The Evolution of GPS

It seems that almost everything today has some sort of “smarts” in it. There is the smartphone, smartwatch, smart vests, smart shoes, smart cars, smart homes, and more. One piece of tech that isn’t new, but is widely used is GPS (global positioning systems).

With the exception of the smart house, most smart technology has some form of GPS. Having been around for a while, GPS is not new to the construction jobsite. However, there are new innovations coming that use GPS that will enhance the jobsite today and well into the future. The data that is gathered will change the way work is performed.

Smarter Projects

One area where GPS is being used in a multitude of applications is the smart-transportation market. The smart-transportation market is expected to grow from $72.05 billion in 2016 to $220.76 billion by 2021, at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 25.1 percent from 2016 until 2021.

The major drivers for an upsurge in demand for the smart-transportation market include rising demand of integrated security and safety for enhancing public safety and government initiative to incorporate smart technologies in the existing transportation infrastructure.

Construction companies will help build this smarter transportation infrastructure. They will also come in contact with GPS at the jobsite. There already are challenges in the industry that are requiring the use of this technology.

For instance, Kurt Nantkes, senior vice president, Zonar Systems, says, “The challenge in the industry currently is keeping up with other companies. You have to leverage the tools and technology you have to win jobs and increase your profit margins. Contractors also have to use the technology to meet regulations on a job.”

GPS can help in many ways. For instance, it can be leveraged on equipment for location tracking purposes, but it is also help address other business challenges.

Sten Kristensen, director of product management, Leica Geosystems, machine control division, says, “Some of the current challenges are project optimization and efficiency. Being able to streamline the project, connect the workflow, (and) digitizing the workflow will increase efficiency. This technology will provide workflow solutions and information to help the contractor.”

Implementation Strategies

While there are many opportunities for GPS at the jobsite, there are also some obstacles that are holding back widespread adoption of the technology.

Nantkes says one challenge is changing management’s mind. The technology only works if you have a plan to use it and integrate it into your daily job. He suggests applying the data to a construction firm’s advantage and making it actionable.

This is perhaps one of the biggest hurdles to adoption for any new technology—gaining buy-in and acceptance, as well as incorporating the tech into everyday workflow.

“As with any adoption of technology, changing habits of what you’re doing is the challenge,” Kristensen says. He adds, with GPS, it’s a different approach and method. It is hard to change habits and embrace the new technology. A lot of solutions are created to be almost exactly like the old method, but it is digital, which is faster than the old method.

Once implementation and adoption can be achieved, using GPS on the construction jobsite has many benefits for all stakeholders.

Nantkes points out that an immediate benefit is mitigating costs. The top three costs are labor, fuel, and maintenance costs. This technology helps contractors keep an eye on the fleet. It can help a contractor optimize their labor force. They can verify the plans with the data. This tech helps with fuel composition. It can also track unauthorized usage of the fleet, including reckless operation.

There are benefits to using GPS on the equipment, and today it is more than just tracking—it provides a whole new level to machine control.

Kristensen says having this type of technology—machine control technology—connects the different processes. There is more transparency on the jobsite. It is more efficient. There are cost and fuel savings. Monitoring the job gives you cost savings. The technology allows worker fatigue to be reduced, as some of the processes they once performed are taken off of their plate.

When it comes to this new approach and technology that is using GPS, contractors should be aware of a few things. For one, the explosion of solutions available on the market.

Nantkes explains, “There are more vendors coming into the telematics space. Make sure you know who you are going with. Make sure they have a good support system for their solutions; all the pieces need to work together.”

“The biggest value they need to know is with the technology, the processes get easier. The basic knowledge they have is now being guided by a digital landscape,” Kristensen adds.

After learning about the advantages of GPS, there are a few factors to keep in mind. Nantkes says it is important to know that with the new administration there is opportunity for expansion, as there are additional upcoming projects in infrastructure and roads. Contractors need to leverage the technology to win bids.

With the construction industry moving towards a digital future, integrating this type of technology at the jobsite will help contractors. GPS technology is one of the ways the construction industry will leverage more data at the jobsite in the future. As Kristensen says, “There is a need for real-time data and actionable data.” And this is available for the construction industry today.

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