How The Modular Industry Uses Wearable Technology In Construction
Wearable technology, from Apple Watches to medical alert necklaces, plays an important role in our daily lives. The industry is becoming increasingly profitable, and by 2023, it is estimated to be worth $54 billion. Did you realise, however, that wearable technology has a wide range of applications and benefits in the modular building industry?
In this blog, we will explore wearable technology in construction to show you how it's used in the fabrication and installation of modular structures. We hope that this gives you more confidence in your decision to choose a temporary or permanent modular structure for your company. Let's start with a definition of wearables in construction and a rundown of their numerous advantages.
What Are Wearables in Construction?
Wearable construction technology refers to hands-free electronic devices capable of sending and receiving data through the Internet. Typically worn on the body, clothing, or personal protective equipment (PPE), wearables are used to monitor a worker’s environment, activities, and health.
Modular construction wearables fall into three distinct categories: communication, employee enhancement, and data collection, which we’ll review later in this blog.
Benefits of Wearable Technology in Construction
There are many benefits of incorporating construction safety wearables into the modular building process.
1. Improved Worker Safety
Wearable technology in construction plays a crucial role in making sure modular building manufacturing facilities and job sites are as safe as possible. As the construction industry continues to search for ways to reduce fatalities and injuries, wearable technology has come to the forefront. While construction fatalities and injuries have decreased over the past 25 years due to new Health & Safety regulations, more can always be done. Wearables in construction are helping close that gap.
2. More Efficient Project Management
Modular construction wearables facilitate efficient project management by allowing supervisors to view changes in real time, rather than guess at results. These changes can be sent to the foreman’s smart helmet and projected directly onto the job site using smart glasses for construction.
3. Health Insurance Savings
Some wearable technology in construction can send data directly to health insurance companies that details user safety and work habits. For example, insurance representatives can use smart vest data to advise project supervisors on ways to improve worker health. Safer working conditions can even help modular construction businesses lower their medical and liability insurance premiums.
4. Equipment Repurposing
Another major benefit of modular construction wearables is that they don’t add more gear to the heavy load that construction workers already carry. Instead, they incorporate new features into items that are part of an employee’s everyday routine, like vests, hard hats, and safety glasses. That means supervisors can monitor productivity and project progress without giving workers extra gear.
Types of Wearable Technology in Construction
In this section, we’ll review the use cases and benefits of the most popular wearable technology in construction to give you a well-rounded view of each option.
Exoskeletons & Exosuits
These products improve worker strength and reduce muscle fatigue when they’re using large tools or lifting heavy objects. Simply put, they help employees safely carry the same weight with a reduced chance of injury. In doing so, exoskeletons and exosuits increase productivity and efficiency both in factories and on the job site.
Smart boots feature built-in charging technology in the heel that can power other smart devices. And since they’re charged simply by walking, they can stay charged throughout a worker’s shift. These products also use GPS technology to accurately track a worker’s location and safety. Plus, pressure detection sensors in the sole detect falls or small shocks and automatically summon help.
Smart Glasses for Construction
Smart glasses can detect hazardous materials and provide immediate visual alerts to keep workers safe. They also provide real-time information about leading edges, which helps reduce falls as employees work in elevated locations. Additionally, smart glasses provide visual cues for important safety protocols while also protecting workers’ eyes as they view this information.
Here are a few other functions of smart glasses for construction:
- Installation of behind-the-wall materials (e.g. electrical and plumbing)
- Building inspections
- Equipment repair
- Project planning and collaboration
- Product visualization
Smart Hard Hats & Helmets
Smart helmets offer sophisticated fatigue detection via sensor bands that measure worker vitals and signal the need for a break. This helps prevent accidents before they happen and is ideal for long shifts or during monotonous activities. Some products even have microsleep protection, which identifies sudden moments of sleep that occur in fatigued individuals. And smart hard hats with proximity sensors alert workers to potential collisions with equipment, helping prevent accidents.
These wearables in construction offer a variety of valuable functions for modular building workers:
- Location tracking
- Shift length
- Worker activity
- Emergency alerts
Smart safety vests are particularly important for keeping workers safe when they enter off-limits hazard zones, such as the area behind moving heavy machinery. The vest will light up and sound an alarm if personnel enter specified zones. This alerts the machine operator to the wearer's presence, allowing them to slow down or stop the operation. It also informs the worker's supervisor, who can warn them about the serious risks of entering hazard zones.
Many smart shirts also keep track of vitals including heart rate and heart rate variability. These measurements are used to calculate employee stress, weariness, respiration rate, steps, and activity intensity.
Smart Body Sensors
Smart body sensors, which are worn on an employee's work belt, serve as an on-the-job partner by alerting supervisors of slips, trips, and falls. And, if a mishap occurs, these products send the worker's location so that aid may be dispatched quickly. Some smart body sensors even include a self-alert button that alerts safety supervisors without forcing employees to leave the work zone.
Gas protection is one of the most important advantages of smart body sensors, as it eliminates unwanted exposure to a variety of harmful gases that can cause injury or death. Workers wear sensors on their chests or around their biceps to measure their body temperature and alert them when they need a drink of water or a break in the shade. And many smart armbands allow workers to use specific gestures to control their other construction wearables.
Smart watches, which can be fitted with cameras, augmented reality (AR), and WiFi, are the most widespread sort of wearable technology (both within and outside of construction). Smart watches for modular construction workers can detect falls and warn safety officers immediately, cutting response times in half.
Smart watches allow for hands-free communication, which is particularly useful when operating heavy machinery. These products allow workers to converse with others without having to use their hands.
To prevent worker tiredness, most smart watches monitor vital indications (such as heart rate and step count). Electrocardiograms can be performed on some of these construction wearables to detect abnormal heart rhythms or high blood oxygen saturation. There are also smart watches that help workers track their mood throughout the shift in order to proactively spot mental health trends.
Wearable technology in construction is a growing trend, especially within the modular industry. If you’d like to learn more about the technology that goes into creating our modular buildings, contact us today!
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