Asset tracking on the construction site

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Theft costs the construction industry many millions of euros. A favorite target of thieves: expensive construction machinery and vehicles. But sometimes an employee just forgets to report to the dispatcher. Both disrupt the flow of construction projects. Industrial IoT (IIoT) offers one solution: geolocation determines the position of machines and vehicles. This is also helpful for stolen vehicles, thieves have no chance.
4 minutes Reading time
4 minutes Reading time

Theft costs the construction industry many millions of euros. A favorite target of thieves: expensive construction machinery and vehicles. But sometimes an employee just forgets to report to the dispatcher. Both disrupt the flow of construction projects. Industrial IoT (IIoT) offers one solution: geolocation determines the position of machines and vehicles. This is also helpful for stolen vehicles, thieves have no chance.

The challenge: Even large devices disappear without a trace

Where is the machine? Machines ranging from small concrete mixers to large excavators sometimes disappear on construction sites. Part of the shrinkage is easy to clear up: Employees sometimes move equipment and vehicles to another construction site without notifying headquarters. But this means that they have disappeared from the field of vision of the dispatcher and must be searched for.

But many pieces of construction equipment do not reappear. According to crime statistics, there were more than 24,000 cases of construction site theft in 2019, including the theft of nearly 400 large vehicles. This results in considerable costs: the loss of the machine itself, personnel expenses for correspondence with the police, public prosecutor’s office and insurance companies, and possibly problems with the clients. In most cases, companies have to get replacements from the machine rental company at short notice in order to fulfill their orders on time.

Measures against theft include high fences and extensive surveillance with cameras and security personnel. However, these measures are expensive and often exceed the budgets of construction companies. But companies definitely need security measures, because many machines disappear forever – the police only solve one in ten construction site thefts.

The solution: Remote location and position tracking with the IIoT

The Industrial IoT offers a straightforward and cost-effective countermeasure: asset tracking with an IIoT device. Each construction machine receives a locator box, which is placed in a hidden position inside. It uses GPS to determine the geographic location of the machine and regularly sends it to a cloud platform via mobile communications. 1NCE, a mobile communications provider for the Industrial IoT, has developed such a solution for a Hamburg-based construction company. An important requirement: The solution must function maintenance-free over a long period of time.

1NCE chose the General Track NaBi from the Hungarian company General Mechatronics. The tracker provides GPS-based geolocation, enabling automatic real-time tracking of machines. The position data is permanently transmitted to the IIoT platform 1NCE IoT Connectivity Suite. It can also determine the current ambient temperature and whether the object is being moved. This also enables geofencing: the software automatically alerts users when the tracker, and thus the vehicle, leaves the specified area of the construction site.

Communication is primarily via NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT). The power-saving mobile communications process focuses on the longevity of the batteries. For most applications, the lithium battery lasts up to five years. If a stolen machine goes out of network range, the device can transmit over other standards such as 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G or LTE-M. Connection costs are low: the 1NCE IoT Flat Rate costs just ten euros for a ten-year term, including 500 MB of data volume and 250 SMS that can be used for alerts. If the data volume runs out, it can be renewed for another 10 euros without any problems.

The result: Simple and cost-effective asset tracking

The solution from IoT mobile provider 1NCE helps determine the current location of construction machines and vehicles at the push of a button. In addition, there is an alarm function when a vehicle leaves the geo-coordinates of the construction site. Thanks to maintenance-free devices, long battery runtimes and a low-cost prepaid flat rate via the Deutsche Telekom network, asset tracking requires only a small investment. It can therefore be used by construction companies of any size.

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