Tech Gadgets Are Changing the Construction Landscape
The use of technology has changed the landscape of every industry, and construction is no exception. Over the last decade, most people have come to enjoy and rely on products like smartphones, wireless earbuds, and streaming HD video in their personal lives. In the next several years, innovations in construction technology will change and disrupt the industry. Historically, the industry relied heavily on tools that require physical prowess and skills. Now, technology is helping construction professionals work smarter, not harder, which can only help improve construction productivity.
How Are Innovations in Construction Technology Disrupting the Industry?
Adopting new technology tools enables construction companies to do much more with less. Emerging technologies support data capture, automation, and documentation that facilitate building complex structures more quickly. Specifically, construction firms are beginning to use a variety of tech gadgets that have the potential to dramatically change how construction workers do their jobs.
9 Tech Gadgets That Fit the Bill
1. Halo Light
The Halo Light takes the traditional headlamp that has been in use in the construction industry for years and turns it on its head. The Halo Light is an innovative and hands-free headlamp that wraps completely around the brim of a hard hat. Though it was designed as a personal safety system by Ilumagear to make highway and construction workers more visible at night, it does much more than that. Not only is this tech gadget completely wearable, but it also offers 360° visibility fueled by a rechargeable battery. Construction workers who use the Halo Light can enjoy up to 12 hours of battery and visibility from as far away as a quarter of a mile.
2. Smart Clothing
The clothing a construction worker wears, also known as personal protective equipment (PPE), can make a difference in how well they are able to perform their job. But add innovations in construction technology in the mix, and efficiency and safety improve dramatically.
- Programmable Clothing: Because construction projects expose workers to everything that an unpredictable Mother Nature can dish out, being prepared with the right clothing can improve their job satisfaction and the retention of key personnel. Smart clothing, also sometimes referred to as responsive clothing, can be programmed to heat and cool a worker based on their preferences. This property removes the “one-size-fits-most” position that most other types of clothing take because it’s designed to respond to a person’s unique body temperature.
- Color-Changing Gloves: Researchers in Germany have developed gloves that change color when they’re exposed to toxic substances. The Fraunhofer Research Institution for Modular Solid State Technologies EMFT integrates dyes that are custom made into their gloves which they change to a different color in the presence of a substance such as hydrogen sulfide or carbon monoxide.
3. Smart Safety Glasses
Safety glasses are a required component on many job sites. Taking that essential piece of safety equipment one step further, XOEye Technologies invented safety glasses that provide employees with an embedded camera, a projected screen and Wi-Fi access. Workers can use images in real-time to take measurements, make adjustments and send them back to the office to be viewed by managers. The smart safety glasses also come equipped with a set of earbuds and two microphones, making it easy for employees to communicate with each other regardless of their distance.
4. Smart Headset
The Motorola Solutions HC1 headset provides a construction worker with the power of a computer in a headset that keeps the hands free. Because it’s worn on the head, a worker has instant access to a range of project materials including user manuals, project updates and safety warnings generated by sensors—all in real-time. Motorola designed the Solutions HC1 headset for use by the military and employees in the industrial sector. This means it has to be ruggedized for everything those workers can dish out. Construction companies can take advantage of this technology—which includes convenient and hands-free voice recognition—to link employees out in the field with key information in the office or online, reducing mistakes and enhancing productivity.
5. Construction Drones
Drones are now a mainstream item that many people purchase for recreation and entertainment. For the construction industry, drones are groundbreaking innovations in construction technology that can prove invaluable during every phase of a project, from gathering data to performing legwork for inspection processes. Drones can easily be used to create site plans, contour maps, site surveys, model renderings and other documentation in real-time during the planning phase. Management can easily monitor the build phase of a project by using drones to visually inspect almost any area. Drones can cover great distances in a short amount of time and drones are outfitted with advanced cameras that capture detailed images and other data before sending it back to the cloud.
SiteAware, a construction technology start-up, has developed a complete solution for digitizing job sites with autonomous, situation-aware drones, which help construction companies, owners and real-estate developers to cut costs, improve productivity and increase safety. SiteAware drones capture the reality of construction projects in a unique way, flying low and close to structures in the jobsite. Images are processed with the SiteAware cloud platform into actionable 2D, 3D, and 4D data. With the SiteAware cloud-based viewer and its advanced analysis tools, customers can obtain critical insight of their projects and enhance their project monitoring and site management capabilities.
6. Digital Measurement Devices
Laser range finders have been prevalent on jobsites for years but these innovations in construction technology are evolving. Now, some companies are finding new ways to blend software and hardware to allow workers to take precise measurements in hard-to-reach places. For instance, Spike from ikeGPS is a laser range finder mounted on your smartphone or tablet. Spike seamlessly connects to the device over Bluetooth, and combines information from the laser, the device’s camera, GPS, compass, and internet connection to measure distances or areas directly on a photo, and then share those photos and measurements in multiple formats. Spike allows for better, safer measurement for estimation or building throughout the project.
7. Construction Productivity Software
A successful construction project relies on keeping everyone on the same page at all times. Robust construction productivity software, such as PlanGrid, provides the tools and resources that connect everyone who is involved in the project—from management in the office to workers on the ground. Construction productivity software offers instant access to documents, plans, daily reports, punch lists and more. Great software solutions will be compatible on all devices including Windows, Android and Apple, for continuity and real-time access to vital information that keeps the trailer and field connected to the office. With projects from a myriad of sectors including healthcare, industrial, commercial, education and more, software like PlanGrid is an intuitive software suite that even tech-phobic workers can easily learn to use.
8. Smart Helmets
A smart helmet developed by DAQRI, known for its augmented reality tools for the industrial sector, projects work instructions for a jobsite conveniently on the helmet’s visor so construction workers don’t have to stop what they’re doing to reference critical information. With the helmet’s 4D capabilities, workers can instantly visualize where their job fits into the overall scheme of the project. The smart helmet also supports functions such as HD video recording, 3D mapping, 360° navigation and more. This means that the ability for a construction worker to use the helmet to mine data, maintain records and ensure compliance is not only right at their fingertips but almost limitless in scope and reach.
9. Machine Learning Meets Construction
Machine learning has been making big waves in the construction industry in recent years. It’s being used to improve everything from safety to productivity and quality to risk assessment. Companies are only just beginning to tap into the potential of machine learning.
In one successful example, the BIM 360 Construction IQ project with Autodesk looked at the challenges of leaders in the construction field to understand how AI could help with these challenges. It found that the AI algorithms were able to prioritize problems and understand risk, such as potential consequences if a concern was not handled. And companies are already seeing a positive ROI from this construction innovation. BAM Ireland has reported a 20% improvement in project quality and safety since starting to use Construction IQ.
Innovations in Construction Technology Are Changing the Industry
There’s no doubt that innovations in construction technology are changing the industry. Every day, construction teams are deploying new devices to make their jobs easier while improving productivity, safety, job satisfaction and profitability. Of course, these gadgets are only examples of the what is available today.
How do you rely on technology on the job during a typical day? Which of these are you using during your day-to-day functions out in the field or in the office? Share with us in the comments below.