Using lasers to scan spaces makes surveying far faster and easier than was ever previously possible. Using drones can take this a step further, creating detailed 3D models of buildings and structures viewed from the air.
Drones can also be used for buildings inspections, easily viewing locations that might otherwise be difficult or impossible to reach. This saves individuals from having to access rooftops or other potentially dangerous (or unstable) locations. Drones can also be put on programmed flight paths to quickly cover large areas – making them ideal for inspecting power lines, train tracks, pylons and, for example, the underside of oil rigs.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (which includes internet-connected sensors and machinery) is set to have an enormous impact on industry. By attaching sensors to equipment (for example on a building site), the precise performance of each device can be measured and regulated. This enables predictive maintenance – identifying when devices fail to function as expected so they can be fixed before they break. This makes repair work far simpler and easier and means that work can carry on uninterrupted. What’s more, by taking faulty equipment out of circulation, it also prevents accidents and injuries.
IoT sensors, can also track temperature and air quality, ensuring that there is a safe working environment site-wide.
Using online tools can be a challenge when workers are rarely sitting at a desk – but mobile phone apps can bridge the gap. Tracking apps, such as Okappy, can be used to locate workers and provide a complete picture of where every individual is on a site. They can also be used to record time spent exposed to hazardous environments, such as when working in freezing conditions in HVAC, so workers can be pulled out and rotated as needed.
Mobile devices can potentially also offer access to plans and designs – identifying precisely where pipes and electrical cables are in a structure. In the future this information might even be available via Augmented Reality devices (allowing the user to see the real world, overlaid with virtual signage).
Of course these apps can also assist with the simple task of logging time (and ensuring that workers take breaks, hence cutting the risk of accidents and injuries). Furthermore, if all this is put together the business is able to access a huge amount of information about activity across the site – enabling analysis and providing opportunities to find new efficiencies.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, though. So-called Smart Factories connect industrial IoT devices (including sensors and wearable technology) to data analytics and machine learning algorithms. Using AI, the business can then identify opportunities to optimise processes and boost efficiency across the production line and supply chain. Similarly, we may well see robotic exoskeletons in practical use sooner than you might think – allowing workers to lift far heavier weights than was ever previously possible and with a reduced risk of injury.
We are now seeing dramatic technological innovations arriving at an accelerating pace – and employers should keep their eyes open to potential advances which can unlock new opportunities in their field, even if they may at first seem tangential to their line of work.