Roughly three-quarters of contractors believe that internet of things (IoT) technologies like wearables and sensors can help them mitigate occupational risks such as construction defects, general liability and property damage, according to a new report from Dodge Data & Analytics in partnership with Triax Technologies and IRMI.
Wearables — an umbrella category that includes movement sensors, biometric monitoring devices and even augmented reality headsets — were named as one of the top two emerging technology types that can add value in the risk management arena, found the “Using Technology to Improve Risk Management in Construction” study.
“Going forward, it is going to be standard operating procedure that when you show up to work, you get issued your wearable, and go along as you've always done, but there's data being collected that will be used to mitigate those risks,” said one participant. Among the 135 contractors surveyed, 80 were general contractors, construction managers or design-builders and 55 were specialty trade contractors.
The second emerging technology named was visual auditing, which involves pairing jobsite photos or videos with artificial intelligence to detect deviations or sources of risk, sometimes in real time, that might otherwise escape a human worker’s notice.
While the majority of respondents (59%) are “highly engaged” with technology to conduct employee training, according to the study, other areas of risk management could see wider technology adoption. Its use ranges from 44% to 47% for safety documentation, job hazard analysis and worker certifications, the report found.
Resources a barrier to adoption
But it’s not for contractors’ lack of confidence in the tools that are out there. Nearly all respondents said they’d like to be able to digitally collect and analyze safety and risk data, but more than one-third still do not. Resources seem to be the main barrier, the study found, particularly when it comes to data analytics — only 19% include this as part of their budget.
In fact, most contractors (90%) do not specifically budget for innovation, the report found, which results in inconsistency in the way that companies handle new tech expenses.
The leading factors that win these firms over are ease of use, costs and the training or support that accompanies the product. These landed in the top three for 79%, 73% and 51% of respondents, respectively.
Interestingly, only 10% of respondents ranked the reputation of the provider as one of their top factors. Given the number of startups in the construction marketplace, it’s easy for contractors to fall prey to half-baked solutions with attractive marketing, according to Christian Burger, president at Burger Consulting Group. For this reason, he told Construction Dive last year that software companies’ track records need to be a top consideration for contractors.
The ability to negotiate lower insurance premiums is the No. 1 appeal of risk mitigation technologies, named by 67% of respondents. But these products — whether they are emerging technologies or construction management, safety or progress tracking software programs — still need to get past the gatekeepers. Those who control the purse strings, according to the report, must be convinced of the technology’s ROI, privacy and security and that there are enough internal resources for the company to successfully implement it.