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Practical IoT for construction and operations that’s here right now

July 19, 2021  By  Anthony Capkun

July 19, 2021 – Where does one go to “discover the innovative IoT applications in many of Canada’s newest smart developments”?

In my case, the answer came in the form of an online event called “Intelligent Buildings”, which was hosted by Alberta IoT—an association of organizations “with a vested interest in the success of the internet of things in Alberta”.

Despite the group’s stated focus on Alberta, the event provided a lot of practical IoT information for, well, anyone involved in constructing and operating the built environment in Canada—and beyond.

I was particularly keen on attending this event because of its speakers and topics, both of which suggested this would not be some kind of 30,000-ft level discussion of the greatness of IoT, but rather a down-to-earth exposé of how IoT and current technologies are being used right now to enable previously unattainable achievements in construction and operations.

Everything from energy efficiency and sustainability to ensuring a good concrete pour.

The event did not disappoint. Here are a few of the presentations that stuck with me.

Why we need intelligent buildings

Justin Hantos, EllisDon Energy & Digital Services, did a great job breaking down the rationale and the impetus behind intelligent buildings… after all, there should be a good reason for thinking about making our buildings smarter in the first place, right?

In fact, there are several.

• Occupants and guests are demanding more. They want an enhanced digital experience as they interact with their spaces.

• Energy costs continue to rise. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

• The push toward net zero through policy-driven carbon and energy reduction initiatives are changing the way spaces are built and managed.

• There is constant pressure on owners and operators to lower costs and defer capital.

Justin argued that, ultimately, dumb buildings cannot address these issues; that existing facility infrastructure is simply not equipped to enhance occupant experiences, drive down costs and increase efficiency.

So a smart building integrates numerous disparate systems—everything from HVAC and lighting to people locating and parking controls—for the benefit of everyone interacting with that space, as well as those operating (or operating in) that space.

Focusing specifically on energy efficiency, an intelligent building “leverages the centralized infrastructure and integrated systems to automate operational strategies”.


The smart building amasses data from numerous sensors, meters, equipment, etc., but also considers schedules, trends and benchmarks, utility data, space requirements, and more.

These millions of data points are crunched and optimized in the cloud, after which action plans are automatically written back to the BAS. Set points are tweaked—also automatically—so as to execute on those “operational strategies”. Building operators, meantime, always remain in control.

This process runs continuously, every minute of every day.

To make all of this work as planned, Justin spoke to the importance of someone (or more than one someone) serving as “master technology integrator”. That integrator is responsible for working with owners/operators, manufacturers, telecom providers, subs, consultants, etc., to execute on the final vision. They develop costs, manage the deployment of use cases and integrations, and enable those operational benefits.

I can only imagine the demand for these kinds of integrators in the coming days.

Sensors, insights, real dollars saved

John Boktor, PCL Construction, came on to discuss the capabilities of Job Site Insights (JSI), which is described is an IoT platform that “centralizes data from any sensor and connected asset, providing real-time monitoring, threshold alerting, and insights” to help make “data-driven business decisions”.

And the reasons for having something like this at your disposal became clear very quickly, as John launched into a few examples.

First, sensors are placed in numerous locations across the site: mechanical room, tool crib, elevators, etc. Those sensors communicate with JSI (in this case) to provide real-time conditions in those spaces. The results?

• In one large hospital project, $300K to $1 million in damages were avoided because freezing temperatures were detected in the finished auditorium.

• In a 35-storey commercial tower, water leak detection prevented what would have been a $300K replacement of fire suppression and pump room equipment.

• At a 55-storey multi-use tower, sensors for concrete maturity/strength saved 1100 hours from the planned schedule for all vertical and horizontal concrete pours and form stripping.

Now, this is not all performed single-handedly. Other vendors—CopperTree Analytics, Giatec, Rogers Communications, Struction Site, Aoms, Eddy Water Solutions—are involved and integrated with the IoT solution to bring visibility into numerous building facets.

This is not something of tomorrow, nor science fiction. This is here now.

Partnerships ahead

While reflecting on Justin’s and John’s presentations, I was reminded of a discussion I had with Frank Antonysamy, Hitachi Vantara’s chief digital solutions officer, where we agree on the folly of deploying technology for technology’s sake, and where data-driven decisions—and a focus on outcomes—should guide any digital transformation.

Furthermore, technology has to make sense. I remember another conversation where the subject of custodial staff and waste bins came up (maybe the same Alberta IoT event?). It is possible right now to add sensors to the waste bin at your desk so that, when it reaches a specified level of fullness, a custodian will be pinged to come empty it.

For this to work, one must assume the custodian is simply just hanging around, doing nothing, waiting to be pinged by tenants’ waste bins.


Finally, John’s point about the various providers that integrate with JSI echoes Frank’s own sentiment on the importance of partnerships, because digital transformation “takes a village to make it successful”.

Thank you Brenda Beckedorf and Alberta IoT—plus the numerous subject matter experts—for a truly educational event.

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