Construction companies are increasingly using wearable technology to improve the building process. As you’re probably aware, the term refers to a wide variety of hands-free electronic devices that can be worn directly on the body or embedded in hard hats, boots, vests or other gear.
Typically, wearables are powered by microprocessors and internet-connected, so they can send and receive data wirelessly and in real time. The uses in a construction context are practically limitless, but here are a few examples.
Productivity and training
Augmented reality (AR) headsets or glasses overlay digital imagery onto the user’s physical surroundings, providing visual cues and real-time information that can streamline and improve a variety of construction activities.
For example, a worker wearing an AR headset or glasses can superimpose three-dimensional models over what has already been built to ensure that work is being completed as planned and to correct mistakes before they cause major problems. In turn, job progress speeds up, making work crews and equipment more efficient and less costly.
AR technology can also help train workers more quickly than traditional methods by creating a fully immersive environment. AR glasses can identify components of sophisticated equipment or demonstrate complex construction tasks in a realistic setting.
Safety and security
Among the most important uses of wearables is to improve safety. Smart watches, smart helmets and other wearables can monitor workers’ vital signs and detect signs of heatstroke, fatigue or other life-threatening health conditions. Smart boots equipped with motion or pressure sensors are able to detect falls and alert emergency personnel on the jobsite who might be well out of visual range of a mishap.
In addition, wearable technology can help prevent accidents involving heavy equipment or vehicles. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags embedded in hard hats or safety vests track workers’ locations, while sensors mounted on equipment or vehicles can detect tagged workers and sound an alarm if they’re too close.
This technology can also be used to improve security on the jobsite by limiting access to workers with RFID-equipped badges.
A powerful tool
The examples described above represent a tiny fraction of the many ways wearables might be of use to your construction business. They’re a potentially powerful tool for enhancing productivity, reducing errors, improving safety and streamlining communications.
Of course, they’re also not free. Like any technological investment, putting dollars into a wearables purchase should be preceded by careful due diligence into the needs of your company, the tech savvy of your employees, and the short- and long-term costs.