3 Ways to Track Construction Assets Using Ultra-Wideband
Ultra-wideband technology is not new, but people are now testing how to use it on construction sites. What are the best ways to use it?
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Ultra-wideband (UWB) technology uses high-frequency radio waves and operates across a broad portion of the spectrum. Although some of its earliest uses relate to the military, people are increasingly interested in using it for asset tracking in construction. That allows them to scan a large target area and quickly pinpoint an item’s precise location. Here are some eye-opening reasons to consider using UWB tracking for better construction site visibility.
1. Deploy the Technology on a Busy Site
Construction site decision-makers have an ongoing need for outdoor asset tracking. Such solutions should ideally be wireless since wires can pose tripping and other safety hazards.
Researchers investigated an option on a heavily congested construction site involving building reconstruction in the downtown area of Vancouver, Canada. One of the team’s primary goals was to design a practical and user-friendly system. The people involved also wanted to test it in a real-life setting. They knew that deployment on an actual construction site would reveal limitations while simultaneously giving information that would lead to future improvements.
Part of this implementation involved wired sensor panels. Each contained a UWB sensor, its associated wireless bridge and a cable container box attached to a fiberglass sheet. The researchers attached the UWB sensors to the respective pieces of construction equipment using magnets and heavy-duty duct tape. They theorized such an approach would withstand the harsh environment without risking the sensors detaching from the assets.
The researchers used UWB tracking for an excavator when the machine was operational and outside the construction site’s work hours. The tests and corresponding results showed significant potential for future efforts but revealed some limitations. For example, large metallic objects near the sensors make the associated data noisy.
However, the team also learned valuable things that could contribute to the success of future projects. Using more sensors per piece of equipment increased location accuracy, and thorough site surveys were essential for system calibration. Takeaways like this can also assist people who want to do similar work centered on asset tracking in construction and use the results of this study as a jumping-off point.
2. Use UWB Tracking for Drones
Statistics indicate that nine in 10 construction projects exceed their budgets. Many companies use software to reduce the chances of that happening, which does help. However, it’s important to investigate how improved asset tracking could keep expenses within or under budget.
In one construction project for a cable tunnel, people relied on UWB tracking to obtain data about a drone’s position and help it navigate during the building and inspection phases. Research in this area has found that combining depth cameras and ultra-wideband technology can allow drones to efficiently navigate places that are too time-intensive or otherwise challenging for humans.
The researchers behind this project built algorithms to increase the accuracy of drones navigating the tunnel. They discovered that differential positioning improved the drone’s accuracy within the space, giving people the correct details about real-time locations.
Another highlight of the research paper was that cable tunnel construction projects are increasingly popular, particularly for urban power transmission needs. However, the conventional method of verifying the cables work as expected is having people enter the tunnels using specialized detection equipment. That takes a while and has a high error rate. Drones are more efficient and accurate.
The main downside is that they often fly further than people can visually track, especially when working in particularly long tunnels. Using automatic navigation is possible if the vehicles pass close enough to the cable for adequate inspection but avoid colliding with the tunnel’s boundaries. The outcomes of this study will likely become even more relevant as people use drones during tunnel construction more often.
3. Install UWB for Improved Worker Safety
The people exploring asset tracking in construction often focus on physical items, such as tools or large pieces of equipment. Those are valid applications, but they also overlook how humans are valuable assets. Construction projects would never finish on time if those managing the work continually lacked sufficient labor resources.
In one example, researchers explored the feasibility of UWB tracking for construction workers. They examined a commercially available system to see how well it would suit their expectations and needs. One priority was to see whether the ultra-wideband technology could support worker safety as well as location-based tracking.
The researchers moved beyond typical location information to get data about workers and equipment moving loads. They also set up three areas for experimenting. Two were real-world settings and one was a controlled environment.
One experiment involved using UWB tracking to ensure a worker stayed a safe distance from a moving crane hoisting a load. When the individual heard audible feedback to warn them of being too close, they stepped away and maintained more distance.
The researchers also used this asset tracking in construction to time the average material delivery cycles at the site. They believed that could keep workers safer by preventing them from being hit by moving equipment or loads while on the ground.
Results from the experiments indicated the researchers’ chosen UWB system could reliably track construction equipment and people, expanding the potential ways to use such technology. The team clarified that this ultra-wideband gave valuable space-time data, as well as details about locations for specific pieces of equipment. They suggested this work could encourage more people to explore such possibilities to make construction sites safer.
How Will You Use Asset Tracking in Construction?
These three examples detail some fascinating ways to rely on ultra-wideband technology in construction. Use them to spark your thought process about how you might develop similar options or deploy UWB in applications not explored here.
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