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Transforming construction through technology

A host of innovative solutions are helping local construction firms work faster and smarter without compromising on quality and safety.

Workplace safety is a key consideration at any construction site. To help companies reduce workplace accidents and meet safety regulations, a mobile and cloud-based tool known as iSafe was developed by IDD

ON construction sites across Singapore, workers are identified and given access through the use of a security pass. Meanwhile, their time spent on the site is manually recorded. This time-consuming process not only slows down the work of businesses in the industry but also hampers their efforts to boost productivity.

To help companies become more efficient, a local solutions provider has developed a Biometric Authentication System (BAS) that leverages facial recognition technology to measure man-hours spent onsite and provide real time information on manpower utilisation.

With this system developed by Intercorp, workers will walk through a turnstile at the start of each working day and pass a contactless recognition system.

Using the data generated by BAS, companies can also make better decisions regarding manpower allocation and improve their workflow processes. Information captured can also be used for payroll within the ERP system of a business.

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One company that has adopted BAS, Teck Wee Poh Construction, is already reaping the benefits.

"It was able to generate a substantial amount of reports that are useful for our performance meetings and tool boxes meeting. I received great feedback from my HR department that the time taken to generate an accurate attendance report had reduced from two days to just five minutes," said Seow Whye Teck, a director at the company.

The BAS solution developed by Intercorp is just one of many ICT tools that are helping to improve on-site project management efforts. These solutions do not directly contribute to the construction of buildings, but rather optimise supporting processes to help a company to build better, faster and safer.

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) will be showcasing some of these solutions at BuildTech Asia 2015 as part of a broader effort to drive adoption of tech-based solutions by local companies in the construction sector.

Automating processes

Similar to BAS, a Construction Management System developed by Magicsoft enables companies to easily collect, consolidate and manage on-site data. This real-time solution improves productivity by automating manual processes such as data collection, processing, submission, approval and billing.

Users of the system can benefit from lower project costs and improved productivity, allowing them to deliver higher quality projects. This is especially critical for smaller firms with manpower constraints.

"When a company is small, there is more team work and communication. We meet for coffee carrying blueprints, documents and make calls immediately to solve issues. It can be backbreaking," said KT Lau of construction firm Magnificent Corporation, whose company has adopted the Construction Management System.

Leveraging on Internet of Things (IoT) technology, a solution developed by Trevis delivers real-time monitoring of key data from construction sites such as dust, noise and water-leaks that will help companies make better decisions.

"This enables quick, effective decision making while ensuring that efficient construction activity stays aligned within statutory regulations," said a spokesman from Trevis.

"Our system is a single solution that enables real-time monitoring and operational decision-making that will address all stages of the construction life-cycle, namely pre-construction, construction and post-construction."

The technology is cloud-based IoT that utilises smart sensors and meters communicating in real-time to a centrally hosted operational data warehouse. For instance, sensors can continuously transmit dust and noise levels and trigger automatic alerts when certain parameters are breached.

Trevis is using the BuildTech 2015 exhibition as a platform to launch this solution. Its potential customers are construction companies, building owners and regulatory authorities and government bodies, the company said.

Keeping the workplace safe

Workplace safety is a key consideration at any construction site. To help companies reduce workplace accidents and meet safety regulations, a mobile and cloud-based tool known as iSafe was developed by IDD.

iSafe automates many of the processes to meet safety requirements, cutting down on the manpower and time required without comprising standards.

Among other features, the mobile tool can replace paper-based assessments, help to ensure inspectors are qualified and authorised to carry out inspections and disseminate newly identified hazards to the industry. It also reduces the time taken to prepare quality risk assessment documents.

"With the aid of iSafe software we found our consultants are very happy, as it cut down the complexities of preparation of risk assessment which normally took over a week's time, same being done with professional quality in less than a day," said R Murugesan, managing director of workplace safety consultants Ever Safe Consultants.

Meanwhile, drone technology has also made its way to the construction sector. This exciting technology, at the heart of a solution developed by Avetics, can now be used to replace the manual inspection of buildings, which can be a tedious and potentially dangerous job.

Using remotely controlled drones mounted with high-resolution cameras, the drones are able to inspect buildings safely and quickly. Using machine-learning algorithms coupled with image recognition technology the drones can also automatically flag safety lapses and site security breaches. This could potentially change the dynamics of conducting site surveys, surveillance and safety.

With Avetics' solution, a survey of an entire work site can now be scanned to one-centimetre accuracy. Meanwhile, what used to take days using ground-based surveying can now be reduced to a few hours.

"With drones, mapping rate is 45 minutes per one-sq km at survey grade accuracy. As compared to conventional survey of one-sq km, which is 100 hectares, it will take 30 days for one survey team that is also not as detailed," said Gary Ong, CEO of GPS Lands (Singapore).