Technology

Evaluating the Use of SmartWatches at Hensel Phelps

Hensel Phelps uses a SmartWatch wearable technology to better understand worker production while helping workers keep adequate social distancing protocol.
By A. Vincent Vasquez
July 23, 2020
Topics
Technology

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Editor’s Note: This article is the fifth in the Construction Tech Talks series, highlighting technology trends and digital transformations from the perspective of industry leaders. Conducted by Vince Vasquez, founder and CEO at PrecisionStory, this valuable enterprise takes the form of both an audio interview with a forward-thinking, tech-savvy CEO and an accompanying article that seek to illustrate how to leverage complex technology via the exploration of successful use cases.


Thai Nguyen, director of virtual design and construction at Hensel Phelps discusses an innovative SmartWatch technology he and his team have been piloting to improve both productivity and safety at jobsites.

“One technology that we're looking at is from a company called IOSITE,” Nguyen says. “It has a ton of potential.”
Per its moniker, a SmartWatch is wearable technology worn on the wrist. It gives contractors the ability to better understand worker production, and has interesting capabilities from a safety perspective as well.

Productivity

The first use case Hensel Phelps explored was to pilot the SmartWatch to better understand worker production on a day-to-day basis. With built-in geolocation capabilities, the watches allow the company first to identify the length of time workers spend at each location and then to map the resultant data back to the schedule.

SmartWatches also have the ability to automate timecard procedures. Currently, project managers and superintendents can spend hours manually tracking employee time. With this new technology, time on the job is tracked automatically, in real time.

Communications

The second use case explored by the contractor was using the watch as a communications device. Nguyen explains that, “we are in world where information comes in from multiple sources, such as email.” So Hensel Phelps has been experimenting with the SmartWatch technology as a catch-all communications device that everyone has on their wrists.

For instance, Hensel Phelps could broadcast bulletins to all employees, such as announcing impromptu schedule changes, daily schedule changes and even weather patterns that are coming into the area. Nguyen believes there will be tremendous value in having a single channel of communication via a wearable product that project leaders and team leads can utilize to communicate to their teams as needed—helping to keep everyone on the same page.

Safety

IOSITE CEO Piyush Vishwakarma shares that the SmartWatches have safety capabilities, as well. These features may be of particular relevance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Considering the geolocation technology embedded in the watch, this feature can be amplified further to vibrate if another person (also wearing a SmartWatch) comes within a certain distance (such as six feet), helping to ensure workers keep adequate social distancing protocol. With this in mind, the wearable can be used for contact tracing at the jobsite.

One potential objection to a company requiring SmartWatch technology is that a worker might already have his or her own device. To combat this objection, IOSITE has built its application to run on different SmartWatch platforms so that if an employee already has a SmartWatch, the IOSITE app can just be added to the existing software.

Ultimately, Nguyen and the team at Hensel Phelps—along with contractors nationwide that are gradually returning to work—are exploring how to leverage technology to do what’s best for employees, while giving project leaders a great tool to monitor worker productivity and improve communications on the jobsite.

by A. Vincent Vasquez

Vince Vasquez has more than 30 years of experience in enterprise sales, marketing and engineering. Working with 20 industry leaders, he is the co-author of Precision Construction, which teaches the fundamentals of IoT with a focus on the construction industry. He is also the co-founder and CEO of PrecisionStory, which brings Precision Storytelling—a new and innovative approach to enterprise storytelling—to market. Vince has an MBA from Stanford University, an MS in Computer Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University and a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. 

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