Think back to all the ways technology has improved various job site functions. 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—could further disrupt the construction industry. Smart glasses are already used in some applications. However, as the technology evolves and improves, they will likely 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, the industry has been slow to adopt new technologies, with about two-thirds of companies saying they don’t use advanced data and analytics technology. Smart glasses technology and augmented reality are still relatively new technologies as they apply to the construction industry.

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 16.7 percent in 2017, reaching $30.5 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. Microsoft is also working on a device with the University of Cambridge. Both products will offer real-time equipment, worker, and job-site data, as well as project rendering overlays and augmented reality cameras.

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. He expects things to pick up in 2018 and over the next few years.

“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.”