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Going to the job site has a whole new meaning with advances from technology that can track every aspect of the job - equipment use, worker safety, man hours, even managing risk. This type of tracking can lead to huge productivity boosts in the life of a project.

The construction industry may be under-digitized, but a growing number of firms are making their jobsites “smarter" by taking advantage of a connected, internet of things ecosystem.

IoT, in its broadest sense, refers to the network of devices and people that harness and exchange data while connected to the internet. Laptops, cell phones, tablets and other devices embedded with computing systems all play a part in this ecosystem, which allows workers to access up-to-date project documents on their mobile devices, for example, or share data with project stakeholders across the country.

IoT-enabled sensors further expand this ecosystem by turning any object, not just a computer or mobile device, into a source of data on that object and its environment.

Sensors can be used “on more or less everything on the jobsite,” Triax Technologies CEO Chad Hollingsworth told Construction Dive. “The real future is not so much the data collection as it is the ecosystem coming together around that data.”

Here are three areas in which sensors are building a connected network that helps contractors access data they couldn’t before and prevent problems before they occur.

Protecting workers
Wearable sensors can help keep workers safe by detecting injuries and proximity to high voltage; measuring body temperature, perspiration and heart rate; and flagging dangerous behaviors like drowsiness or distractedness.

Triax Technologies’ Spot-r tracking system, for example, clips onto workers’ belts and instantly alerts others onsite when a worker has tripped or fallen. The sensors communicate with each other and relay data to the cloud via a mesh network, a system of interconnected nodes that creates connectivity throughout the site.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers developed a similar network for their Safety++ suite of IoT-enabled wearable technologies. Along with jackets that alert workers to harmful toxins and decibel levels, the research team designed work shoes with embedded sensors that can detect whether a worker is carrying a dangerously heavy load. When the user attempts to lift the object, the sensor puts out a message to nearby workers who can come help and minimize risk of injury.

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