What You Can Expect from Wearable Technology on the Jobsite

As we talked about at CONEXPO early this month, Google Glass could be a powerful tool on the jobsite someday. But Google Glass isn’t the only wearable tech out there. Chances are, if you’re not already using some form of wearable technology on the job, you will be soon.

Here are a few reasons why we think that’s a good thing:

Construction Safety Clothing

Right down the hall from the FieldLens booth at CONEXPO was a company called Illumagear that got us thinking about how wearable tech improves jobsite safety. Their innovative Halo Light attaches to hardhats and provides the wearer with a ring of bright light allowing them to see and be seen in all directions at all times.

According to OSHA, construction jobsite accidents account for 19.6% of all U.S. work-related fatalities and injuries.

But wearable tech may be able to reduce that risk. New York City-based think tank Human Condition is working on the next generation of safety clothing for the construction industry. The company considered OSHA’S Focus Four Hazards (falls, struck-by, electrocution, and caught-in or between), then used sensors and wearable computers to outfit a hard hat and safety vest. Their new “smart” safety clothing included the following components to help keep workers safer on the job:

  • Worklight/safety beacon in the hard hat.
  • RFID/BLE node and GPS to provide realtime location information.
  • Impact and motion sensors.
  • QR code printed on the side of the hard hat for computer recognition. This provides quick identification in the case of an accident.
  • Airbag collar in the safety vest to protect in case of a fall.
  • Vital sign monitoring that can transmit information to first responders.
  • Repetitive motion and worker core temperature sensors to protect against injury and heat stroke.
  • Other Safety Applications

In 2013, a research paper from the Virginia Tech College of Engineering titled ‘Feasibility of Intelligent Monitoring of Construction Workers for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning’ outlined the university’s efforts to improve worker safety on jobsites.

In their project, the researchers installed pulse oximetry into a hard hat to monitor the wearer’s level of O2 in their blood. In plain terms for those of us who have no idea what pulse oximetry is, this sensor can provide early detection for carbon monoxide poisoning.

The university’s long-term goals for wearable tech in construction include a network of environmental sensors coupled with personal protective gear to provide maximum safety for workers.

Collaboration: Google Glass

In case you didn’t watch our CONEXPO video: Google Glass has some cool possibilities for jobsite use. With its mostly hands-free operation (you navigate with a swipe of the finger, like on a smartphone, and press a button to take photos), this device can be a big help when you’ve got your hands full. It can also cut down on the amount of paperwork you have to lug around the site.

Google Glass is also a great collaboration tool. In just a few moments, you can snap a photo, dictate a brief message to include with it, and send it to your smartphone for additional editing. This provides a quick way to share safety or other information, in realtime, with your crew.

Coming Soon: Smartwatches

While smartwatches have been on the market for a few months now, we put a “coming soon” tag on this entry because apps useful on a construction site haven’t quite caught up with the hardware yet. Still, the smartwatch has some serious potential. Just one of the ways it could help construction workers is by providing real-time vitals monitoring, sending data about the wearer’s blood sugar, blood pressure, and more to medical workers. A smartwatch could also provide hands-free phone calls — a big help when you need to talk to the boss without leaving the jobsite.

These are just a few of the ways that wearable tech could change the way you work in the coming years. We’ll be sure to keep you updated as we see this being used more and more on jobsites.