Value Analysis of Wi-Fi Agent Functions In Construction

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Title: Value Analysis of Wi-Fi Agent Functions In Construction
Author: Lee, Jaeseok
Advisors: Leonhard E. Bernold, Committee Chair
William J. Rasdorf, Committee Member
Roger Woodard, Committee Member
Robert E. Young, Committee Member
Abstract: By nature, construction is an information intensive industry. However, effective communication between process units, such as laborers, equipment, tools, and management is presently hampered as each is an 'island of information.' The goal of this research project was to investigate the effectiveness of Wi-Fi agent-mediated communication in construction. In order to test and validate key components of this concept, a prototype Wi-Fi agent network was installed and tested during the construction of a new Chilled Water Plant (hereafter called 'Cates') at NC State University campus. In a preliminary study, key elements of a multi-media Wi-Fi communication network were tested to learn about functionality and interoperability. With the knowledge gained, six Wi-Fi agent systems were designed and installed. They included: 1) Two 802.11b backbones, 2) weather sensing, 3) weather warning, 4) three video monitoring, 5) interpersonal audio/video, and 6) Web/FTP. All systems functioned in time for tests during the steel erection phase of the Cates Project. While a questionnaire survey was organized to gain insights into the industry's state-of-practice, five interdependent Wi-Fi enabled agent functions were selected for experimental testing and value assessment: 1) Crane alert, 2) ubiquitous site inspection, 3) ubiquitous problem solving, 4) ubiquitous sensing and data access, and 5) e-Document management. The successful field experiment demonstrated that Wi-Fi ubiquitous networks are technically feasible and able to link the 'islands of information' selected for this study. With the data collected during the field study phase, the value of the five Wi-Fi functions was evaluated. Valuable benefits were found to include: 1) lowered crane accident risks by employing the autonomous alert agent function, 2) reduction in cost/time for travel and on-site inspection enabled by the ubiquitous site inspection function, 3) increased worker safety due to 24/7 remote monitoring, 4) decreased work interruptions and RFI processing costs through the ubiquitous problem solving function, 5) automated equipment monitoring, data logging, and documentation with the ubiquitous sensing and data access function, and 6) elimination of cost and time associated with printing and distribution of blue print drawings and specification facilitated by the e-Document management function. The presented research project validates the functionality of Wi-Fi agent communication in construction. Field study results support the overarching premise that this information technology creates a multitude of opportunities to gain significant value through improved means of communication.
Date: 2005-09-06
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Civil Engineering

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