Cib 2004 conference:wednesday morningΒΆ

Tags: aec

Day number three. Like yesterday, I only visited the w78 track (called T6S7 on the conference). Read on for the talks. Michael Ward (Loughborough uni): wireless networks for data capture in construction

In the organisation called the Stent Foundation they primarily focus on collecting site data for the contractor. But other parties can also get the information.

Some problems that needed tackling:

  • Normally they are on some 20 sites at the same time. How to get the data back to the headquarters?
  • What hardware and software to use? PDA's seem good, but there are no real rugged devices. And most run windows CE and you don't want to rewrite your software for every new version.

They developed, for pile driving data, the Stent Handheld ElectRonic Piling Assistant (SHERPA, an Indian bearer):

  • Tablet computer, no PDA. Tablet computers can be had in rugged versions, but mostly because of the bigger screen.
  • A central database at the head office, so no data storage requirements on-site.
  • Wireless network on the site to link it all together.

At the site they use a couple of wireless access points, mostly placed on high points like the cranes and the pile driving machines.

At the server side, they use Mysql (database), apache (webserver) and php (web template language), so that they can send plain html to the client. On the client therefore only a web browser is needed. That takes care of the future proofing of the system! The server side (mysql, apache, php) is all open source software, so that doesn't cost any money. And it saves a few microsoft licences per site. The fact that they use just a web browser at the client also means a low Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), as no costly updates are needed.

On the serverside, they can generate reports, images. And all customised.

Applicability to the wider industry

You need only one wireless network on a construction site. So you can cooperate with multiple partners. Just sending some html won't let the network break a sweat.

The option is to just share the network with other applications, or to also share the central database. Perhaps even some XML standardisation is in order.

Some issues remain, like splitting the costs for the network.

[A personal comment: I'd love to see them export their data as XML, not just as html pages. Who knows what the contractor can and will do if he can give his one savvy programmer access to that data? Some integration with the internal reporting system perhaps? Or automatic posting of some core statistics to their internal message board? Spontaneous integration!]

Ron McCaffer (Loughborough uni): overcoming legal barriers to ict uptake in collaborative working

The research was pretty much based on the eLegal project. (Imagine someone saying to a Brittish customs officer "why am I here? For the illegal project". Took him 20 minutes to explain.)

In big projects, only a few lines of IT communication are covered by formal contracts, but there are a lot more that are not covered.

One of the problems is that it's technologically fine to store things digitally, but you also need legal storage: a paper-based filing cabinet with real signatures on real paper.

They made a nice, big XML-based set of contract clauses which you could use by means of a contract wizard. The aim was to have an eLegal ict contract for all partners. Which you could negotiate and create on-line.

He showed a short list of EU projects which were scored on attention for contract/legal aspects. eLegal was at the top with 22 points, but the perfect project would get 32 points, so they themselves also had work to do. By the way, eConstruct was at the bottom (I worked on eConstruct :-)

On the question how they got a lawyer firm into the project (which would be killing part of his possible income): there's more than enough work in the construction industry to keep every lawyer busy even if half the work drops off. And their lawyer was convinced of the future of tech advancements like this and supported it. ("And some lawyers are moral").

They're just at the point of pushing it into the practice.

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My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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