Is the Surveying Industry Ready to Collaborate on Big Data?

Construction industry is largely dependent on surveying, but the culture of sharing data does not exist in the industry

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By Nimish Gupta

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Surveying is an important aspect of the construction industry, required in the planning and execution of most forms of construction. Conventionally, surveying has been considered as being a field of individual brilliance. Although surveyors have been very good at collecting data, a culture of sharing it has not existed.

A surveyor has always worked on his own data, either gathered through various resources or his own intrinsic sources from a project on which he has based his calculations.This has resulted in singular data resting with individuals. For this reason, whenever an individual moves on, organizations lose access to data resting with him.

Lack of collective data in an organization has so far affected its ability to take cognizant decisions, which has now changed due to the advent of technology.

The surveying profession has been slow to adopt technology. However, times have changed, and surveyors are now adept at using technology and rely on data for project completion. This has led to a decrease in the manual work which a surveyor undertakes, for instance to take measurements.

Given the fact that we need to give better predictions to accurately reflect a project's success parameters, data needs to play a bigger role. With Real Estate Regulation and Development Act (RERA) also emphasising the need of a common open platform, it is very important that surveyors align with the big data philosophy. Data and analytics are the "next industry standard'.

Construction technologies like Building Information Modelling (BIM) focus on data by storing and sharing the information needed on a project to ensure the right tendering process with the accurate amount and type of material is used for design, agreed and accepted by the parties involved. The continuing adoption of BIM has shifted the industry from being document-centric to be data-centric. It has become crucial to collate and compare data to extract timely and valuable business insights from it.

Today, looking at the complex nature of projects being executed faster than they were before with the help of technology, there is immense importance of data analysis for the purpose of creating an effective project management plan. Whether it is prediction of cost or time, every project plan has a huge amount of inherent data. What is essentially required is to use that data to create some robust predictive mechanisms for projects to derive the benefits of cost, time and quality.

The use of predictive data analytics is set to play a significant role in the sector. The ability to make decisions, based on proven historical data, indicates a paradigm shift in the nature of the business. Data enhances experience and expertise, provides transparent and streamlined information, and drives efficient work processes across a construction organization. Analyzing data available through sensors on materials and equipment to digitally track how workers interact with the site can enable companies to improve worker productivity. Examining data can show if employees are walking across the site several times in a day to obtain specific tools or materials. If confirmed, this can be changed to correct the placement of equipment, vehicles, or materials. Although such gains may seem minimal, but when repeated on a larger scale and over the life of a project, they can provide valuable efficiency improvements and significant cost savings.

Data is already being used by the construction industry in the design-build-operate life cycle and progressively defines today's construction projects. It is used to establish not only what to build but where to build it. Risks in construction are averted by putting data to use in comparing precedents and gauging probabilities to ensure success of new projects. It improves logistics and downtime on site. Data also aids in the optimal phasing of a project by ensuring effective usage of fuel which leads to lower costs, energy conservation and ecological impact.

The use of data technology when combined with modelling and estimating tools can provide customized building designs. Buyers can view designs, make changes, and calculatereal time costs. Every facet of the design tied to a cost estimate, helpsgive the company and the buyer a unique approach to a project. Data when coupled with Augmented Reality (AR), can enable a surveyor, architect, or engineer to make real-time variationsas part of preconstruction. This not only helps the customer get a complete walkthrough of the project, but automatically updates the associated cost structure in case changes are incorporated.

The surveying industry is ready to collaborate on data because it has realized its importance. Traditional companies have changed their business model to effectively utilize data. New players have createdbusiness models to derive benefit from it. They all understand the importance and relevance of data. Initially, organizations might have treated data as confidential but at present they appreciate that unless they contribute to the data bank the data analysis cannot be accurate and complete. Data as we interpret it—constantly developing in real time, and in massive quantities—can only accomplish its true potential if it is shared, accelerating collaboration and fluid decision making between organizations and businesses in the sector. Organizations which fail to pay heed to "Data' will sink, only data driven organizations will be future ready.

Nimish Gupta

FRICS (Managing Director, RICS South Asia)

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