BauWatch’s Alexis Potter explores how imaging technology is advancing security and safety on construction sites
Imaging technologies like computer vision (CV), extended reality (XR), and drones are driving unprecedented changes across the construction industry.
Recent research from A/O PropTech found artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled construction start-ups have overtaken AI-enabled fintech start-ups in raising capital in the last three years.
The growth of advanced technology in construction is clearly a trend that’s here to stay and it’s happening fast. From enhanced security to onsite safety monitoring, these innovations are redefining how construction companies collect and interact with information – enabling proactive interventions and seamless collaboration between on- and off-site teams.
Next-gen solutions for hazards
Construction sites are inherently hazardous due to heavy machinery, heights, and manual labour, making accidents a significant risk.
The industry is infamously dangerous relative to others, as reflected by the Health and Safety Executive’s findings that construction had the highest death rate from April 2022 to March this year.
Site safety is vital not only to protect workers’ lives, but also to ensure legal compliance, cost efficiency, employee morale, and a positive reputation within the industry and community.
Integrated AI can now alert monitoring teams and proactively identify issues through machine learning. Algorithms can be trained on images of safety violations or synthetic data, and firms can even use their own library of images from job site cameras for training.
This data-driven security strategy supports compliance with safety protocols, rapidly flagging breaches so worker safety remains uncompromised. What’s more, in the case of incidents, real-time monitoring also helps in detailed analysis to prevent future mishaps.
Drones can add another layer of safety measures, as their aerial vantage point is invaluable for inspecting hard-to-reach areas like high-rise structures without subjecting workers to potential risks.
Moreover, a bird’s-eye perspective of the entire construction site cannot be achieved otherwise. In emergencies, the quick deployment of drones facilitates an efficient survey of affected areas, ensuring timely and safe emergency responses.
Drones can also be outfitted with AI capabilities, taking proactive hazard identification to the skies.
Ultimately, the prevention of incidents is better than a swift response. Virtual reality (VR) offers an immersive dimension to safety protocols that means workers can undergo training in a simulated construction environment, learning to handle potential hazards without the associated real-world risks.
The Southern Construction Framework reported a 43%reduction in safety incidents for construction contractor Willmott Dixon, which underwent VR training about working at heights, showing just how effective using VR can be for safeguarding workers.
Battling site crime
Theft is another major challenge on construction sites that advanced imaging technology is helping to address.
According to a recent survey by NFU Mutual, almost 90% of construction contractors and tradespeople have been victims of theft, the cost of which is estimated to be around £800m to the industry. Particularly as darker nights approach, site teams must be on the lookout for criminal activity.
It was only recently that Homes England lost almost £69m, owed by Ilke Homes, which was bankrupted by equipment theft and problems selling completed modules.
One of the most vital benefits of computer vision is enhanced on-site security. Visual AI tools can help security teams predict suspicious activity more quickly, and make predictions about future trends.
Drones are another security force multiplier, with the ability to monitor vast areas with ease at an affordable cost. You don’t need to be a pilot to fly one either. They can be set up to automatically patrol specific areas, such as where construction materials are stored, or areas with expensive equipment.
Not only can they be more cost-effective than onsite security guards, much like CCTV cameras, they record everything they see, providing evidence for police investigations. With robust site security in place, project stakeholders can rest assured knowing their investments are not endangered by the risks of theft, vandalism and project delays. It’s an essential part of any technology mix that often gets overlooked until it’s too late.
Seeing the way ahead
As we envision the future of construction, it’s clear that the fusion of technology and traditional building methods is not just a passing trend but the foundation of a new era, characterised by informed decision-making, proactive interventions, and superior build quality.
Welcome to the future, where blueprints breathe and buildings speak through the lens of a camera.
Alexis Potter is the managing director of BauWatch
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