A New Perspective

The Impact of Google Glass on the Construction Industry

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Ever since Google Glass hit the scene, the market has been buzzing about this new, wearable technology and how it will affect everyday life, from emailing and photo sharing to navigating and telephoning. But the potential for Glass’ augmented reality goes far beyond casual use. The technology could also be a major boon to the construction industry and insiders are already imagining how it might reinvent the way we approach our jobs.

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Augmented reality is not new. This concept of overlaying computer-generated images or sounds atop our view of the real world has long been utilised for gaming and entertainment. Glass makes augmented reality wearable, projecting digital information in front of the viewer, while the real world is still visible in the background. If you need help finding your way, Glass simply displays a map right in front of you, without disturbing your line of sight. Need to check the weather? Glass brings up the information while you walk, so you never have to miss a step. Pictures, texts, recipes – virtually anything is available hands-free via this wearable computer.

Glass responds to voice commands, so users can access the information they need safely and efficiently, no matter where they are or what they are doing. Photos, documents, floor plans – almost anything is just a word away. The possibilities for the construction industry are staggering.

The most obvious benefit is the ability to superimpose an image over an actual construction site. Users could instantly see what they are building – before the first brick is laid. Glass could also be used to confirm installation locations, double check drawings, locate component details, coordinate work, and more, constructech.com reports.

The industry is wading through uncharted territory and, at this stage, the possibilities seem endless. Not surprisingly, tech companies are already champing at the bit to churn out software that effectively harnesses Glass’ potential for construction.

FieldLens is leading the way. The company is behind a software platform that shares information across various mobile devices in order to “support every member of the construction project team,” the company website reports. Notably, the platform “is the first and only social media technology developed specifically for the construction industry that enables entire project teams to instantly connect and collaborate with one another,” broadwayworld.com adds. When used with Glass, FieldLens would allow users to easily access and record project information onsite – without interrupting their work.

“Imagine being able to walk the jobsite and issue a command to take hundreds of photos and videos and then organise them just by issuing a simple voice command,” FieldLens writes in its company blog. “You could also share your real-time view of a project’s progress with collaborators while telling them exactly what they’re looking at. Pull up blueprints, call a meeting with your crew in an instant, and catalogue all the information you need – these are just a few of the ways wearable technology like Google Glass could change construction and we are only at the beginning of what’s to come.”

Cloud-based construction management software company Procore Technologies is also at the leading edge when it comes to Google Glass and construction. Procore is already testing Glass’ potential for the construction industry so that the company’s project management solutions will be ready for the device as soon as it goes mainstream.

The company believes that Glass will enable project managers to virtually explore multiple jobsites around the world – all in the same day, Procore’s blog reports. Communication would be a snap; sharing documents and information would be seamless, and colleagues could collaborate in real time.

Utilising leading technology like Glass is crucial because “the construction industry revolves around efficiency and razor-thin margins, Procore’s blog points out. “Projects with missing documents, out-of-date schedules or poor communication can easily become delayed, costing the builder valuable time and money.”

Of course, Glass’ potential is not limited to communication and sharing applications. Equipment World points out that project managers may one day be able to compare their field of view to a drawing, picture, or plan in one-to-one scale. Or, information could be projected onto a windscreen to direct equipment operators while they work. Wearable technology could even monitor safety onsite; Equipment World imagines that Glass could incorporate a wearable device that would monitor heart rate and temperature and instruct workers when they need to take a break or replenish fluids.

But, construction professionals may not want to run out and get their hands on Google Glass quite yet, Equipment World warns. Although the device is already available for purchase, it is still technically in the development stage and is yet to be perfected. An early review by the Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern found that battery life was limited to one day on standby – and just three or four hours while in use. Connectivity was also a serious issue. Fortunately, Google is working hard to iron out the kinks and the technology is constantly improving.

There are also serious concerns around privacy. Many consumers complain that the in-your-face technology is not only invasive, but downright creepy. Social media battles are already being waged over where Google Glass should be allowed, with some venues banning the technology all together. And, of course, there is the fact that Glass wearers look undeniably goofy.

Privacy and style concerns are not as relevant to professional users, however; project managers are not buying the device to wear it casually in bars and cafés. And, while early consumer reviews have been lacklustre, Equipment World predicts that Google Glass could very well have a sizable impact on the commercial market – and the construction industry in particular.

Future Glass models are sure to have better battery life, more dependable connectivity, and a more streamlined appearance – and the steep $1,500 price tag is likely to drop as the technology improves. However, the product has enough potential that some construction professionals may find it worth the current high cost and lingering glitches. Others will prefer to wait until the cost drops, more applications are available, and the product is updated. Of course, construction professionals who buy now will get a jump start on utilising the latest technology, which may give them a leg up on the competition.

It is difficult to know exactly how advantageous Google Glass will be to the construction industry. After all, this is only the beginning. But first generation technology always clears the path for greater advancements in the near future. Today’s possibilities are already so remarkable, one can only imagine what tomorrow will bring.

From Past to Present

When the subject of construction materials is raised, traditional products immediately come to mind. Many raw materials, like wood and stone, have been used in building for thousands of years, and remain popular today for a number of reasons ranging from necessity to cost, convenience, and availability…

June 24, 2017, 1:36 AM AEST

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2017-06-23 16:10