Last month we discussed how tech savvy construction jobsites have become over the past few years. Besides having a robust remote office in a temporary jobsite trailer that houses high speed internet, smartboards, and digital blueprints, the tools on the jobsite have become “smart” too. By smart, I mean connected to the network and offer the user detailed information about the job at hand. Yes, we’re way past tools just having digital displays and laser beams. Now those laser beams can automatically measure distances for pinpoint accuracy and in less time than doing the task manually. The era of construction smart tools has already begun.
- Connectivity – Being “smart” means these tools are connected. Some of the tools connect via Wi-Fi and others connect to a user’s smartphone via Bluetooth technology. The information can also be pushed to the cloud and managed by someone at the construction company’s corporate office. This connectivity is the next generation of the web, which is called the Internet of Things (IoT), and many studies cite that there are already more devices online than humans.
- Reporting & Inventory Management – Today’s tools can create real-time inventories of every tool on the jobsite, including who the tools are assigned to and for how long. Reports can include diagnostics like runtime, KPIs, and alert users to perform scheduled maintenance as needed.
- Virtual Fence – You can create an invisible fence around your construction jobsites that alerts your mobile device when a tool passes the perimeter and the tool automatically disables the battery once it leaves the enclosed area. Disabling the battery when out of range of a Bluetooth device is obviously a great anti-theft tool, and some DIY websites cite it as a way to child proof tools at home.
- Battery Controls – The tool can notify the user if the battery is about to die, overheat, or is out of range. Some tools also allow you to specify time limits for the battery’s usage when you lend it to others. You may even find a USB port on your battery to power your smartphone.
- Locating Tools – Since the tools are connected, you can easily locate these tools by identifying the last person assigned to the tools and physically locate the tools via the wireless connection.
- Real-time Measurements – Some tools, like drills, can tell the user precisely how far the machine has dug, or even be set to go a specified distance, to ensure the user does not drill too far into the material. Other drills allow you to set the torque and speed via your smartphone by selecting the material you’re drilling into such as concrete or wood.
- Smartphone Peripherals – Because smartphones are highly portable computers, companies are manufacturing attachments to locate studs, measure moisture levels and wind speeds, and to align things with lasers.
- Powered Toolboxes – Since so many tools are now battery operated, toolboxes are becoming portable charging stations.
- Incorporating AR – Pioneering construction tech companies are pairing these smart tools with augmented reality (AR) to provide users with a view of the finished product while still working on the task at hand.
Most IT firms don’t get involved in the tools used in the field, but a good IT firm will help your construction company by having a strong network to support these tools including Wi-Fi on jobsites, setting up virtual fences, and collating and backing up all this data.
Needless to say, we’re not at your father’s construction jobsite anymore.