The construction industry experiences one of the highest fatality rates among the nation’s industrial sectors. However, there is very little research in terms of factors involved and potential control mechanisms. In fact, planning and operations within building construction and infrastructure lack any type of automated communications and a system to distribute key information among project stakeholders.

That’s where Dr. Jochen Teizer comes in.  Dr. Teizer heads the Real-time Automated Project Information and Decision Systems (RAPIDS) laboratory in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The RAPIDS lab is a unique facility dedicated to the development and application of innovative technologies and methods for construction, mining, transportation, and infrastructure. Specifically, researchers at RAPIDS concentrate on real-time, pro-active safety warnings and alert technologies, equipment blind spot measurement, operator visibility tracking, wireless resource location tracking, 4D information modeling and processing, site layout management, and an inference management framework for real-time safety, health, and work activity monitoring and sampling.

Tracking the location and status of site resources in real-time, understanding the spatial environment, and monitoring, analyzing, and recording site activities and conditions are a few of the conditions that become increasingly important in order to base decision-making on reliable information content. Dr. Teizer’s team designs new-prototypes and validates commercially-existing data sensing and processing technologies to improve performance and education on the work site.

A recent example of such technology is the “SmartHat.” Designed by Dr. Teizer and Dr. Matt Reynolds of Duke University, the SmartHat contains a tiny microprocessor and a beeper that sounds a warning when dangerous equipment comes into close proximity to its wearer. What’s unique about the SmartHat is that its beeper and processor operate on such a small amount of power, it is harvested from radio waves in the air. That’s correct, no batteries required. The radio waves are emitted from wireless network transmitters that are installed on backhoes and bulldozers to track their locations. The microprocessor in the hardhat monitors the direction and strength of the radio signal coming from the construction equipment to determine whether the worker is too close.  If so, the alarm sounds.

Dr. Teizer also works with local authorities to monitor and track life safety personnel in real-time. The sensing equipment uses emerging radio frequency, remote sensing and actuating technologies to record the physical location of emergency responders as rescue operations unfold. This type of critical information enables police, firefighters, and other critical response workers to monitor the exact location of team members at all times.

Dr. Teizer states, “To tackle some of these critical issues, our research efforts focus on integrating these kinds of emerging technologies into the decision-making process. We identify and measure data accurately, process the data in a useful flow of information, and provide decision-makers with relevant and timely information values that make a substantial difference.”

Current field research presents findings with the potential to dramatically improve safety, training, efficiency, and overall operations within a wide variety of industrial sectors.

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