In this post, we are crossing the Atlantic to look at how PCL (an American construction company) is using Power BI to leverage the power of sensor data. The Internet of Things does no longer belong to the realm of fiction. Instead, companies across industries should be thinking about how to use this development to their advantage. At PLC, it was clear that:

  • The amount of sensor data would rapidly outpace human generated data
  • Delivering timely information to the field would help human operators in the field
  • New insights could be gathered that would be a great asset to improve current operational processes

“The construction sector ranks among the least innovative of all industries, scoring just above farming “

McKinsey, Imagining Construction’s Digital Future, June 2016

Today, different types of sensors exist that can measure a multitude of parameters. In one example, we could look at flood sensors that detect water in places there shouldn’t be water (either from rain or melting ice). This would optimize the use of pumps (only bringing them in as needed). Another example would be classic temperature sensors that could alert for freezing conditions that might damage drains and water supply on open construction sites. Lastly, sensor data may also predict the right moment to poor concrete as environmental conditions and timing may have substantial impact on the strength of the final construction.

Performance in Dashboards

As you create visuals in your software (be it Power BI, Tableau or Quicksight), one of the important things to keep track of is performance. For one, too many visuals might negatively impact performance. Inversely, playing around with incremental refresh might improve performance. All things being considered, performance will be a determining factor in how responsive the dashboards are. Apart from that, looking at the performance of operators, a few key learnings of PCL were:

  • Make it easy to the end user (be a visual storyteller)
  • Provide relevant training (do not assume end-users will learn everything by themselves)
  • Build a community (both inside the company and outside the company with the tech community, Microsoft, AWS or Tableau)

Triggered by how IoT data and (related) visual storytelling can help your company? We’re here to help.