Why Your Construction Company Needs Smart Helmets

By business.com editorial staff,
business.com writer
| Updated
Jun 25, 2020
Image Credit: m-gucci_getty / Getty Images

This wearable tech could improve your construction team's safety and efficiency.

  • Wearable gadgets such as smart helmets can benefit a construction company. Smart helmets are Internet of Things technology designed to provide instant feedback on construction sites.
  • Smart helmets can include health trackers, with features such as heart monitors and emergency alerts.
  • One planning tool that can be built into a smart helmet is augmented reality software. This allows you to add virtual plans directly into real-world settings.

A smart helmet combines the traditional safety structure of a hard hat with cutting-edge technology to create a safer helmet that's brimming with features to boost productivity, efficiency and effectiveness.

Smart technology has never been well suited to jobsite conditions with dust, debris and an array of hazards that quickly destroy many consumer-grade products. You wouldn't expect your shiny new Apple Watch to fare well at a construction site, would you? But the smart helmet already has superior strength and construction and protects the smart technology housed inside as well as your head. This advanced wearable technology has robust sensors and augmented reality features designed to increase safety and productivity.

What is a smart helmet?

Smart helmets are hard hats made specifically for those who have jobs on construction sites. Construction workers and engineers use the smart helmet for both safety reasons and site planning purposes.

Smart helmets have the same basic appearance as a standard hard hat, but they have built-in technology that includes tracking tools, sensors and augmented reality. The technology can warn workers of dangerous conditions and send alerts to team members if any workers need assistance. A smart helmet can also provide access to site planning tools for engineers. For instance, some helmets allow you to view blueprints directly from the visor or even create images using augmented reality.  

According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, smart helmets have been linked to improvements in productivity and workplace safety. With all of the tools available remotely on the helmet, there are fewer trips to control or staging areas. Workplace safety rates improve with health-tracking tools and emergency alerts.

The Android-based smart helmet from Daqri, for instance, connects people, data and machines with its pull-down smart visor, or the Ahead attachment can connect to an existing helmet to turn it into a smart helmet. Such devices could become powerful tools in construction, engineering, manufacturing and other industrial settings, but a lot of testing still needs to be done. 

Health monitoring

Optional headbands in the Daqri sit within the smart helmet to check a user's heart rate, skin temperature, blood oxygen saturation and brain activity. Therefore, focus and cognitive states as well as vital statistics are monitorable for every helmet user. The data is tracked in real time and available via central hub. This technology can provide early warnings of potentially dangerous conditions or locations, and it can identify when a user is too tired or unfocused to safely perform their tasks. 

Hands-free visual data

Working in tight spaces or at high altitudes while carrying auxiliary devices like tablets poses safety risks. However, it's often necessary for workers to carry these tools to access or record data. With a smart helmet, that information is accessible through the visor, meaning workers can keep their hands free for balance and performing their duties.

Proximity safety

For workers on construction sites and others who work around heavy machinery, there's a significant risk of accidents. Smart helmets can offer forward- and rear-facing, depth-sensing cameras. If they sense dangerously close proximity to a nearby object, they send out an audible and/or visual alarm.

Data overlay

Data overlay or visualization gives your workers access to real-time data, reducing the need for them to travel back and forth to computer terminals. For example, if a user has to restart a piece of machinery or a system, they don't need to go back to the office to get a status report – they can get it right there on their smart helmet's visor.

Thermal vision

Thermal vision can greatly increase workers' safety, as it lets them visualize, record and analyze temperature data in their immediate environment.

Guided work instructions

With intuitive augmented instructions, smart helmets can show your team what processes or tasks need to be completed and how to do them. You can also send your own instructions for a worker from your central monitoring system.

Live support

Waiting for an expert can be annoyingly time-consuming, resulting in a loss of efficiency and a drop in productivity. If a worker attempts a task for which they're unqualified without guidance, disaster can ensue. Smart helmets feature remote expert support, so workers can make and receive calls and video calls from their visor to request and receive assistance. There's also augmentation support, so the support person can walk the worker through a task with visual aids.

Data collection

Outfitting your workers with smart helmets is an accurate, unobtrusive method of collecting all kinds of data about your workforce and what's happening on job sites. Monitoring the health of your employees can improve their well-being and reduce your company's healthcare costs. Additionally, healthy employees are more productive and efficient. Other data helps you track when your workers are at peak productivity and when their focus ebbs. Once you've identified any weak spots, you can take steps to boost motivation and optimize productivity.

Augmented reality blueprints

With the presence of augmented reality technology and multiple cameras and sensors, smart helmets allow users to pull down their visors; access a blueprint, architectural designs and work instructions; and see exactly where that design will be placed in the real world.

This technology is still in its infancy and undergoing extensive trials in multiple industries. What's clear is that it has massive potential to transform the modern industrial workforce, streamlining processes, increasing safety and optimizing efficiency.

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff
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