By Christian Shelton – International cranes and specialised transport
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In the not-too-distant past the construction industry was, at times, perceived as being a ‘traditional’ industry, not commonly associated with modern information technologies. However, that’s now changed as the tools and equipment used in the construction process have experienced constant evolution over the past few decades. This development trend applies for lifting operations, where onboard electronics are enhancing safety and improving efficiency.
One area that in which this is particularly pertinent is for managing weather-related risks when operating a crane, says Lisa Cairns, commercial director at WINDCRANE. The company has developed a tower crane wind monitoring system based around a smartphone app. “Information represents value in the modern digital world, and data becomes more valuable if it can travel faster,” Cairns asserts.
“Wind perception is subjective and conditions that seem dangerous for some construction workers may be considered normal by others. In vertical construction, also consider that wind speed can change dramatically from ground level to the highest floor. A reliable assessment of wind conditions is only possible with a direct measurement and project managers can only make accurate decisions if the data is accessible in real or near to real time.”
Cairns points out that even the most accurate anemometer has limited usefulness if installed on a crane with no way to access its data. In other words, a weather monitoring system for a crane only adds value if it can provide both accuracy and connectivity. A third requirement is ruggedness, since the unit must protect sensitive electronic components while being directly exposed to the weather on a daily basis.
To decide if crane or construction site operations can be conducted safely, site managers and operators need information. That information must be gathered on-site to reflect real conditions but also be accessible from the computers, tablets and mobile phones used by the project staff.
Digital weather instruments can communicate directly with onboard electronics, allowing automatic data processing and avoiding long and repetitive calculations. When internet connectivity is added to the system, Cairns says, the processed data becomes available for project managers and personnel situated away from the construction site. In other words, the crane operator and the project managers can visualise the same data from any location in the world.
The next technological step to a cloud connected device is adding cloud storage which provides a remote data backup for the wind/weather monitoring system.
CAIRNS SAYS THIS OFFERS THREE KEY ADVANTAGES.
First, data storage is no longer limited by the memory space of onboard electronics as it can be sent to a remote site with infinite storage capacity. Second, information is safer. If data stored on a weather monitoring system is lost or temporarily unavailable, backup data can be retrieved from the cloud-based storage system. And, third, there is no need to download the accumulated data at regular intervals to free storage space, thus eliminating a repetitive and time-consuming task.
Another point Cairns makes is that as the Internet of Things (IoT) expands to construction equipment, the amount of data generated by contractors will increase exponentially. This information can be very valuable for decision-making but only with adequate management, she says. Having multiple stand-alone devices gathering large amounts of raw data is of little use, but when this data is gathered through the internet and automatically processed into a useful format, project managers can get a clear perspective of operating conditions across multiple sites within minutes.
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