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New Construction Site Security Includes Robots and Drones


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Photo courtesy of Knightscope. http://knightscope.com/gallery/#&gid=1&pid=3

The construction industry loses up to $1 billion annually in heavy equipment theft alone, according to data provided by the Des Plaines, IL-based National Insurance Crime Bureau. That equipment is recovered only about 23% of the time. One company says it averages over $150,000 in lost equipment and tools each year.

According to the National Equipment Register (NER), heavy equipment theft has been on the rise the past couple of years with 11,625 thefts being reported to law enforcement in 2014.

Nine in ten construction professionals say they have been regularly affected by theft on the jobsite, and one in five say it can be on a weekly basis, according to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Building.

Construction sites have often relied on temporary fencing and combination locks to keep intruders out. But not anymore––technology has stepped in and today’s jobsites are starting to look more like an episode of Star Trek.

Here are some of the up-and-coming technologies that will help keep your sites safe, and your tools and equipment where they belong.

Fingerprint/Facial Recognition/Hand Geometry

Country Garden Holdings, a construction firm in Dongguan (a mid-sized city in China's Guangdong province), has installed a fingerprint and face recognition system at its Country Garden-Chashan Mansion project.

Aurora, a U.K.-based biometric research and development company, provided its facial recognition software for the construction of some of London’s largest high-rise buildings.

Aurora’s system uses infrared instead of visible light to avoid low-lighting challenges. The system can work even in complete darkness, explains Gary James, head of sales and customer relations for Aurora. “As long as you have the same face on today as you had yesterday, you’re going to get through very quickly,” says James.

Similar technology was used to control access during the five years of construction of the London Olympic venues.

“If you’ve got a large site with multiple access points and you can’t have somebody overseeing everything, you want to make sure you only have the right crew and the right people on site when they’re needed,” says Susie Osowski, biometrics product manager for Allegion, a global provider of security products that provided its Schlage biometric hand readers for the Olympic Park construction in London.

According to a press release from Allegion, the system works like this: “Access to London’s Olympic venues was granted by verifying the credentials of employees against their biometric hand geometry templates. Upon hiring, the worker was enrolled into the system by inserting his hand onto the platen of the HandPunch reader and being provided with his own individual PIN number.”

“Then, to enter the work site, the construction worker simply entered his own PIN number on the keyboard of the Schlage HandPunch reader and then placed his hand on the reader’s platen. If the hand matched the template from the system, the worker was allowed entry.

“Each transaction was recorded by the system and provided project managers with accurate information on the number of workers onsite, duration of stay and other information.”

Because the reader relies on the overall dimensions of a person’s hand, not a hand or fingerprint, dirty hands and even some gloves can be worn while the person’s identity is being confirmed.

Telematics/GPS/Perimeter

Telematics systems use GPS technology to track equipment hours of operation, fuel usage, location, and other performance indicators of heavy equipment. These systems can also be used to locate a specific piece of equipment and, in combination with geo-fences, can alert operators when equipment is being operated during off-hours or moves off the boundary of the site.

Geo-fencing involves the creation of an electronic boundary on a jobsite. It allows operators to know when equipment has left the boundaries of the site, and can even shut equipment down when it leaves a certain area.

GPS tracking allows operators to know where each piece of equipment is at any time. This helps with the recovery of stolen equipment. Some companies are using low-jack type technology to locate their equipment.

More manufacturers are including telematics in their equipment, and many are offering free monitoring for the first year of ownership. Many companies have found that the extra money spent on monitoring more than makes up for the potential costs of lost or stolen equipment.

Using similar GPS tracking technology, the company that had $150,000 in lost equipment and tools each year was able to cut that down to $20,000.

RFID tracking

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology starts with a reader that transmits a signal to a tag on a piece of equipment. The tags have a microchip that allows them to process data, and an antenna that receives the signal from the reader and is able to respond with information. The reader transmits electromagnetic waves to power the tags, allowing them to send back a response.

This technology originally was used to assist with supply chain management, but it has branched out in the construction industry as a way of tracking tools, equipment, and even employees. The tags allow employees’ time to be recorded, sensing when a person comes on or leaves the site.

These systems are great for tracking tools, and can be fully automated so there is no human input at all:

“Workers are issued badges with RFID tags. When a worker passes through a reader into a tool crib trailer the system registers and records his entrance. The tools are embedded with RFID tags so when the worker exits the trailer the reader logs and records which tools he checked out and when. When the employee returns the tools to the trailer at the end of his shift, the systems acknowledges the items that were checked back in. At the end of the day a report can be run to identify any items that were not returned and who was responsible for checking them out.”

Drones

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, have already started showing up on jobsites. Now they are mainly used to shoot videos or take photos of the progress or completion of a job. But soon they may be patrolling sites with a much more important mission.

Drones are flexible because any type of camera, including infrared, can be mounted on them, and then obstacles such as bad lighting won’t play as big of a role in masking surveillance.

They can be programmed to take off at specific times and fly a preprogrammed route and return to base. Or they can take off when suspicious activity is noticed by another system, and provide real time surveillance to operators who are off site. Since they often fly faster than a person can walk, they are able to respond to an incident more quickly.

Robots

Knightscope has introduced robot security guards. They are currently being used to monitor Uber garages, and may soon be on construction sites near you.

Weighing over 300 pounds, these units are not to be messed around with. They have the ability to record live action video and can chase off would-be intruders.

The robots can think like humans, and can be monitored in real time by humans remotely.

Link to photo: http://knightscope.com/gallery/#&gid=1&pid=3