The KEKO consortium, made up of KONE, Nokia, YIT, Caverion, Halton, VTT and Netox, is seeking business models and concepts they can use to create value with data fusion of different construction phase data, to benefit smart building designers, builders, and users. We interviewed Janne Öfversten, Senior Technology Manager at KONE, about where data solutions are most needed in the construction phase.
Creating the world’s first smart building ecosystem and platform covering the whole building life cycle, is no small order. The seven companies that make up the KEKO consortium all specialize in a piece of the puzzle needed.
“KEKO has built their platform to be a place where different data can be harmonized into a compatible format, so data from different sources can be connected and analyzed to create something more valuable, than just the original data by itself,” Öfversten explains.
What makes this platform unique is the focus on buildings and their entire life cycles. To support this goal, data fusion is a major part of the KEKO platform’s purpose. Öfversten gives the example of KONE elevator usage data at a construction site.
“When this data is combined with all the logistics data throughout the value chain it can be used to optimize flow of the site, multiplying its value,” he says.
Here is where startups working on data solutions can fill one of KEKO’s business needs. Based on their ideas or use cases, new value can be brought to the existing data. Öfversten also reminds that this is not a call for new sensor technology, but rather integration solutions and new business models or use cases for their data.
“In case of material logistics, for example, it would make sense to integrate availability and shipping information,” he says, when asked about further examples of what kind of data is available. “This information from suppliers would improve predictability and give more time for projects to react to possible problems, without installing new sensors anywhere.”
Data for Building Sustainability
Further use cases can be based on construction phase data that is utilized in a building’s later lifecycle. Knowing the building methods, materials, and weather conditions during construction can become valuable data points, if used correctly.
“[Building] owners can feel secure about their investment and users are reassured of the healthy living and working environment,” Öfversten says. “Knowing this makes renovation work safer too. Ultimately, the building lasts longer as it is more adaptable to the users’ needs.”
All this information has broader implications in regard to sustainability aims. Data does not equal sustainability by itself, but can be used to improve construction quality, leading to a more energy efficient and less wasteful building. Learning from previous construction projects can be fed into new projects too, so future construction benefits from ongoing projects today.
“Sustainability is one of the key drivers for KEKO,” Öfversten says. “It needs to be part of everything we do.”
Construction Site Navigation and Other Data Fusion Solutions
So the data is available and KEKO has the tools to process it, but where is it most needed during the construction phase? Many smart building solutions exist for building users in completed buildings. Some of them could work at a construction site too. When asked about where digital tools could be most useful, Öfversten has a clear example in mind.
“There has been a lot of thought on tracking materials and people indoors and how to make navigation inside big buildings easier,” he says. “Workers need these solutions at the construction site too.”
In fact, navigation can be further challenging for workers, because routes can change daily. As new walls are put up, or new obstructions arise from materials being unloaded, workers lose a lot of time finding their way through the site.
Research indicates that as little as 34% of construction workers’ working time is spent on productive work. Most of the time is spent searching, moving, and waiting. Any solution that can help reduce this wasted time would be one of KEKO consortium’s business interests.
Another challenge is making navigation and information accessible at a busy site. Mobile devices are widely used by construction workers as part of their work. However, when wearing heavy construction gear or carrying tools and materials, one’s hands are not free to operate a smartphone, not to mention a touch screen. This is another trend spotted among today’s smart building solutions: the information needs to leave the devices and enter the space it concerns.
“Figuring out the right user interface for this is crucial,” Öfversten says. “Could it be done with large screens at the site or another ‘smarter’ solution?”
Making the Most of Handover Phases
The construction industry is one of the least digitized out there. Moreover, some fields involved in the lifecycle of a building are further along the scale than others. An example is architecture and civil engineering. Design tools are already highly collaborative and taking advantage of the latest technology. There are issues in pushing the same transformation into other parts of the value chain.
“The largest ongoing transformation is building information modeling (BIM),” Öfversten says. “Anyone can see 3D images of the plans and the changes to them in real-time. This is actually driving digitalization of actual construction sites too.”
Nevertheless, handover phases between stages of work can be challenging. For example, when designers send their plans to the builders, they might have to adjust them if the building team discovers there is an issue in making a certain aspect of the plans happen.
“All handover phases in the building lifecycle are challenging,” Öfversten continues. “A good solution for smooth handovers are in need: how the information is passed on from one team to the next, what kind of interaction is in between the phases, and so forth.”
Gathering All Stakeholders
Creating a digital twin of a building is a piece in the puzzle to effectively utilize data during and after the construction phase. The KEKO platform is designed to store data and analyze it.
“The KEKO platform is very flexible, as we are still in the experimentation phase,” Öfversten says. “With it, we can build new prototype APIs in minutes. Startups are in a great position to provide us with information on what these APIs should look like based on their use cases and business needs.”
The platform also helps to visualize the data for all stakeholders to see to help them work together. The KEKO philosophy is that a single organization or expert can’t solve the challenges in smart buildings alone. For this reason, KEKO is creating the smart building ecosystem.
“In many cases, KEKO will be an enabler for new ecosystem members to build their solutions and make them accessible to customers,” Öfversten continues. “We are constantly shaping our platform and the APIs as we co-create new solutions.”
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