Wearable technology is an exciting field of innovation in the building and construction industry. The name of the game is to improve safety, productivity and budget, all by empowering workers with unobtrusive devices worn at the body.
Below we outline what wearable technology is, some innovations currently available and how it can cut construction costs and improve safety.
Wearable technology is the addition of new capabilities for workers to be able to do their jobs more efficiently and in a safer environment. And because most of the developments are focused on common items worn daily, such as hardhats, shoes, watches, safety vests and glasses, wearable technology is designed to easily adapt to everyday use.
Safety is vital in the building and construction industry because the risk of serious injury or death is very real. And that’s what wearable technology is all about – minimising risk. And the safer the workplace, the bigger financial return. Not only is there a major concern of having to pay out compensation on building sites, if workers don’t feel safe, then they can’t work to their best standard.
Further, many of these technologies focus on improving the speed that jobs can get done. This greatly increases productivity, and with it, budget. And while not all wearable technology has been directly designed for use in construction, the implications of good products are far-reaching. Often only minor adjustments are needed for use in a new industry.
It’s unsurprising, then, that the field of wearable technology is growing substantially. According to analyst Bernard Marr, the wearable industry is expected to hit $3 billion this year and $4 billion by 2017, with another 39% increase predicted for 2019.
Let’s now look at four examples and explain how they can cut costs by minimising risk and increasing productivity.
1. Hardhat – The humble hardhat hadn’t changed a whole lot in the last 100 years before manufacturer DAQRI came along. Their smart hardhat features a virtual visor which displays work instructions and what needs to be done to the objects in its vision. This 4D workspace manages to dramatically reduce training time and helps workers focus on the task at hand, as well as assisting in awareness of risks. It can also be set up in conjunction with 360 degree cameras, 3D mapping and alphanumeric capture, which means it has enormous potential to improve any work environment.
2. Safety vests – Safety vests play an important role on building sites. However, now technology is being infused into them, making them even more valuable. One example of this comes from the company Redpoint Positioning. Their safety vest has GPS capabilities, allowing workers to request help and be found at their location. Further, when they enter pre-designated danger zones, managers are notified so they can ensure everyone is safe.
3. Glasses – Considering that The Department of Employment estimates a skilled trade shortage of up to 30% in Australia, new tradies are needed quickly and they need to learn fast. Company XOEye developed smart glasses which can be worn by workers like normal. But these glasses have a high-powered camera in-built and are connected to the internet. Advice and instructions can be easily accessed and feedback is given in real-time. Information is also sent to managers so that they can always be aware of the productivity of their team.
4. Virtual and augmented reality – The rise of virtual and augmented reality technology has barely touched the surface of what it could do for the construction industry. A headset is worn and the user can experience access either the virtual world (e.g. viewing a completed train station with people frozen in time) or the augmented world (the blending of your world with the virtual world, such as seeing your real building with the walls placed in different places to determine which would be best). This kind of technology has the ability to save a significant amount of money by giving builders and designers a better idea of what their finished products will look like, so they don’t have to make costly changes later.
Wearable technology offers numerous benefits to workers and employers. It allows workers to improve the speed, efficiency and overall performance of their work in a safe manner, and this will increase productivity and reduce construction costs.
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