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How Mobile Computing and GPS tech is bringing geotagging and geofencing to the Construction industry

Written by Michael Rosen, Panasonic TOUGHBOOK Key Account Manager for Enterprise, Field Service, Maintenance in Switzerland.

How Mobile Computing and GPS technology is bringing geotagging and geofencing to the Construction industry

When we think of GPS, most people imagine the instructions their sat-nav gives them to find a destination but, in many industries such as Construction, it can deliver so much more.

GPS has its origins in the Sputnik era when scientists were able to track the satellite with shifts in its radio signal known as the "Doppler Effect." After its own experiments using satellite to track nuclear submarines, the US Department of Defence launched its first navigation system satellite in 1978.

The 24 satellite system became fully operational in 1993 and the foundation of our modern GPS was born.

Today, in combination with mobile computing, GPS technology is having a huge impact on the way we work. One sector that may surprise, is the construction industry, where there are two areas where GPS technology on a mobile computing device, such as a rugged Panasonic TOUGHBOOK, are increasingly being used.

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Geotagging for accuracy

The first is for Geotagging. From initial site surveys and design work, throughout the progress of the development and right through to the handover of the finished development, the use of geotagged photos can be invaluable in saving time and costs and improving quality.

Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to media such as a photograph or video, to help clearly identify the specific geographical location captured in the image. In the survey and design phase, geotagged photos of specific points or fixed objects at the site can be taken by individuals using a rugged mobile computing device. Information from these geotagged photos can then be incorporated into the CAD or BIM documentation for the site.

As the development continues, geotagged photos can be taken to capture the progress being made on site for reporting or as evidence to demonstrate contractual obligations are being met. In addition, geotagged photos can be very useful for recording the detail of infrastructure for future reference because it will ultimately be underground, or deep inside the walls of a building and not easily visible.

Lastly, having an ordered library record of this information is also very valuable when ultimately handing over the completed site to the client’s facility team.

All Panasonic’s rugged notebook, tablets and handheld devices with cameras can provide geotagged photos using their standard GPS systems. However, for those specialist applications, where even more sophisticated pinpoint accuracy is required, Panasonic offers an optional, integrated U-Blox professional GPS unit for use with its Window operating system devices.

Header Image source: Ekaphon maneechot/shutterstock.com

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Geofencing for security

With a reported 50% surge in construction crime rates in the UK since the coronavirus lockdown, it’s not surprising to see GPS technology being used in Geofencing as an increasingly popular method to protect mobile computing assets when onsite. The Construction Equipment Association (CEA) announced the significant increase in raids on vehicles and sites and theft of plant equipment and tools. Even prior to the COVID-19 crisis, construction site theft was an ongoing problem that blighted the industry, costing an estimated £800m per year in the UK alone. In a survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), 92% of respondents confirmed they had been affected by theft, with 21% reporting weekly site robberies.

Geofencing is a location-based service in which software uses GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi or cellular data to trigger a pre-programmed action when a mobile device exits a virtual boundary set up around a geographical location, known as a geofence. The use of GPS technology in rugged mobile computing devices can help construction companies track their expensive mobile equipment and data effectively in this manner. For example, Panasonic works with a number of software application partners to enable mobile computing asset management, including B2M, Absolute and NetMotion.

The applications can be used for a variety of applications, such as monitoring the operational health of the device, and optimising connectivity, but all have the capability to be able to track and locate the mobile computing device. If the device is stolen, it is even possible to wipe the data from the device remotely to protect sensitive information or to make the device inoperable.

So, next time you fire up your sat-nav to help you find the next location, take a moment to reflect on the wider industrial capabilities of GPS in mobile computing. We can use those satellites in space to achieve some remarkably detailed industrial applications on the ground.

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Find out more about TOUGHBOOK in different sectors on our website sector pages

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