The demand for digitization is growing in all aspects of life, including the construction industry. Construction technology is rapidly evolving and developing new types of equipment to improve safety and efficiency on jobsites. To help you stay up to date with the latest innovations, Equipment Trader has put together a list of five types of cutting-edge construction technology.
1. Autonomous Equipment
Autonomous construction equipment is a multi-billion-dollar industry that has seen growth over the last several years. Developer Built Robotics creates control systems for existing construction equipment to utilize, turning machinery like excavators, bulldozers, and skid steers into fully autonomous units. This technology allows heavy machine operators to simply set up the equipment on a jobsite and let the equipment do the rest. Now you can dig trenches, excavate foundations, or grade work sites without entering the cab. The machines use light detection and ranging (LiDAR), cameras, and geofencing to stay within the construction site, avoiding workers and potential obstacles while operating. Built has developed autonomous systems for OEMs such as Caterpillar, Komatsu, and Hyundai, while Volvo, Hitachi, and Liebherr also have heavy machines with built-in automation.
2. Construction Drones
On construction sites, drones can provide an overhead view of the jobsite, keeping track of the heavy equipment and workers to detect potential hazards. These flying machines record images and video to survey the area and inspect day-to-day operations. Drones can be equipped with features such as cameras, GPS units, thermal sensors, and infrared sensors for enhanced capabilities. Construction drones can be fully autonomous or operated by a human pilot on the ground or at a remote site. There are two main types of drones used for construction:
- Fixed-Wing Drones are used for mapping and scanning over long distances. These are designed like an airplane and can glide on a set path, reaching higher altitudes.
- Rotary Drones are optimal for inspection and safety surveillance of a worksite over short distances. These are easier to control and feature better stability for clearer imagery.
If you want to know more, check out our previous article to dive deeper into the eight ways drones are changing construction.
3. Wearable Tech
The standard uniform of a construction worker is getting a digital upgrade. With safety as the main concern on construction sites, the industry is developing ways to keep workers safe while on the job. One innovative way is wearable construction technology. This smart wear, which workers wear instead of or in addition to their traditional attire, is easy to use and can monitor fatigue, alert workers to potential hazards, and more. Here are a six pieces of wearable tech for construction workers:
- Smart Hard Hats upgrade the traditional hard hat with high-tech features, including cameras, sensors, and microphones. Not only do they keep workers safe from falling debris, but some smart hard hat models also monitor workers’ surroundings, send alerts for potential hazards, feature voice and video call communication, and can even identify if a worker is fatigued or sick.
- Smart Goggles, similar to regular safety glasses, protect the wearer’s eyes from dust and debris at jobsites. These high-tech goggles are also a tool for hands-free communication. Some are outfitted with AR capabilities, which we discuss later, that can change the way workers view their worksites.
- Exoskeleton Suits allow construction workers to feel like superheroes suiting up for battle. Exosuits/exoskeletons feature motorized joints that can make lifting easier, reduce injuries and improve productivity. These robotic suits mirror a worker’s skeletal structure to provide extra support and power when bending, lifting, and grabbing.
- Smart Gloves come in different forms. Some are embedded with sensors that can alert workers when they’ve experienced prolonged vibrations. These vibrations, common for those who operate power tools, can cause conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and vibration white finger. Other types of smart gloves on the market can increase dexterity and strength to reduce overuse injuries.
- Smart Watches are something many people wear in their day-to-day lives. On a construction site, smart watches can help monitor the vital signs of a worker to prevent overexertion and even detect an abnormal heart rate or respiratory distress in some models. Workers are able to communicate hands free with these watches and even send alerts if they’ve fallen.
- Smart Boots use internal sensors to alert workers of hazardous conditions. The safety features can monitor location and pressure within the shoe to detect if a worker has fallen or sustained small shocks, then call for help automatically.
Augmented reality (AR) is being utilized across multiple industries. AR brings computer-generated objects into a physical environment. In construction, this can be used in everything from project planning to communication. Contractors are able to look at plans in a more realistic way. For example, a contractor can point a tablet, equipped with AR technology, at an undeveloped wall and see the building plans as they would appear constructed. When used with building information modeling (BIM), AR can create 3D overlays of models, compare models to current installations, and bring teams to a virtual workspace for collaboration. In addition to visualization, AR can also help with taking measurements and providing safety information in real time.
5. 3D Printing
Three-dimensional (3D) printing has already proved to be a valuable resource in several fields, including medical, manufacturing, and art, and is poised to break out in the construction industry as well. This technology is commonly used in construction to quickly create prototype parts and scale models. 3D printing technology is capable of printing walls of buildings and processing cement. In fact, many homes across the world have already been developed using 3D printing. Potential benefits of 3D printing in construction include faster output, reduced waste, and more design freedom.
Conclusion: Emerging technology is changing the construction landscape every day. New equipment, wearable tech, and real-world visualization are reshaping how contractors approach regular operations, worker safety, and overall efficiency. While not every contractor will be as quick to adopt these innovations, it’s important to know where the industry is headed by following these construction technology trends.
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