Construction wearables: Looking for the right fit
GPS watches can help contractors boost efficiency and safety. But this test also demonstrated how much more room there is to grow. Technology has only just begun to touch the modern jobsite.
The construction industry has taken tremendous strides in embracing technology, and industry leaders see abundant opportunity for additional innovation. Safety and productivity are perennial areas of interest, especially on large jobsites where keeping track of workers is challenging. If site supervisors had more specific information about worker locations, they could make more informed decisions regarding task allocation and respond to injured workers more quickly.
Technology could improve on the industry’s current approaches to these challenges. In 2018, according to TechCrunch.com, investors poured $3.1 billion into U.S.-based construction technology startups. From drones to connected property sensors to “smart” PPE and other wearable devices, technology firms are attempting to modernize and optimize the jobsite. AXA XL includes itself among parties interested in helping contractors do their jobs more safely and efficiently.
New tools are only useful, however, if they can stand up to the noise, heat and dust of the jobsite environment, and if contractors buy in to their value. To that end, AXA XL recently partnered with Samsung and Brasfield & Gorrie, one of the nation’s largest privately held construction firms, to pilot the Samsung Galaxy Watch in an active jobsite. Brasfield & Gorrie has piloted several construction-specific technologies and identified areas in which existing products can increase worker safety and report more accurately on productivity. By partnering with Samsung and AXA XL, Brasfield & Gorrie intends to identify and lead the next trends in construction technology.
With the ability to track wearers’ locations all day, the watches could potentially illuminate where workflow inefficiencies emerge, help workers avoid hazardous areas, and speed up injury response times. It was the first time Samsung tested its watch in a construction jobsite, and the first time they had partnered with an insurance company to pilot a product.
About the pilot
Workers in a variety of roles were selected to wear the watches for 60 days. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch would be used to monitor the watches’ location and synthesize the data they collect.
The primary goal of the pilot was to test the watch in four categories: functionality, durability, data quality, and worker adherence. Could the watches perform consistently and withstand wear and tear of construction work? Would they provide useful data insights that managers could use to improve workflow? And perhaps most importantly, would workers be comfortable being tracked all day long?
All three parties met on a bi-weekly basis to discuss outcomes and areas for improvement.
The chosen jobsite presented a few obstacles for the watches to overcome. The site was large and included several buildings. Each of these structures was in a different phase of the construction process, meaning the concentration of workers at any given location would likely shift over the two-month period. The site was also in a high-traffic area, which could potentially interrupt the GPS signals.
All of these factors would test whether the watch made sense for the industry. From a data perspective, the pilot was also a chance to explore what other business benefits might be gleaned from access to real-time information.