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Helmets that can detect brain waves, augmented reality glasses, or warning systems to prevent accidents are a few of the technologies improving construction efficiency.
Although the progress made in the development of new materials, prefab modules or massive cranes has radically changed the construction of buildings, the human operators are still pretty much like those who built the Roman aqueducts or the cathedrals in the Middle Ages. Thus, improving their productivity thanks to technology is one of the next challenges for the construction industry. This trend has two fundamental approaches: firstly, substituting workers with robots and, secondly, equipping them with devices that multiply their capabilities. While previous articles covered exoskeletons that endow them with superhuman strength, new technologies could soon become standard in work sites.
Construction is one of the sectors where work accidents are more prevalent. This can often be put down to alertness issues when carrying out complex tasks. But what if concentration levels could be measured in real-time? Smart Cap has been designed as a 2.0 helmet: in addition to protecting from impacts and falls, this innovative wearable is equipped with brain-wave sensors and a wireless communication system connected to a range of devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets, and others ) and flags microsleeps, while also alerting the user through sounds and vibrations.
Spot R allows assessing the number of workers on-site, the equipment they are using, and if they are close to it. For instance, if there is a moving crane, an alert is sent when anyone approaches the machinery. The hardware comprises a device carried by each worker, another one attached to the machinery, and an alert button installed on each floor to ring the alarm. On the software side of things, all the information is stored and analyzed in the cloud to improve the efficiency of future jobs. This technological innovation uses a proprietary wireless technology that is not Wi-Fi or GPS dependent.
The Sole Power startup has designed a range of sensor-equipped smart boots that provide information on the number of steps taken by each worker and their locations. The SmartBoots technology allows optimizing the distances traversed by the workers. One of the most striking features of this wearable device is its kinetic energy charger, which powers them with every step they take.
One of the challenges in any job with physical exertion is working under high temperatures, an issue brought to the forefront by global warming. Heat-Shield is a European technology project aiming to assess health rand productivity risks according to age or gender. Within this innovative technology project, the I+D de ACCIONA Construction center carried out a test in the Spanish city of Saragossa with fifteen workers, ranging from twenty to fifty-five years of age, which had wireless sensors fitted in different parts of their bodies. The goal, still in research, was to develop new technical and biophysical solutions to minimize the effects of heat on work sites.
Besides these technologies, augmented or mixed reality is another promising field, which will allow relaying instructions to operators in real-time, and even point out the exact location of each brick in complex structures.