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Construction Technology to Watch: Indoor Positioning Systems

By Joanna Furlong
Business.com / Technology Solutions / Last Modified: February 12, 2018
Photo credit: Frank Gaertner/Shutterstock

Indoor positioning systems stand to revolutionize the construction industry, allowing you to map projects, track equipment and workers, and more. Learn more about this emerging technology.

The idea of indoor positioning systems, the ability to locate objects and people inside a building, or quickly gather data points in a simple walk-through, offers a transformational impact on the construction industry. It also speaks to a change in mindset among construction industry workers: There's a demand for instant information and the ability to gather data points effortlessly.

"Typically, when you think of indoor positioning systems, most commonly you're referring to scanning or indoor mapping," said Todd Ellsworth, director of professional services for BuildingPoint Midwest and Gulf Coast, an authorized distribution partner for Trimble Buildings' portfolio.

How it works

Indoor positioning pulls from various technologies. Some are new, while others have been available for decades. Some technologies rely on RFID technology; others leverage beacons and Wi-Fi. Many indoor mapping or scanning services use point clouds to gather extremely precise data points. Ellsworth noted that some emerging technology related to indoor positioning can create accurate data points just from an image, which is called photogrammetry.

As with many new technologies, there are nuances with indoor positioning as you look at each provider. One challenge is that not all companies that provide positioning services think of themselves as "indoor positioning" providers explicitly. It's not a universal term in the construction industry.

For example, Redpoint Positioning speaks of its "indoor GPS solution" and leverages a real-time location system, or RTLS technology. Redpoint works indoors and outdoors, and touts its ability to fold into building information modeling with "the ability to accurately and dynamically locate people and assets in real time, from early jobsite operations through to post-construction services for building owners" on its website.

Use cases for indoor positioning

As is the case for many technologies, it's best to think in terms of use cases and function – what it is that you wish to accomplish.

"For example, I may want to create an indoor map of my facilities and confirm that my calculations for my office are correct," Ellsworth said. "It's a quality assurance method – a very fast way to gather data."

Other uses include the following:

  • Tracking equipment. Cut the time it takes to find equipment on a large, complex jobsite. Track deliveries and see equipment and supplies as they move around the job site.

  • Quality assurance. Confirm the accuracy of measurements or conditions of a space. Discover issues as they arise.

  • Layout. Remove manual measurements and quickly understand the layout of an inner room – no tape measure required.

  • Locate workers. Locating workers in the field is not just a benefit for management – it also boosts safety and reduces liability for construction firms.

  • Visibility into workflow. Gain a visual map of what your project looks like at any moment, including progress or location of workers and equipment, and see the process in action.

Many of these technologies provide additional features to enhance the usability of the information you gather. For example, some allow you to add tags or comments to bring the data to life.

As indoor positioning continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see which providers partner and integrate with other platforms as well as how it changes the overall flow of the worksite.


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