Smart tech

Smart tech

Discover the hottest smart tech trends for trades – and how they’re changing our industry for the better

Digital is the future for every industry, and the construction sector in particular is reaping the rewards of smart technology. So what’s currently transforming Australian infrastructure, and which tech tools can take your project to the next level?

RFID for tracking labour on-site

Whether it’s a small residential project or a large commercial construction job, managing workers on-site is an administrative slog that comes with a variety of safety and security challenges. To help project managers and directors, particularly on larger-scale infrastructure sites, radio frequency identification (RFID) is streamlining labour monitoring and giving companies greater insight into efficiency gaps.

A typical RFID tag is a small device that workers wear while on-site – or in more recent cases an app they can download to their smartphone. The tag provides real-time updates of work as it occurs and uses GPS tracking to show where an individual is at any particular time.

This is essential for improved job reporting, but it can also deliver incident tracking to detect slips and falls, activity tracking to improve workforce efficiency, and messaging capabilities for communications between workers in the field and staff at the office. At the backend, many RFID tags also integrate payroll and reporting for a more holistic work pipeline.

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BIM for greater efficiency

In order to kickstart the economy and support long-term job growth, the federal and state governments are investing billions into new infrastructure projects. While this is a positive move, it means construction firms need to adopt smarter technologies in order to keep pace with greater stakeholder demands. Enter, building information modelling (BIM).

BIM is a digital-modelling tool that allows all parties on a project to collaborate and exchange information in the cloud. Far from the pencil-and-paper days of yesteryear, BIM allows you to interact with buildings in an interactive model-based platform to help you better plan, design, construct and manage infrastructure over a project’s life cycle.

With the ability to handle large swathes of data – including various measurements, materials, conditions and more – you can spot any potential roadblocks early on in the project and make real-time changes before construction even begins. This, in turn, saves time, money and wasted labour hours.

Improved project safety through wearables

Wearables have been commonplace on construction sites for several years now, and most would be familiar with smart vests, goggles and hard hats. However, with the dramatic societal disruption of 2020, we’re seeing new wearables hit the market to monitor the changing needs of workers.

Mental health is a growing concern across all sectors, but particularly construction, with disproportionate rates of mental illness found in the industry. One way wearables is attempting to tackle the issue is with mental-wellness products. Moonbeam One, for example, allows workers to anonymously give feedback simply by pushing a button on their smart bracelet. Over a project’s life, the data gathered can pinpoint where common issues are arising on-site and then provide HR with the information needed to manage them.

At the other end of the spectrum, project directors can overcome the current challenges of social distancing on busy worksites with a wearable like Blackline Safety. The safety device links up with a mobile app and streams continuous location data back to its dedicated cloud platform. If a worker shows symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, contact tracing and reporting is made much easier.

As the construction sector continues to take a more digital-first approach, firms and project managers need to adopt useful smart technologies to stay ahead of the competition, improve their bottom line and – most importantly – keep their people safe and productive.

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