Lost keys, misplaced remote controls and missing socks are common frustrations, and most anyone would welcome a device that would help them find those missing items.
On construction sites, the specific objects may change but the issue does not. The loss of tools and equipment is a serious on-site problem and can lead to a loss of productivity or worse, safety issues.
In a clever use of modern technology, researchers from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada have developed remote sensing technology that allows for tools to be tracked and monitored at all times.
Developed by Schulich School of Engineering professor Fernaz Sadeghpour and graduate student Reza Maalek, the ultra wideband (UWB) radio technology can help overcome a number of challenges, from worksite theft to workplace accidents.
The tracking technology, originally developed to track lost inventory, was refocused on the construction sector after the creators discovered the hefty productivity issues that lost or misplaced tools can create on a work site.
“About 25 per cent of workers’ time on site is spent looking for things,” says Sadeghpour.
Items can be tagged with tag receivers placed in the corners of the area that is to be monitored. This allows for individuals off site to monitor the positions of tools at all times.
There are future plans to extend the development of the technology, working on the development of ‘red zone’ trigger points, that would alert project managers if certain tools were entering a zone deemed to be dangerous. If the ‘red zone’ is breached, an alarm would automatically sent via a phone call, text message or online announcement.
“We have red zones tagged in the system, which are not taped off physically because that could change every day on a construction site,” Sadeghpour says. “We can put “red tape,” or virtual red zones into the scenario and as soon as somebody gets too close or enters into that zone, we can send out an alarm.”
Anything from falling materials to dangerous tools in wet areas could be set to alert those both on and off site of their movements, offering quite a strong safety net for workers.
The technological development stands as yet another step towards streamlining technological and construction initiatives in order to maximise productivity in the construction industry.