Patterns and trends in Internet of Things (IoT) research: future applications in the construction industry

Arka Ghosh, David John Edwards, M. Reza Hosseini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

122 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The Internet of Things (IoT) provides exciting opportunities for the construction industry to solve its time and resource constraints and frequent defaults. This study seeks to identify and rank the perceived importance level of principal research areas associated with the IoT and the construction industry by utilising a scientific mapping tool (i.e. VOSviewer). Such knowledge would enable key drivers for successful adoption of the IoT and digitisation technologies to be outlined. An analysis of key drivers and research trends that facilitates the development of a roadmap for applying the IoT and digital technologies in the construction sector is therefore much needed. Design/methodology/approach: An interpretivist philosophical lens was adopted to analyse published work as secondary data, where each publication represented a unit of analysis. A total of 417 peer-reviewed journal review articles covering the IoT within the construction domain were systematically reviewed using a mixed-methods approach, utilising qualitative-scientometric analyses techniques. Findings: The results revealed a field of study in a fledgling stage, with a limited number of experts operating somewhat in isolation and offering single-point solutions instead of taking an integrated “holistic” approach. Key publication outlets were identified and the main focus of research undertaken being in the technical areas of smart buildings, smart construction objects and environmental sustainability. The major effects of adopting the IoT within the construction industry were identified as high-speed reporting, complete process control, data explosion leading to deep data analytics, strict ethical and legal expectations. Key drivers of the IoT adoption were outlined: interoperability; data privacy and security; flexible governance structures; proper business planning and models. Practical implications: The study benefits researchers and industry practitioners alike. For researchers, the identified gaps reveal areas of high priority in future research. For construction companies, particularly small to medium-sized businesses, the study raises awareness of the latest developments and potential applicability of the IoT in the industry. For government agencies and policymakers, this study offers a point of reference in directing the adoption of the IoT smoothly in the construction sector and provides guidelines and standards for maximising the potential benefits. Originality/value: The study is the first scientometric review of the existing body of knowledge in the context of application of the IoT in the construction industry. Findings expose knowledge gaps in contemporary research, specifically, a broader consideration of organisational adjustments needed to accommodate the IoT usage, economic analyses and impediments to wider acceptance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-481
Number of pages25
JournalEngineering, Construction and Architectural Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2021


  • 5G
  • Construction
  • Digitalisation
  • Industry 4.0
  • Internet of Things
  • Scientometric analysis
  • Sensors
  • Strategic roadmap

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Building and Construction
  • General Business,Management and Accounting


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