How Wearables Will Improve Worksite Efficiency
The convergence of wearable technologies, big data, and predictive analytics has already begun to enhance work site safety and productivity. Even so, the revolutionary advances continue to emerge. Smart helmets, smart vests, smart glasses, wristband controllers, and exoskeletons — all connected via the Internet of Things (IoT) — are capable of building, analyzing, and sharing information pertinent to jobs and worksites, making construction easier, safer, and more efficient.
Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality
When manufacturers combine augmented reality and mixed reality applications in smart helmets, workers can more easily view electrical, mechanical, and plumbing plans at the job site. Augmented reality places 3D virtual objects in a real-world, real-time view, while mixed reality applications enable interaction with those virtual objects. This combination of augmented reality and mixed reality applications also encourages remote collaboration between engineers, architects, and contractors within a shared environment. Design teams gain the ability to manipulate and shape objects in this shared environment.
Another application for wearable augmented reality and mixed reality applications is in maintenance and troubleshooting. For example, an employee equipped with a smart helmet would be able to access to relevant information while monitoring the operation of equipment and receive instructions about repairing or maintaining that equipment. Smart helmets supply data visualization tools, thermal vision sensors (that can check differences in temperature), and guided work instructions.
Real-time Information and Analysis
The ability to receive real-time information and analysis through wearable smart devices connected to the cloud gives workers unforeseen advantages. For instance, smart vests can monitor biometric data, such as body temperature and heart rate, to warn workers about heat stress conditions. And because wearable sensors can gather data about repetitive movements, managers and supervisors will become more aware of tasks that could cause physical strain or injury in their employees. Real-time updates about worker locations also allows supervisors to warn employees about workplace hazards.
Real-time information gathering also makes building and planning processes more streamlined. For example, a worker wearing a wristband controller could access plans developed using Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. Other applications use different motion sensors to show worker movements in a particular space or while working on a specific type of task, such as a demolition job. Sensors can indicate when a worker experiences fatigue or if a worker has encountered dangerous conditions
Construction planners can also use smart glasses to view job details or obtain inventory updates; in warehouses, workers will be able to use wearable technologies to manage those inventories and update orders. These technologies will also allow planners and supervisors to review inspection checklists and generate records for each stage of an inspection. Workers will also be able to use smart glasses to perform pre-work inspections of equipment and compare their findings with standards specified in manufacturing manuals. Applications on smartphones and smartwatches will also encourage collaboration between planners and architects working off-site.
Increased Accuracy and Efficiency
Other smart equipment — such as interactive welding helmets — will increase accuracy and efficiency for many workers. For example, smart welding helmets activate with an arc strike and track the appropriate length of time for welding, which welders can use to increase their accuracy. A digital clock in the helmet display includes a timer and an alarm so that welders can keep track of the their schedule, encouraging productivity.
Wearable technologies also support hands-free access to information using heads-up displays. As a result, workers can refer to digital manuals while installing equipment or performing maintenance. The capability to connect to devices through IoT technology also allows workers to identify defective parts and monitor equipment performance. This access, combined with predictive analytics, empowers maintenance employees to see and understand trends that could indicate potential breakdowns or failures.