If you think Big Data only relates to business intelligence or online analytics, you really need to read this article.  

Data is absolutely taking over almost every sector, even the ones that you may not immediately relate data to. For instance,  construction management and civil engineering.

The construction management field and other related industries exploit big data technology to make use of the massive amount of information acquired and stored by today’s advanced computing systems. Information comes from everywhere; computers, people, sensors and any device that generates data. In the construction field, every structure that’s been erected is backed by plans that contain massive amounts of information.

Today, however, that data is complemented by an extraordinary amount of information generated by sources such as building engineering logs, construction workers, cranes, earth movers and materials logistics.

In the past, common construction software did a great job at recording static information, such as Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) schematics, employee details, expenses, invoices and project details.

Today, however, construction managers and civil engineers need the kind of answers hidden in unstructured data, such as free-form text (for example email and Word documents), printed documents and analog sensor data. Big data technology gives civil engineers the power to make use of unstructured information, which is difficult to collect and analyze manually in any useful way. In fact, all data is useless without a means of accurate verification and analysis.

Now, engineers can evaluate metrics from disparate sources such as building design concepts, environmental data, social media feedback and stakeholder objectives to determine exactly how and where to erect a structure. Engineers can also evaluate historical construction data to assess risks and avoid potential project setbacks.

The following entries highlight five ways that big data helps civil engineers successfully achieve project objectives.


Innovation 1: Enhanced Insight into Future Initiatives

Big data technology helps engineers design massive infrastructures, while avoiding normally unforeseen problems. For instance, public transportation systems are critical to the infrastructure of any modern city.

Civil engineers use big data solutions to learn how to lessen the impact that public transit has on the environment by reducing the effects of fossil fuel emissions and energy consumption.

The technology helps civil engineers and companies like Black & Veatch make use of land patterns in the most effective way possible and design Smart Cities that utilize the most effective, functional and environmentally friendly transportation routes available.

Engineers also use data to lever marketing strategies to gain better insight on expanding their business and customer outreach.


Innovation 2: Improved Analysis of Past Initiatives

Large structures can produce considerable costs. Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), for example, generated $25.2 billion in operational expenses in the year 2016, and the Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai generated $34 billion in operational expenses in 2014. Such massive infrastructures require the expertise of civil engineers for efficient design, construction and ongoing management. For ventures of large magnitude, such as the Hong Kong and Dubai airports, stakeholders will often recruit engineers with two or more decades of experience. Today’s civil engineers use big data technology to evaluate information from many sources and determine the best course of action for effective management.


Innovation 3: Refined Construction Planning, Modeling and Tracking

Construction projects require vast resources that generate a large amount of information. Big data is a natural addition to the construction industry, which has been associated with extensive computation and accounting for some time. Despite this connection, the construction field has lagged compared to other industries in fully embracing big data technology. Recently, however, construction firms have started to deploy real time, cloud-based technologies to evaluate large unstructured data sets. The technology has the potential to improve collaboration between architects, engineers and property owners.


Innovation 4: Advanced Analysis of Transportation Infrastructure

Transportation researchers are using big data technology to evaluate and analyze massive amounts of data generated by Iowa traffic systems. The specialists aim to improve traffic management and detect accidents quickly. As an example, the Center for Transportation Research and Education (CTRE) hosts the Realtime Analytics of Transportation Data Lab (REACTOR), where researchers are working on a big data system that, as its name suggests, will identify and react to traffic accidents. The researchers are aiding the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) in finding ways to make better management and operational decisions. The system collects statewide traffic data, including speed tracking, traffic volume measurements, video recordings, weather conditions and other metrics.


Innovation 5: Artificial Intelligence Blends Data to Form a Unified Knowledge base

Analysts forecast that the next industrial revolution will come in the form of artificial intelligence (AI). This applies especially for the construction industry, where civil engineers are tasked with improving project performance by reducing delivery times, environmental impact and expenses.

Artificial intelligence is the ideal tool to aid construction managers and engineers in meeting these objectives. The technology makes use of terabytes of information stored on the cloud by big-time service providers such as Google, Oracle and IBM. When big data technology produces solutions that humans cannot readily identify, AI will step in to make sure that savvy civil engineers don’t miss out on an opportunity for improvement.


Final Thoughts

Big data analytics can deliver reliable financial data, specific event alerts and complex analytics, all in real time. The technology allows civil engineers to verify and analyze information amazingly fast and avoid project pitfalls that can make the difference between success and failure. As a result, the next generation of skilled, talented civil engineers will have access to a level of information that’s never been available using traditional construction systems.




Maryville University


The Balance

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