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Technology in construction: Deep dive discussion at O2 Blue Door Conference

Mielisa Evans, who leads the construction sector team at O2, reports on the construction industry deep dive discussion at O2’s Blue Door Conference in September.

In September we hosted our first annual O2 Blue Door Conference at the O2 Arena in Greenwich. Delegates from hundreds of organisations attended a day focused on the topics and technologies that affect the future of every UK business.

As part of the day we ran a construction industry specific ‘Deep Dive’.  With a panel that represented customers, O2 construction industry specialists, as well as industry specialist COMIT UK we covered topics that outlined the steps being taken to empower construction businesses, improve the way projects are managed and delivered, while supporting and enabling their biggest assets, their people.

Challenges and opportunities

Although the construction industry faces challenging times with new government targets for housing and build times, falling output and skills shortages, there are also plenty of reasons to feel optimistic, not least from the introduction of new technology. Drones are now routinely used for surveying and mapping, 3D printing is progressing from modelling applications to actual construction, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Intelligence (VI) are becoming embedded in project planning, project design, risk assessment and even helping on the construction site itself.

Real time data collection on site

Gavin Long, Head of IT at Van-Elle, the largest geotechnical engineering company in the UK spoke of how technology was delivering cost savings as well as enhanced efficiencies.

With three sites, 520 employees, 300 vehicles and more than 100 rigs, technology has played a significant part in moving Van-Elle’s business forward. Having developed an application that allows site-based staff to replace paper based forms with electronic ones, using rugged mobiles and tablets. By collecting and processing in real time, Van-Elle have reduced administration and sped up invoice production by an average of 5-7 days.

Technology also supports safety initiatives. Not only does the application deliver short on-site training videos in the form of ‘toolbox talks’, employees are also able to report hazards and carry out site audits electronically. Anything requiring immediate attention, as well as opportunities for site improvement, trigger the appropriate action automatically.

O2 has worked with Van-Elle for a number of years now, not only relying on us for their connectivity and communication network, but also managing a growing fleet of vehicles using O2 Smart Vehicle, a single solution for vehicle tracking, route and fuel optimisation and diagnostics.

“We have O2 Smart Vehicle installed in nearly 300 vehicles now. As well as tracking our vehicles, the system alerts us to vehicle faults and also monitors fuel use – We spend about £1m a year on diesel, so any saving that we can make is worthwhile.”

You can find out more about O2 Smart Vehicle here and Van-Elle’s story here.

Collaboration in the cloud

Ben Paddock is IT Director at Vinci Construction UK. He explained how Vinci is working to improve communication and collaboration between themselves and their clients, as well as other with organisations in the supply chain.

O2 originally worked with Vinci to procure, supply and maintain both fixed line and mobile solutions, as well as Wi-Fi across 200 regional offices and project sites. We have also helped them to move to the cloud, supporting the migration to Office 365 which has enabled Vinci teams to access data and services from any location.

Ben is excited about the future, and believes that the Internet of Things (IoT) will play an increasing role in facilities management and on construction sites. Vinci are currently working on projects to install beacons and sensors to manage and monitor site-based assets such as rigs and plant machinery.

O2 Partnerships in construction

At O2 we are committed to lending our weight to support technology in construction. That’s why we are members of COMIT (Construction Opportunities for Mobile IT), a community dedicated to improving the use of mobile technology in construction.

We also work closely with our start-up accelerator, Wayra, to nurture a number of technologies that will drive change for construction in the future. A good example is Mobilus, a hands and ear free wearable voice platform that can be retro-fitted to industry standard hard hats using bone induction technology to support better and clearer communications in the noisy environments. Another is Blue Rodin’s Basestone solution that provides an award-winning digital delivery platform designed specifically for the construction industry. Through these and other initiatives, O2 is proud to facilitate and drive change through the use of technology for the specific needs of the construction industry.

Smart solutions from O2

We have specialists who focus on specific industries. We look at what solutions will work best, and learn directly from those interactions with our customers. That leads us to supporting specific businesses via Wayra, and bringing to market solutions such as O2 Smart Vehicle. But we also specialise in compliance solutions, such as O2 Smart Compliance.  Using IoT sensors and regular hand-held devices for data collection, field workers are able to complete business-critical safety and compliance tasks, capturing and processing data in real-time. You can read how O2 Smart Compliance helps Scotrail (or view the video here) to deliver real-time records of safety and security checks, with time-sensitive prompts and tamper-proof records.

Taking a human centric view of how we can support people be their best, how is technology enabling your construction business? What technologies are you exploring and adopting? I’d love to hear from you via LinkedIn.

And this week, O2 are part of UK Construction Week in Birmingham, with our very own Sector Sales Specialist Mat Daly presenting about building a smarter, more connected future, and Vinnett Taylor, Head of IoT Sales, presenting on the groundwork required to make inter-operability and the IoT work for construction companies. See you there.



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