According to a 2016 ABIresearch study, health and safety are the most common incentives behind wearable construction innovations. Among those innovations are eyewear, watches, motion trackers, clothing, pedometers, cameras, audible devices, and activity trackers marketed by 76 “companies to watch” at that time. That market has expanded since.
One study by Genpact Research Institute reported $593-billion is spent worldwide on digital projects every year, with most of them resulting in only half of expected benefits. It’s likely that wearable construction innovations will reap the same rewards. The June 2018 article, Wearable Construction Innovations: Where It Makes Sense, and Where It Doesn’t, points out that one of the problems with technology in general is integrating it into a business without causing negative ripple effects on productivity.
The ABIresearch study projected that wearable device shipments will reach 501 million by the year 2021. So even the staunchest resistor amongst us will be sorely tempted to try out products that promise to boost productivity and improve safety. In the 2014 TechRepublic article, Wearable Computing: 10 things you should know, wearables are expected to become central to business, healthcare and personal systems. Fitness watches are already commonplace enough that a health incentive website I subscribe to offers fitness points for syncing trackers to the website.
As this trend propels the Internet of Things (IoT) forward, it naturally has spilled over into the construction industry, which has for decades struggled with the need for more effective safety measures.
For anyone old enough to have worn a pager back in the 1990s, that’s what some sensors remind me of. They can be fitted on belts, helmets and boots and constantly collect data on the job. They can time stamp progress, track worker movements (including trips and falls) around the job site, and they can be programmed to sound an alert if someone is in an unsafe or restricted area. Sensor technology has improved significantly since first being introduced, and they are relatively inexpensive. Sensors provide valuable job insight if the business analyzes the data collected and uses it to affect positive changes on the jobsite.
Smart clothing –
Worker productivity suffers when the worker suffers. Smart clothing is primarily about worker comfort in extreme climates and includes heated jackets, cooling vests, and self-charging work boots that can track user fatigue and provide lighting. You can buy jackets with reflective heating or battery packs for keeping workers warmer in freezing conditions. There are also cooling jackets that use a fluid system or built-in fans. Smart boots can be fitted with lights and data sensors that help ensure safety compliance and worker safety in dark conditions.
Smart glasses and helmets
Eerily reminiscent of Cyborg technology, smart glasses actually make more sense than other wearable technology. They add information to what the wearer sees by superimposing data or imagery onto the field of view and can be used with mobile apps.
They can also record data the user “sees” in the form of GPS-located stuff and even photographs. Smart glasses function well for on-the-job and on-the-project training. They provide a real-time connection to workers and allow precision work using augmented reality. The use of Smart Glasses is more cost-effective on large projects. The smart helmet goes a step further by combining the typical safety requirement of head protection with smart glasses.
If your firm is going to invest in wearable construction technology, the important thing to keep in mind is that technology is only as good as the commitment to integrate it thoroughly, then put it to use properly and appropriately. That’s when the rewards in productivity and safety are most likely to be achieved.