Researchers create improved jobsite safety tech with location tracking

Dive Brief:

  • Heavy equipment, machinery and vehicles make construction sites dangerous, but a team of researchers has a plan to alleviate some of the hazards.
  • The research team, led by doctoral student Alireza Ansaripour from the University of Houston, created Viper+, a system that uses radio signals and geolocated tags to track workers and equipment on the jobsite, according to a university press release.
  • The system overcomes challenges other ultra-wideband based real-time safety monitoring systems suffer from because it overcomes non-line of sight situations, where machines block the signal between the tag and the receiver, the release said.

Dive Insight:

Viper+ automates the monitoring of safety policies set at the beginning of a project. The policies define where “safe” and “unsafe” areas are, and the system detects any violations of the policies while employees and equipment are working, according to the release. 

Viper+ utilizes ultra-wideband technology for location tracking, which Ansaripour said tracked locations more accurately compared to other wireless radios. 

The first evaluation of the system was in 2019 on an 8,600-square-foot construction plot. Four students operated as workers in the tracking zone while Ansaripour managed the data flow of the system. In 2022, a similar scenario was set up at a different construction site.

Despite the trial success, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out, such as overall effectiveness and some design issues.

“We also have an issue creating a tracking zone that covers all of a construction site, not just a portion of it,” said Ansaripour. “There are still some improvements that need to be made for this to become a commercial product, but our work provides insight on how a real-time safety monitoring system can be used for safety tracking in construction sites.”

News of the tests come at a time when highway worker safety has been in national headlines. In March, a motorist killed six construction workers in Maryland, igniting a debate about how best to keep construction workers safe, and what the agencies responsible for that safety can do. States such as New York, for example, have new speed-monitoring cameras in place to track drivers near construction sites.

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