Construtech Q&A: Tech Trends to Watch
What are some of the technological trends you’re seeing in the industry currently? How is the consumption of technology expected to change as more construction projects get off the ground in the coming months?
Over the past 18+ months, we saw more rapid technology adoption as contractors looked for ways to address the different challenges brought forth by the pandemic. For instance, IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as proximity sensors and wearable devices helped contractors maintain social distancing on jobsites and perform contact tracing if any worker tested positive. We also saw companies using AI (artificial intelligence) systems to monitor the use of face coverings on active jobsites.
Now, contractors will look for other ways to leverage their technology investments. Maybe wearables and IoT devices can help to alleviate other project-specific safety and productivity pain points, such as identifying areas where accidents may be more likely to occur or helping to supplement the workforce by using robotics and other automation systems.
However, as contractors explore other ways that technology can assist them, it’s important to remember that establishing an effective safety culture starts with top management and remains vital to helping keep employees safe and prevent loss. Without this culture, companies may find the adoption and management of these technologies difficult or ineffective at the supervisory and field level.
What are some specific examples of technology used to help reduce risks?
Telematics and onboard monitoring systems are widely available and used today to help contractors significantly improve the safety and operational efficiencies of fleets. We see wearables being incorporated to help identify at-risk behaviors, among other use cases. Water sensors are being deployed to detect and stop leaks in buildings under construction. Equipment security systems and sensors that provide 24/7 surveillance and realtime notifications are helping to address theft and vandalism on active construction sites. Simulation training through mixed-reality platforms enables training without putting workers physically in harm’s way. We’re also seeing increasing interest in modular construction and 3D printing, both of which can help address the skilled labor shortage.
At Travelers, we offer an AI-assisted ergonomic assessment that allows our ergonomists to analyze video of a worker performing a task and identify movements and postures that could result in soft tissue injuries. Our customers can also take advantage of our Risk Toolworks mobile app, which helps contractors evaluate the effectiveness of their controls for potential hazards and keep track of what is working—and what is not—to help them better protect their employees. There’s also ZoneCheck, our proprietary app that helps contractors identify potential equipment-generated ground vibration risks.
Beyond safety, are we seeing construction firms employing technology more to improve productivity, better manage contracts, help meet schedules, etc.?
Yes, we are. As you know, construction has traditionally been a paper-reliant industry. However, we’re starting to see contractors use project-management software, which can help connect project stakeholders—from owners, general contractors, and specialty contractors to architects and engineers—and enable them to collaborate across locations and devices. At Travelers, we have an exclusive agreement with Procore, a leading provider of construction management software, to help contractors manage the total cost of risk through improved operations and jobsite safety.
The increased use of camera and video systems on jobsites is also helping contractors monitor construction progress and detect potential issues with schedules, labor, or materials that could lead to increased change orders or project delays.
Hiring skilled workers continues to be a challenge for the industry. Does the growing use of technology create additional challenges for contractors as they look to hire more workers?
All jobsites are different, and each has a unique set of risks. If a contractor is using technology on a particular jobsite, they need to consider how it can affect worker safety and then take action to address any potential challenges. This could mean that as part of the onboarding process for new workers, contractors include information about how the technology will affect workers’ day-to-day activities, as well as expectations around its adoption. Transparency and open communication are critical to helping newer workers embrace the use of these systems on the jobsite.
Input courtesy of Casey Banks, Senior Regional Risk Control Consultant at Travelers.