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Wearable technology in the construction site...will it happen soon or is it here now?

June 2, 2014

 

Google Glass, Motorola’s Golden-I, iPatrol and Samsung's simband are some of the tools and services to be named. What do these technological products all have in common?

 

According to various press releases from developers and interested industry insiders, these electronic products may soon turn into practical, wearable technology around a construction site near you.

Though most of these gadgets and services are still in their developmental stages and have yet to engage a large industrial audience, there are clear indications that their adoption in the construction site would have a number of benefits. Ranking at the top of this list of benefits are increased safety in work sites and better visualisation of any ongoing construction projects.

 

The most promising of all the wearable electronic products that may have some industrial applications seems to be Google Glass. The media attention is never distant from Google Glass, the search engine behemoth’s interpretation of smart glasses. Google Glass is outfitted with a heads-up display, a camera, and Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to connect to other electronic devices, such as a smartphone and a microphone (for times requiring voice command).

 

This smart pair of glasses gets its potential for construction site application in its hands-free navigation and overlaying display. Architect Rana Abboud of Sydney points out that the augmented reality (AR) Google Glass provides can one day in the future help workers check ongoing construction with blueprints through a simple voice command.

 

Such a command will trigger Google Glass to utilise its heads-up display to superimpose relevant files and images over what construction workers see in real time. The result, according to Abboud, is a better understanding of one-dimensional blueprints as they are laid out and superimposed in the real-world’s three-dimensional space. Better visualisation is one of the more obvious benefits of Google Glass and similar wearable technology. But there are some safety-related issues that wearable technology can address.

 

One of Google Glass’ direct competition is Motorola’s Golden-I, a device deliberately designed with the construction industry in mind. It’s no pair of smart glasses, but it has functions similar to those of Google Glass, is equipped with GPS, and was designed to be used with and to fit under a hard hat.

 

Google Glass and Golden-I are currently still far from any widespread industrial application. One of the systems available now in Australia is iPatrol. Originating from the military, iPatrol is a wireless, self-powered, video alarm system that keeps track of the activity in a construction site after everyone has gone home for the day. It’s useful technology to have considering that construction sites are often subject to theft and damage.

With iPatrol set up, there are higher chances to catch crimes that are still in progress via video being streamed to waerable devices in real time. Better still, when it comes time to file a case in court for damages, video evidence makes for strong evidence.

 

These are by no means all the available wearable technology being developed for construction sites. The South Korean company Samsung has released plans about developing a smartwatch suitable for industrial application. There has also been talk about SLAM, or simultaneous localisation and mapping. This process revolves around the Zebedee, a portable device that creates a 3D map of your immediate surroundings. It would fare as a great tool for inventory, allowing you to check how fast supplies are dwindling or where a batch of material was delivered to or stored.

 

Let’s not ignore the obvious wearable Technology sported by mankind since the 16th century... the watch. The current war in the latest wearable tech market has seen a flurry of health related personal watches but the upcoming simband from Samsung could take this the step further required to make it onto construction sites. Setting itself apart from the “personal” health care devices this watch has the ability to collate data from multiple devices using a cloud. This would give site staff live data such as blood pressure, respiration, heart rate, hydration level, and amount of carbon dioxide in the blood of employees on a work site. With future developments this could be extended to have blood sugar readings and more.

 

We could likely see these become a standard issue on all future large construction projects, mining projects and harsh environment work sites. Companies could ensure any accidents, heat stroke, de-hydration around the sites can be caught early and alarm other workers along with providing locations via GPS to the employee that may require help. This could potentially eradicate all heat stroke and dehydration related incidents in harsh working environments and provide faster response times for medical teams to locate injured employees on site.

 

As of now, wearable technology in construction sites is still in its developing stages but exhibits a lot of potential. With many benefits including worker and site safety as well as construction efficiency, you could only wish that the technology in question would develop and spread at a faster rate.

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