Sep 10 2014

Making sense of “Big Data” in the built environment

"Big Data" In our previous ‘Big Data’ article, we introduced the concept, looked at how huge volumes of data might be interrogated, and touched briefly on how this might affect the built environment.  “Big Data” is clearly going to be an emerging challenge for owners and operators of multiple built assets and from those looking at how these assets form part of bigger infrastructure systems.

The accelerating data challenge

However, the challenge will not grow at a constant rate; the volume of ‘Big Data’ is going to accelerate.  It is estimated that the world’s population will grow from the 7bn milestone passed in October 2011 to reach 9 billion by 2050. Increased levels of IT literacy in developing countries and the growing demand for mobile enabled technology will combine to generate high volumes of data.

An increase in population has a direct bearing on the built environment.  Growing numbers will add to the demand for shelter, food, water, electricity, transportation and other essentials. So, as built environment professionals, we will be increasingly tasked with updating and extending existing assets while also delivering completely new assets and associated infrastructure – processes that in-turn, will add to the volume of electronic data created, while the assets themselves will also be generating data.

It promises to be a potentially lucrative opportunity for organisations which can capture and make use of the data relating to their industry and their activities. In much the same way as retail was revolutionised by the advent of electronic point of sale (EPOS) and data analytics technologies, the design, construction and upkeep of the built environment is likely to be radically altered. Tim Berners-Lee, one of the originators of the Worldwide Web, has said that “if the past was document sharing, the future is data sharing”.


Making sense of ‘Big data’

The always information-intensive and once document-centric architecture, engineering and construction industry is beginning to change. The emergence of BIM, combined with the increased use of mobile devices, is placing a new emphasis on data (and more of this is structured data). Moreover:

  • Materials suppliers might assess customer acquisition patterns, customers’ buying patterns, transaction bottlenecks, raw materials prices and lead times
  • Contractors can analyse labour and materials costs, monitor the performance of subcontractors, and assess the health and safety and environmental regulatory compliance of its supply chain
  • Owners can look at the performance, at both individual and cross-project levels, of their consultants, contractors and suppliers –  identifying the efficient (and inefficient), while also troubleshooting their own processes. Drawing on data from operating their existing assets, they will also develop exacting “Owner information requirements” that tie efficient delivery of built assets to efficient future life-cycle management

Needless to say, CONJECT aims to stay at the forefront of these technologies, helping its clients to harness the power of ‘Big data’ as part of their infrastructure life-cycle management strategies.

Related blogs:

Is construction ready for “Big Data”?

Are you ready for Soft Landings?



About the author

Steve Cooper

Steve Cooper is Managing Director of Conject Ltd. He has spent over 25 years within the construction and engineering software markets, successfully running sales and marketing teams. He spent a number of years at SAP within their E&C practice, set up and managed a distribution channel in Asia Pacific for a division of Misys and ran a sales and marketing team within CSB COINS. In 2000 he gained an MBA from Henley Management College.

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