believes that it will also be useful for plant and warehouse management in the construction industry.

During tower crane operation on a construction site, the operator is often unable to see the target spot directly due to the vastness of the site and the height of the building, and the site supervisor cannot be dispatched to monitor the operation on site due to safety concerns, making it impossible to ensure the accuracy and assuredness of the operation. By installing an indoor positioning system in the construction area, the operator can quickly verify if there are any tagged personnel in the site through the system platform, quickening the pace of operation while avoiding safety hazards.

Furthermore, by integrating imaging technology, the safety department can use recognition function to verify if all personnel entering the worksite are wearing helmets, and to detect their facial characteristics and body temperature before they enter the worksite. When used together with the positioning system, work personnel can send notifications via their tags at any time and management personnel can monitor personnel location in real time, facilitating the management of onsite operators.

The NTUCE research team proposed the concept of using a camera drone to inspect and test construction conditions, checking if the actual construction project matches BIM (building information modelling), eg, whether the gap between steel bars and angle of the steel bars meet safety regulations. In Prof Han’s concept, positioning technology enables the camera drone to verify target location and direction. When fitted with indoor positioning tag, a camera drone can circle around each steel bar column, taking video images and transmitting them back to the server in real time for AI image recognition and matching; the positioning system can ensure that the camera is directed precisely at the absolute positions of the four corners of the steel bars. This will increase the efficiency of unmanned inspection and testing, and prevent the drone from going off course when it is flown indoors.

According to Prof Han, the development of technologies specific to the construction industry is often greatly restricted because many local construction projects only make a very low profit margin. In light of this, many companies will adopt a more conservative business model as they cannot afford losses from testing and failure, and the potential safety issues with new technologies. However, the construction industry is facing mounting pressure as inspection and laws and regulations become increasingly stringent.

As the NTUCE research team wishes to improve the current situation of the construction industry, the testing of the indoor positioning system at the centre will help to develop new applications to solve problems and meet requirements of the construction industry, and prepare for technologies needed in the future. Through this collaboration between academia and industry, Avalue not only wishes to introduce new technology to the industry but also hopes to explore more potential applications for indoor positioning, establishing a new milestone for technology.

Image credit: © Gärtner

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