Top 6 Wearables for Safety at the Jobsite

Top 6 wearables at the job site154 million by 2021. That is the number and date according to an ABI Research report anticipating growth for enterprise device shipments. In fact, the report suggests that wearables in the workforce are becoming more prominent. This will impact the way the construction industry conducts business in the future.

The report shows globally and across all device typesincluding consumerwearable device shipments will increase from nearly 202 million in 2016 to 501 million by 2021.

Interestingly, while roughly 17 percent of these will be attributed to enterprise end users in 2016, a 35 percent compound annual growth rate puts the segment on track to nearly double its shipment totals by the end of the forecast period.

The report predicts field services will represent one of the most tangible near-term opportunity for enterprise wearable shipments.

With this in mind, where do contractors go from here? How can they plan in place for the influx of devices that will come in the next five years?

The Benefits of Wearables

Wearables can help minimize unplanned downtime in the workforce, but the type of wearable to be most readily adopted into the enterprise remains dependent upon the specific industry or the use case to which it caters, according to ABI Research.

For example, smart glasses or HUDs (heads-up displays) will drive enterprise wearable technology as the convergence of IT and OT (operational technology) becomes more apparent.

In the construction industry, wearable devices offer a combination of challenges and benefits. Chief among these is safety. While many construction executives are concerned with the safety implications of using wearable devices at the jobsite, others recognize that wearables can actually address some of these safety concerns.

Case in point: smart eyewear.

Carol Hagen, owner, Hagen Business Solutions, suggests that construction professionals should be ordering wearables to address safety—and smart eyewear certainly fits into that equation.

She points to the top six wearable devices that contractors should have in their “wearable toolbox” in order to leverage devices for safety at the construction jobsite.

These top devices, according to Hagen, include:

  1. ZIPPKOOL: Bodies are equipped with a cooling mechanism to sustain a healthy body temperature when working in heated environments: aka sweating. However, this process is incomplete on its own. Enter ZIPPKOOL products, which are designed to create airflow surrounding bodies so that sweat is vaporized quickly, preventing itself from exerting excess amount of sweat. This is designed for industries such as construction that need “cooling jackets” to keep workers healthy while at the jobsite.
  2. Spot-r: This is a sensor platform that measures slips, trips and falls in realtime, while also tracking each worker’s location on the jobsite. Each worker is assigned a Safety Incident Monitor. Incidents are captured and transmitted in realtime, showing the data on devices. Upon exiting the jobsite, the system stops recording data and the worker is clocked out.
  3. Redpoint Positioning: This is an indoor GPS (global-positioning system) for the construction industry. It combines wearable technology, mobile, wireless and RFID (radio-frequency identification) to stay on top of operations and know where people and assets are located in realtime.
  4. XOeye: This system equips field technicians with wearable technology systems that capture and share the right information, with the right people, at the right time. By learning workflows and processes, the technology can be used to share information. For instance, field service workers can be equipped with safety eyewear devices that run applications to communicate with decision makers.
  5. APXlabs: This company builds software for smartglasses, offering solutions for various industries such as field service. The wearables give workers immediate validation of actions in the field and enable a team to coordinate every step of the process.
  6. Caterpillar’s CAT Detect Personnel: The technology uses RFID placed within protective equipment such as safety vests or hard hats, and an antenna is installed to communicate with the RFID tags. Any vehicle equipped with this antenna will detect any ground worker, on any jobsite, wearing a Cat Detect for Personnel-equipped safety vest or hardhat. A loud audible alarm outside of the cab also alerts the ground worker of interference of the detection zone behind the equipment.

Certainly, there are many other widely discussed devices that construction companies should keep in mind for the future as well.

Some that come to mind for most in the construction industry are wearable hard hats such as the Smart Helmet from Daqri and HoloLens from Microsoft.

However, the challenge with many of these wearable devices is that they can be cost prohibitive for projectwide deployment. Even with this in mind, Hagen does recommend that construction companies should have active trials running.

“Only recently have deliverables on software arrived for HoloLens,” she explains. “Health monitors and fabric-based trackers like the HexoSkin Smart Shirt may sound like a fantastic idea, yet have work acceptance and privacy issues.”

Still, she says these are not distant future technologies, but are fast approaching, and should also be considered.

She also points to the growing trend toward exoskeletons, such as Lockheed Martin’s Fortis, and how these are also something to consider for the future as well. Another example of this comes from Ekso Bionics, which amplifies abilities with wearable exoskeletons.

Moving Forward

What do construction companies really need to know and consider when selecting and implementing wearable devices in the future? For one, the cost benefits will be key to determining if it is a worthwhile investment.

“You may find these technologies not only win you more work and increase productivity, but make it easier to recruit and retain talent with measurable workforce development benefits,” she explains.

She suggests construction companies should be asking themselves a number of questions when they go to deploy the technologies such as:

  • What’s the learning curve and how easy is it to deploy?
  • In the short term, what competitive advantage does this offer?
  • In the long term, where will this lead to in future iterations?

In the end, when it comes to implementing wearable devices, she says construction professionals should, “Always be thinking ahead.”

This is especially the case as the IoT (Internet of Things) is coming to the construction jobsite and will impact the construction industry exponentially.

Hagen concludes, “Measurable results may change more than the work environment, it can make the priorities obvious. The ability of these technologies to share data, identify actionable items, and create a continuous improvement loop can make the industry safer and leaner.”

And that is where the construction industry is really headed, in terms of wearable devices at the jobsite.

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