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A Look at Construction Technology in 2018
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The Smartest Tool in the Shed
By Laura Moretz
February 5, 2018
Dodge Data & Analytics’ recent SmartMarket Report, Safety Management in the Construction Industry 2017, found that handheld devices like smartphones and tablets are the most common form of technology driving improved safety on the jobsite.
Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed have a smartphone or tablet on the jobsite, and they use its camera frequently. On mobile devices, camera use is 28 percentage points higher than the use of project document-sharing software or apps, the next most frequently-used feature. This widespread camera use “clearly reflects the power of being able to easily and effectively document and share site conditions and work progress to improve safety,” the report says.
Among both general contractors and subcontractors, 49 percent use project management software and apps, an increase of 11 percent from the number who reported using them in the 2012 survey. Twice as many general contractors (62%) than trade contractors (31%) use project management software and apps. The larger the company, the more likely it is that a contractor will use these tools. Site superintendents and senior management are more likely to use these tools onsite (40%) than safety directors or foremen (25%) and the survey respondents believe that only about six percent of workers use these tools.
Apps that provide a safety inspection list are increasingly popular. Use of these apps increased from 30 to 42 percent since the last survey in 2012. More than twice as many general contractors use this sort of feature compared to trade contractors. The larger the company, the more likely a contractor is to use this sort of app. More than half of contractors believe that their site superintendents and foremen use safety inspection lists on their mobile devices, the survey found.
While use of online apps increased in most categories, the use of GPS and other mapping tools on mobile devices has decreased since 2012. Forty-one percent of contractors say they used a mapping tool to locate workers on the site in 2017 compared to 51 percent in 2012.
When a contractor wants to send safety training and information to workers, about 35 percent of those surveyed use their devices for this task (up from 20 percent in 2012), and about 28 percent use their devices to access information about safety on websites. General contractors are more likely to use their devices to access safety websites than trade contractors, but they both use their devices for safety training at the same rate.
In another interesting discovery, while 50 percent of respondents overall use BIM, only 21 percent report using it onsite.
Sixty-two percent of respondents are not using emerging technologies to enhance jobsite safety, including drones, laser scanning, wearable devices, photogrammetry, robotics, and optical head-mounted displays like Google Glass and Microsoft Hololens. The use of these technologies is expected to rise.
Currently, drones are the most widely used emerging technology. The most common use is to perform reality captures with mounted cameras. Thirty-two percent of general contractors use drones while only six percent of trade contractors report using them.
To capture existing conditions electronically, 14 percent of contractors use laser scanning and four percent use the less-costly technique of photogrammetry. The use of cameras onsite may slow the growth of these recording methods.
Only 13 percent of respondents report using wearable devices on jobsites. The largest contractors led in the adoption of these wearables with 21 percent reporting their use.
Wearable technology is often more complex than it might seem, according to Anthony Colonna, a senior vice president of innovative construction solutions at Skanska USA. “It’s not as simple just putting the wearble on, it’s the infrastructure that goes with it. The infrastructure can be pricey,” he says in an interview included in the report.
Among the contractors who use emerging devices to improve safety, 82 percent report that wearable devices have the greatest impact, 76 percent say that laser scanning improved safety, and 70 percent say drones improved safety on the site.
The survey also asked contractors why they adopted work site safety measures, and they responded as follows: concern about worker health and safety (82%), insurance costs (68%), liability concerns (68%), industry leadership in overall safety culture (52%), regulatory requirements (52%), avoiding potential business disruption (52%), owner/client demand (49%), competitive advantage (46%), and desire to improve productivity (43%).
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