Safety technology is a rapidly advancing field in construction. Through the use of new technologies, workers can be tracked and job sites can be monitored to ensure that the location is secure and the employees are safely doing their jobs.
- Safety, it's a topic people don't like to talk about, but we have to whenever we're talking about construction, and the technology industry has a lot to offer in making the construction job site significantly safer. Now deaths used to be commonplace on job sites. I mean five people died building the Empire State Building, 100 building Hoover Dam. This is unacceptable in modern times, both morally and financially. That's why I'm really excited about a lot of different safety tools that are coming out, both hardware and software, that allow us to have a much safer job site.
I'll start with software. A big part of safety is making sure you follow proper protocol and that you actually have everybody trained. That's why applications like Safesite and iAuditor really help the average construction professional stay on track with their meetings, their toolbox talks, all of their daily logs and observations. But what's even more exciting from those software providers is they're starting to get into actually predictive analytics. That's looking at datasets from safety reports and starting to identify trending factors that could very well result in a safety incident.
So there's a safety company called Predictive Solutions that does exactly this and gives you a forecast of the likelihood of a safety event based on all the data leading up to that day. This is the type of thing that will really, really help prevent accidents in the first place. The other really exciting innovation is the combination of virtual reality technologies for use in safety training. It's incredibly important to train workers on how to safely operate equipment and safely operate at high altitudes, among many other scenarios or circumstances.
Using the HTC Vive or the Oculus, but really the Vive because of room skill VR, I've seen some fantastic demonstrations of safety, tools, and techniques, in particular high altitude safety training. And that's where you actually would put the headset on, it would project a virtual beam, and then show you what you have to do to actually build things while you're standing on a beam 1000 feet in the air. So really interesting things are coming out of virtual reality that allow you to simulate dangerous situations and train workers before it's too serious.
Now that being said, a little warning, make sure you do these VR safety trainings in a room with padded floors. People will honestly believe that they're going to fall, and when they step of the beam, their knees will buckle. I've seen it happen quite a few times. I heard a funny story the other day. One gentleman actually thought he was falling and then jumped off the beam and tried to grab an invisible bar that was not there, and he landed flat on his face. So you can actually have an unsafe situation doing VR safety training.
So that's really exciting. The apps in data are really exciting. But what's also really particularly neat is the advent of some new hardware that's coming to a job site near you to do more than just prediction or post-analytics, but active prevention. Now in my hands are some Estimote iBeacons. These guys actually allow you to project a signal. And in typical triangulation form, if you have two or more of them, then you can triangulate the position of the person with a Bluetooth device like my phone right here.
So my phone has BTLE and Bluetooth enabled. It can communicate with these beacons. These beacons' batteries last about two years, and they allow me to approximate the location of the user to within, I would say, eight to 10 feet which is, you'd think, that's really not precise enough, but it is precise enough for us to get some gross approximations of where they're at. It can also, when you get closer, get more accurate. So if you have a beacon that's on construction equipment, and it's about to back into you, we could actually fire alerts off on either your safety vest, notice I'm sporting the ever so lovely safety vest today just for this, so it could actually communicate with a device that's on the safety vest, which there's quite a few of that will vibrate the safety vest or even flash lights, or it can communicate with my phone and fire up alerts on my phone that something's about to hit me or that I'm about to walk towards an area, like an exclusion zone, that I shouldn't be in.
Now you're saying, "Well, why don't we just use GPS?" GPS doesn't work well in construction job sites. It's not accurate enough to really give us a good proximity. It also doesn't do a great job at telling us what floor we're on in a building. That's where higher precision solutions, that are even more precise than this iBeacon system, like Redpoint come into play. Solutions like Redpoint positioning use ultra-wideband. It's a different radio frequency signal that allows for more accuracy, now they say up to eight inches.
So less than a foot, you can find out where that user is. You can track them. You can identify if they're in a exclusion zone or not. You can fire off alerts onto their vest. So Redpoint actually has a vest with lights, and it can vibrate and flash and let you know, hey, you're not supposed to be here. The really neat thing is you can also use a system like what Human Condition Safety has in New York, I got to try that out a few weeks ago, that actually has a pack on the back of your safety vest, and it detects if you lift improperly. So you know if you're lifting like this, you're prone to a back injury.
If you remember, you always lift with your legs. And so this particular safety vest allows you to detect how the user is lifting and then fire off alerts if they're lifting improperly. Now there's a lot of other solutions out there. Another one that I am particularly fond of, Spot-r by a company called Triax. It clips to your belt. And it's got not as much accuracy as Redpoints, but it really doesn't need it for what it does. But it also has accelerometers inside the belt clip that allows you to detect if the user falls.
I heard a really funny story. They said that on one of their job sites, using their belt clip technology, they detected that one of the construction workers was falling 20 feet, three times a day. They took this to the general contractor and the GC said, "Look, that can't be right. "Get your stuff off our job site, it's not correct." They said, "No, no, no, let us go and observe." And they did and they found the worker and they casually observed him. And they found out that he was sliding down the railings on the job site to get from floor to floor, very dangerous and completely unacceptable.
When they interviewed him, they said, "Why are you doing this?" He said, "It's how I've always gotten down the stairs." You can't do that on a job site. They also detected another worker was falling three feet, 10 times a day. You know what he was doing? Jumping off the tailgate of his truck, also an unsafe activity. He'd blown out knees, blown out ankles, bad backs, all of which result in costly work comp injuries. The point of tracking technology and safety technology, it's not to be Big Brother, but it is to protect the lives and wellbeing of construction workers and to make sure that we've got a safe job site.
Follow James Benham—the CEO of JBKnowledge, Inc.—as he explains how construction science and computer science are merging into one joint field of study. James shares essential terms that you need to know to speak intelligently about topics like the cloud and machine learning. Plus, he dives into topics like the Internet of Things, the evolution of drones, and 3D printing. To wrap up the course, he covers IT budgets, staffing, and investing in research and development.
- Learning about the origins of construction technology
- Reviewing essential construction tech terms
- Understanding the Internet of Things
- Reviewing the evolution of drones
- Learning about the 3D printing process
- Investing in IT
- Investing in research and development