How the Modular Industry Uses Wearable Technology in Construction
From Apple Watches to medical alert pendants, wearable technology plays an integral role in our everyday lives. The industry is growing increasingly lucrative, and this sector is expected to be worth a whopping $54 billion by 2023. But did you know that wearable technology also has a variety of uses and benefits for the modular construction industry?
In this blog, we’ll take an in-depth look at wearable technology in construction to help you learn how they’re used when manufacturing and installing modular buildings. We hope that this will make you feel even more confident about choosing a temporary or permanent modular structure for your business. Let’s start by defining wearables in construction and reviewing their many benefits.
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
Construction worker safety consists of maintaining a safe environment with secure procedures and proper equipment. With over 250,000 construction sites in the United States, it's crucial that there is regulations set in place and advancements in equipment and technology to reduce the risk of injury.
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 OSHA 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.
Smart Shirts & Safety Vests
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 also play a key role in keeping workers safe when they enter off-limits hazard zones, like the space behind a piece of moving heavy machinery. If employees come into these areas, the vest will light up and send an alarm. This notifies the equipment operator of the wearer’s presence so they can slow down or shut off their machine. It also alerts the worker’s supervisor, who can inform them of the significant dangers of entering hazard zones.
Many smart shirts also monitor vital signs, including heart rate and heart rate variability. These metrics are used to estimate worker stress, fatigue, breathing rate, steps, and intensity of activities.
Smart Body Sensors
Worn on an employee’s work belt, smart body sensors serve as an on-the-job partner by alerting supervisors of slips, trips, and falls. And when these incidents do occur, these products send the worker’s location to efficiently initiate help. Some smart body sensors even have a self-alert button that notifies safety supervisors without requiring employees to leave the work zone.
One of the biggest benefits of smart body sensors is gas protection, which prevents unnecessary exposure to a variety of dangerous substances that can cause injury or death. Some sensors are worn on the chest or around the bicep to monitor body temperature and inform workers 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.
The most common type of wearable technology (both within and beyond construction) are smart watches, which can be equipped with cameras, augmented reality (AR), and WiFi. Smart watches for modular construction workers can detect falls and immediately alert safety officers, speeding up response times.
Smart watches enable hands-free communication, which is especially important when operating heavy equipment. These products enable workers to communicate with other people without using their hands at all.
Most smart watches also monitor vital signs (like heart rate and step count) to prevent worker exhaustion. And some of these wearables in construction can perform electrocardiograms to detect abnormal heart rhythms or excessive 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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