In December, our inboxes were inundated with newsletters and articles about the trends set to disrupt the construction industry in 2019.
Forecasts were consistent with what we’ve seen in the past: workers will use more Virtual Reality (VR), more drones will be seen across sites, and robotics will be on the rise.
These technologies will revolutionize the construction industry when widespread adoption occurs — but is it realistic to predict that this will happen in 12 months in an industry that is notoriously slow to change? Are they even solving the current problems construction is currently facing?
Bridgit’s Trends of 2019 aren’t the same unfeasible ones we’ve been seeing since 2015. Instead, our predictions are practical; we’re forecasting the adoption of easy-to-use technologies and the pursuit of initiatives that address industry problems of today.
Up first, we predict increased adoption of safety technology across construction sites.
Workplace injuries and fatalities are a significant risk for construction workers. In Ontario, critical injuries in the construction sector have been steadily increasing; in the U.S., nearly all construction workers will have at least one work-related injury in their lifetime.
To prevent workplace injury, companies are bringing more protective construction technologies to market than ever before. For developers and contractors who are responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees, this type of tech is often a worthwhile investment that is easy to adopt: items are designed to replace a piece of equipment a worker is already required to wear, making for an easy transition.
From health monitoring, temperature detection, GPS tracking, to air quality detection, we’ve selected five different technologies currently on the market — or coming to market — that provide construction workers with additional protection from head-to-toe.
1. Smart Helmets
In 2016, Daqri made national news for its Smart Helmet, which provided workers with health monitoring, thermal vision, visual data, guided work support, and other benefits — all for the price of $15,000 USD.
As of 2019, Daqri’s helmet is no longer on the market, but South Korean company POSCO is developing a replacement. Their helmet has 15 components, including a camera, lantern, gas detector, high-voltage detector, vibration motor, wireless in-ear microphone, and smart tag.
Unlike Daqri’s helmet, which focused on augmented reality, POSCO’s replacement is designed for worker protection and injury prevention, with features like a CO and O2 detector that measures harmful gas and oxygen concentration level, with an SOS button that can be activated in case of emergency.
Convincing construction workers to use or wear another piece of tech or equipment is often a challenge, so creating a product that did not disrupt workers’ daily routines was important for the team at VisionVest.
With built-in LED lighting, phone charging, and GPS location tracking, VisionVest is an upgraded version of the traditional safety vest, allowing workers to make an easy transition by simply swapping out one for the other.
The vest includes a battery pack that powers LED lights to increase visibility of workers on site, a pouch for workers to carry a water bottle, and a GPS that reports location on site, so all workers can be quickly accounted for and located in emergency situations.
Founded in 2012, SolePower’s aim was to tackle ongoing issues in the industrial workspace; to do so, the company created a self-charging shoe sole — a key component of its latest work boot.
The boot is anticipated to improve safety and efficiency in the building, construction, and oil and gas industries. While wearing it, workers are able to avoid hazards by being provided alerts when in unsafe environmental conditions. The boots also provide real-time reporting for incidents, measure use fatigue, and prevent struck-by incidents without ever having to be plugged in.
4. Cat Smartband
As one of the most easily identified brands in construction, Caterpillar is known largely for its impressive portfolio of construction equipment. Controlled by regular workers, Caterpillar’s equipment can endanger others when misused, whether intentionally or accidentally.
Identifying fatigue as a major factor in accidents involving its equipment, Caterpillar developed the Cat Smartband to monitor fatigue levels in equipment operators. The wearable band can predict when a worker’s fatigue level will create a safety risk, and can identify fatigue risks at the start of a shift.
The data collected by the arm band is downloaded into an analytics program, and aims to empower workers to manage their own fatigue while helping chronically fatigued workers to get the support they need.
5. Smart Sensors
While not meant for workers to wear, Pillar Technologies’ Smart Sensor is an innovative tool that protects the site itself from fire, water, and mold damage.
Smaller than a shoebox, sensors are mounted throughout a construction site, and can detect changes in temperature, humidity, dust, pressure, and volatile organic compounds. With automatic and immediate notification through contractors’ mobile devices, the sensors can help prevent further damage to an area, and protect workers from entering or staying in an unsafe area.
Improving worker safety will be a top priority for construction companies in 2019, and investigating tech available — or becoming available — on the market is a great place to start.
Lauren Lake is the COO and co-founder at Bridgit. She holds a degree in Civil Structural Engineering and is well-versed in construction workforce management and resource planning processes. Lauren has been named to the Forbes Manufacturing & Industry 30 Under 30 and Best Of Canada Forbes Under 30 Innovators lists. Lauren has presented at industry events and conferences, including BuiltWorlds, Canadian Construction Association, Procore Groundbreak, and more. Follow Lauren on LinkedIn and Instagram.
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