This week our posts are inspired by a webinar we watched last week called Landing Drones in the Construction Industry, run by ENR Magazine and sponsored by Procore. Although, as per the name, the webinar concentrated mostly on the use of drones (or UAVs – unarmed aerial vehicles), the content extended to the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data. A theme that was repeated often throughout the webinar was that you should consider what data you really need first, then determine what technology can be used to get that exact data.
The hosts of the webinar explained that with just a drone, companies can capture hundreds of thousands of data points in a very short span of time. Often, companies find that what they have captured is too large for any of their computers to process. They may find that the images are of a much higher resolution than what they really need. Consider this: only about 1% of the data drones gather is actually used!
Strategy First, Then Tactics
One of my all-time favorite documentaries is the Ken Burns Civil War series (revealing my status as a complete history nerd). One of the things historian Shelby Foote mentions in the series is that armies on both sides got really carried away with new guns and new weapons in general, but they did not change their battlefield strategies. This meant that men were still doing calvary charges even though weapons had been upgraded to be far more damaging at longer distances. Hopefully your stakes aren’t quite that high, but the lesson is still the same. Even though you might really want that super slick GoPro or a high-flying drone, the first thing to consider is what data you actually need. Connecting with the Internet of Things is all well and good, but if you don’t have a way to process all of that data, is it really going to do you any good?
The webinar pointed out that you need to consider more than just what information you need. You also need to consider what you are going to need to use that information for over the long run. If you need images that will be used for CAD or BIM, you need high resolution images, and a drone might be a great solution for you. If you just need to take photos for documentation, on the other hand, a drone is probably overkill.
We’ve Been Here Before
Similar conversations occurred when the Social Media revolution was just getting started. People felt an intense need to sign up for every new platform that launched, and they did. What they didn’t consider, however, was any kind of strategy. A lot of those accounts have since dried up because, as it turned out, the companies either didn’t really need to be there or there was not anybody taking charge of how to use that platform.
The stakes with technology are a little more loaded financially on the front end. You don’t want to spend $1,500 or more on something that will just attract techno-spiders in the utility closet. While there are certainly advantages to planning ahead, don’t plan five to ten years ahead where technology is concerned. Think about what you are doing over the next six months or a year. What kind of data are you going to need to gather? For whom? Why? Then get together with your IT department and see what makes the most sense. It might be a shiny new drone. It might be your iPhone camera. There’s no award for adopting early and then sitting on the sidelines.
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/erikeckel/2133261517 via Creative Commons