Meet the construction worker of tomorrow

Program Manager, IoT Platform Offering Management, Ecosystem Partner & Community Development, IBM Internet of Things


The construction worker of tomorrow enjoys all the benefits of a merge between the digital and the physical—he (or she) is connected to his team and his environment at never-before-seen levels.

The worker is powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) cloud, IoT analytics and IBM Watson, and is plugged into a work site through smart devices outfitted with accelerometers, thermometers, audio gauges and oxygen sensors. Vital signs and activities (working, walking and son) are monitored and reported back to a main site database.

This changes things for the construction industry (and all other industries)—and carries positive implications for worker safety. Visibility goes both ways, and an integrated worker is an informed worker, when kept aware of adverse or changing work conditions in real time. Considered the "fourth most dangerous job in the world," construction workers have a lot to gain from having condition-based, meaningful analytics, which can mean better safety management within industrial workspaces.

For employers, integrating this technology could potentially lower costs around liability insurance for workers or even help enforce and monitor employment safety law adherence for health standards.

Here’s how a connected environment works:

  1. Rich information is gathered from a surrounding area and analyzed by “edge” IoT devices worn by individual workers.
  2. The wearable devices send the gathered data to the IoT cloud, where the information is analyzed against normal metrics and the worker is notified about abnormalities.
  3. The IoT cloud is latent: it continuously analyzes current data against historical data to measure, interpret and monitor workplace connections.
  4. In the event of dangerous or unstable conditions, the worker is alerted.
  5. If workers have questions throughout the day, they can interact directly with Watson for answers.

For site management teams, even remote ones, this level of digital integration is invaluable: it feeds integrated dashboards and showcases individual workers; their work schedules; their activities (working, walking, accident); and plant gas, temperature and humidity levels.

When simple devices are connected to the cloud, a whole new mode of operations can be unlocked.

If, for example, an individual on the site floor experiences a sudden impact or trauma, the intelligent devices will relay the information back to the dashboard immediately. The data captured will cover the scope of the impact (velocity, severity) and could trigger medical teams being alerted or other actions.

To see this technology for yourself, check out a video taken from the floor of the ARM TechCon 2015:

The video demonstrates the latest in IoT-connected construction gadgets—and shows how they could empower the construction industry of tomorrow. I'm showcasing a connected construction helmet, with sensors that stream information to the IBM IoT Foundation (IoTF) platform through a combination of mBed-enabled Multitech mDot endpoints and a LoRa-enabled Multitech Conduit Base station. In this example, IoTF is used to calculate the potential health danger of each of the impacts, recognizing that impacts to the head can have cumulative damage impact.