Academy of Self-Reliance

Meeting COVID-19’s NEXT Challenge

In June, we noted the NEXT Coalition’s Construction Safety Challenge and explained how an industry group focused on infrastructure and construction was challenging the industry to come up with new and innovative ideas for meeting the COVID-19’s impact on jobsites across the country. The original companies forming the NEXT Coalition were Black & Veatch, DPR Construction, Haskell, and McCarthy Building Companies. They were soon joined by Swinerton and Truebeck Construction.

The NEXT Coalition has now chosen five pilot projects meant to protect crews against challenges posed by COVID-19. The pilot projects—chosen from 84 applications and products from 78 companies and startups who responded to a call for coronavirus solutions—include wearable technology for contact tracing and social distancing, digital pre-screening of workers, and smart video monitoring for health and safety.

Selected projects developed and submitted by Kwant.ai, GoContractor, Smartvid.io, Opal and Versatile, represent only a portion of those submitted as part of the “Construction Safety Challenge.” Fifty-eight other potential products are being vetted by the coalition, and additional submissions are being welcomed.

The first pilots are:

GoContractor: GoContractor is an online contractor orientation platform that facilitates COVID-19 protocols by providing contact-free registrations, socially distanced site-specific and standard safety online orientations, zero-contamination check-in and check-out, and central compliance tracking. GoContractor works faster and safer than in-person, paper-based orientation by collecting contractor registration online, letting contractors complete orientations before they set foot on the worksite, and allowing managers to verify workers, monitor their qualifications, and get crews cleared to go back to work.

Kwant.ai: McCarthy Building Companies is piloting the Kwant.ai construction analytics platform to keep workers safe and minimize project impacts during the construction of a parking garage on a hospital campus in Georgia. Workers carry trackable chip cards on-site with real-time location data being collected by IoT beacons. If a worker tests positive for COVID-19, managers can use a geospatial dashboard to retrace their movements in relation to others on site for efficient contact tracing and sanitizing.

Smartvid.io: Over the past several months, Haskell has used Smartvid.io to monitor its COVID-19 safety practices on seven of its large projects. Smartvid.io uses AI (artificial intelligence) to make automated safety observations from progress photos that Haskell captures on its jobsites in Procore. Smartvid.io’s AI engine detects and reports on a wide range of safety practices such as housekeeping, work at height, and now COVID-19 practices including social distancing, face mask and gloves compliance. Using Smartvid.io, Haskell’s overall social distancing compliance improved from 75-78% from June to July, and face mask compliance improved from 82-90%.

Opal: Opal is a low cost, no charging, wearer passive IoT wearable RTLS (Real Time Location System) that addresses safety, security, and operational challenges that large, complex job sites have when it comes to managing people and assets. Specific to COVID-19, in the event of a worker becoming infected, Opal, using real-time alerts and historical reports, can identify where the worker was throughout the shift and who the worker came in contact with while on site. Social distancing parameters also can be set up to alert management on worker proximity or if too many people occupy a zone. These alerts can be followed up with progressive coaching techniques, further enhancing the positive culture on the project.

Versatile: On many sites, cranes function as control towers, orchestrating and driving a tremendous amount of construction activity. Versatile’s CraneView uses hardware and software (including machine learning and artificial intelligence) to turn cranes into smart devices that provide actionable insights to the field. The CraneView device is a multi-sensor unit which can be attached under the hook of any crane. The sensors measure thousands of points of data—load, weight, motion, rigging, unrigging, material, location, tasks, and idle times. The data collected offers insights that optimize crane utilization, driving up production rates.

Expecting that the resiliency of our nation’s infrastructure and built environment will be tested by pandemics and other disruptions in the future, the NEXT Coalition intends to collaborate on leveraging its members’ safety expertise, share best practices and continue to search out and pilot new products and services.

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