It’s official; wearables are no longer just a fad. Today, these devices are able to do way more than count steps and track your sleep habits. In particular, wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) in construction pose an enormous potential for improving efficiency and conditions on jobsites.
As we head into the future of construction, everything seems to be talking to each other. Communication is occurring not only from person-to-person, emails or through construction software. New devices on bodies used on jobsites are now able to provide valuable information and data to the user and even to pieces of equipment.
So how close are we to making every piece of equipment and worker connected to IoT in construction? While we’re not completely there yet, the future is closer than you’d think. In fact, the construction industry is already adopting some of the newest wearables to gain additional insight on real-time performance of equipment and to manage tools and assets across multiple jobsites. From PPE that’s not only safe but smart to advanced equipment and fleet tracking, construction companies implementing these innovations are experiencing many tangible benefits.
More companies in the industry need to understand and consider the potential of the latest IoT technologies. This begs the two following questions:
- What should contractors know about wearables and IoT in construction and the benefits already being seen in companies looking to get ahead of the competition?
- How can productivity potentially increase with smarter tech solutions and improved communications?
Below, we’ll explore how wearables and IoT in construction can feed into the continuous improvement loop, making companies leaner and more profitable.
What’s the Deal with Wearables
As mentioned, wearables are way more than a trend. According to an ABI Research report, by 2021 wearable device shipments will more than double from an estimated 202 million shipments in 2016.
This year, 250 million wearable smart devices will be in the hands of end users.
While you may have heard the term wearables hundreds of times, you may not understand the full scope of what constitutes an item as one. Basically, a wearable is any item that can be worn on the body to provide additional information to the user through connectivity.
One such example of a wearable is the heads-up displays provided on smartglasses connected to AR or VR technology. An employee on and off the jobsite may view work instructions while performing specific tasks, potentially improving their performance. A wearable provides details and often real-time data to the user-driven through the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things in Construction
The Internet of Things puts the power in what makes wearables smart. IoT is the ability to install sensors on any machine or object to monitor performance levels, operating conditions, physical states or other data through connectivity. When an inanimate object can be connected to the internet, they are joining the IoT. This technology may also be referred to as telematics in construction.
IoT is an evolution of technology permeating many industries these days. This can be seen with homeowners who are using sensors installed in the houses to detect changing temperatures, motion and gas and making changes remotely using a wearable device allowing for a related app. IoT is even being used in the automotive industry and may soon make driverless cars a mainstream option.
Sensors and communication between devices can make for faster response times to emergency issues and improve the safety of the end user. Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is being used in the construction industry without a lot of hype and is helping to streamline and improve processes at various levels.
3 Benefits of IoT and Wearables in Construction
When implemented correctly, wearables have the potential to enormously optimize jobsite productivity. Thus far, wearables have already been implemented in the industry in a multitude of ways. Basic use of the technology monitors fuel consumption, idle time, GPS tracking or machine hours. This can assist with creating optimal operating procedures and scheduling preventative maintenance. Taken further, the technology is part of a system that may measure and track fluid temperatures and pressures, engine load and related operational parameters. Access to this analytics can improve predictive maintenance and reduce downtime of laborers.
Furthermore, wearables can enhance communication on the jobsite. By instantly relaying information from one team member to the next, everyone is kept on track with project changes and updates.
Here are a few examples of available wearables and devices linked with IoT in construction that are increasing jobsite productivity:
- RigScan from Atlas Copco offers technicians the ability to use mobile devices and specialized testing equipment to perform a comprehensive diagnostic audit for a designated machine.
- DAQRI Smart Glasses are portable, lightweight, powerful AR wearables designed for professional workers.
Enhanced Jobsite Safety
Ensuring safety is a critical goal for all jobsites. It’s easier to get a full picture of the potential issues that may impact employee health and performance with IoT and wearable technology. For instance, specialized cooling jackets can maintain the health of workers and prevent them from overheating. Many companies are now manufacturing devices that work with existing PPE to enhance the safety of the equipment. Wearables paired with GPS systems can help locate misplaced assets–and even workers.
Safety advantages of wearables and IoT in construction include:
- The reduction of downtime due to mechanical failure or unnecessary scheduled maintenance.
- Knowledge of damage and malfunction in equipment that can be addressed before breakdown or accident.
- Ability of wearables to illuminate areas to improve working conditions.
- Alerts of employee accidents on the jobsite, including slip and falls.
- The tracking and monitoring of tools, equipment and personnel.
Here are a couple of specific devices that are improving the safety of construction sites, one worker at a time:
- SolePower Work Boot is a self-charging shoe sole that tracks user data like falls or fatigue in addition to GPS location. The boot also provides illumination in dark areas if needed.
- Halo Light by Ilumagear is an innovative and hands-free headlamp that wraps completely around the brim of a hard hat. The device helps to make highway and construction workers more visible at night.
Decreased Operating Costs
In addition to improving the safe of their workforce, sensors and IoT can make it possible for owners to optimize the performance of the equipment on their site. For example, when fleets can be connected to the Internet of Things, it can decrease operating costs by tracking fuel consumption and operational parameters. The construction industry has much to look forward to as IoT technology and innovation continues to be adopted on jobsites to reduce construction costs over time.
With certain technology, better maintenance of equipment can reduce deterioration and increase the life cycle of purchased equipment. Here is one example:
- Case offers a subscription to SiteWatch with purchase or lease of a new machine. Users can get data and reports via email, mobile app or website. Find out if one machine is consuming more fuel than others or when a piece of equipment has left the jobsite.
How to Choose the Right IoT and Wearable Technology
While some of the emerging wearable technology is expensive to incorporate upfront, companies need to be mindful of which advances may make a positive difference to their bottom line in the long-run. Construction companies may want to ask themselves a few questions before implementing these technologies, including:
- What advantages would the technology offer?
- How easy is the deployment of the technology?
- What type of learning curve may be expected?
As the IoT in construction becomes widespread, measurable results will reinforce the use of the technology and its future iterations. Wearables and IoT, as it applies to the construction industry, can make it easier to gather and share data between multiple users and identify areas for improvement. This may make for a leaner and safer industry as a whole.
To overcome challenges in the construction industry, lasting IoT technology must be affordable, or at least provide significant ROI overtime, and user-friendly. Practical solutions that can improve the abilities of the average worker, increase productivity and make for a safer jobsite may all serve as very good reasons to support the adoption of wearable technology.
The Future of Wearables and IoT in Construction
As it has only been several years since IoT and wearables have made waves in the construction industry, much still needs to be seen when it comes down to the long-term efficiencies and improvements that may be expected. The standard jobsite is slowly evolving to include more technology and software in general; employees may soon need to get familiar with smart devices like helmets, glasses, vests, boots and other gear. Construction companies who can use the technology to successfully address common workplace concerns and streamline processes are more likely to be able to handle the increasing demands of the industry.