Edge computing as technology for the construction site of the future

General information on the FutureSite project

FutureSite is a joint project of the Chair of Information Management in Mechanical Engineering (IMA) and the Institute for Machine Elements and System Development (IMSE) at RWTH Aachen University. A core element of the research project is the development of a communication infrastructure for automated and cooperatively interacting construction machines in real construction site scenarios. The aim is to create a reference construction site with a manufacturer-independent communication infrastructure within three years, on which innovative and future-proof construction site technologies can be developed and tested under realistic conditions.

Initial situation

In contrast to other industries, the potential of digitalisation and automation is not yet fully exploited in the construction industry. Up to now, the process chain of construction projects has been viewed in segments, and there is predominantly a high degree of complexity and heterogeneity – a linking of machine, environmental and process data has not yet taken place. Among other things, this leads to delays, increased costs, and low process reliability, which have a direct influence on productivity.

Focus of the project

The focus of the project is the development and establishment of a manufacturer-independent and modular communication infrastructure as well as the establishment of a digital process platform for data analysis and visualisation. Technologies for digitalisation, networking and automation in the construction industry are to be developed and tested here. For this reason, Welotec is actively involved as an associated project partner with the provision of modern edge computers. These enable data processing on the respective machines. Collected data can be pre-processed directly and transmitted to the digital process platform via a 4G LTE connection. Due to fanless cooling and the robust design, the edge devices are particularly suitable for use in harsh and industrial environments. Within the project, the Welotec Edge computers are used for reading out and transmitting the CAN bus as well as for transmitting geodata, such as the current position of the machine.

FutureSite Test Centre location

Due to the infrastructure already in place there, the FutureSite Test Centre will be built in a section of the Aldenhoven Test Centre. There, extensive connectivity will be ensured by means of the latest radio technologies including Galileo, GPS, 4G and 5G. Various areas are to be created on approx. 2 ha in which the different construction site process steps and cooperation between several construction machines can be tested. Areas are planned for handling and loading work, contouring work and a multifunctional area in which more complex scenarios such as road construction processes and milling work can be tested.