From smartphones and tablets to financial, HR, and estimating software, technology has streamlined how construction businesses operate and buildings are built—and there’s more to come.
A wave of hands-free, wearable technology—specifically smart glasses—is already disrupting the construction industry, and shows no signs of slowing down. Smart glasses are currently being used in some applications, from simplifying tunnel construction to hands-free blueprint access. However, as the technology continues to evolve and improve, they will have an even greater impact on the industry.
Hands-free technology is key
“Things like building information models and blueprints, simple work instructions, and even just tracking equipment—now, it can be all done in a really easy, lightweight, hands-free computing device,” says Paul Travers, founder, president and CEO of Vuzix, a smart glasses and augmented reality solutions provider.
Generally construction has been slow to adopt new technologies. Smart glasses technology and augmented reality are still relatively new technologies as they apply to the construction industry.
But according to Travers, connecting to a work environment hands-free allows you to avoid possibly dangerous situations, making hands-free solutions a very powerful tool. Since your face is not stuck down into something, you can keep your eyes on your surroundings at all times, Travers explains.
Connecting to a work environment hands-free could allow you to avoid possibly dangerous situations, making hands-free solutions a powerful tool.
On a global level, wearable technology, which encompasses smart glasses, headsets, body cameras and smart watches, is growing across industries and among the general public for entertainment purposes. Sales of the devices were projected to increase 26 percent in 2019, reaching $42 billion in revenue, according to an analysis by Gartner.
Who’s on first
Vuzix’s smart glasses are currently being used in a variety of industries, including construction, warehousing, and aviation, Travers says. In construction, the technology can be used for field support, training, project schedule tracking, equipment tracking, and on-site inspections.
Other companies are releasing augmented reality glasses designed for the construction industry, including Los Angeles-based company DAQRI, whose product is currently being put to use on a $1.6 billion tunnel project at Los Angeles International Airport. Microsoft also recently collaborated with the University of Cambridge and hardware giant, Trimble, to create the XR10 headset—which combines a hard hat exterior with smart glasses. Both products offer real-time equipment, worker, and job-site data, as well as project rendering overlays and augmented reality cameras.
Wearable technology in construction isn’t stopping at smart glasses though. There are also smart sensors such as the Spot-r Clip being used, which help reduce job site safety hazards like falls and structure collapses. Even industry juggernauts like DeWalt are jumping into the fray by developing smart clothing, including heated jackets to keep workers productive in freezing conditions.
Try to see it my way
“If you have an on-site job inspector wearing smart glasses, the owner of the building can log into the portal and see everything the inspector wearing the smart glasses is seeing and review what’s going on inside the building,” Travers says.
“At some point, you’re going to be able to walk on a job site and say, ‘Hey, you see this stuff that’s all outlined in red? This work should have been done by now’.”
“At some point, you’re going to be able to walk on a job site and see how far along the job is or how far behind it is with [augmented reality] overlays that say, ‘Hey, you see this stuff that’s all outlined in red here? This work should have been done by now’,” Travers predicts. “Connecting the computer representation of the building with the workflows and scheduling is going to be much easier.”
Travers says he sees a growing interest in wearable technology in the construction industry and other market segments, with different industries experimenting with how to incorporate the technology best.
“Over the next three years, you’re going to see many industries adopting this stuff in a big way,” he suggests. “I don’t know how to predict exactly when the construction industry will be there, but it’s getting there.”