This post is part of our new Future of Construction series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Chad Hollingsworth, CEO and co-founder of Triax.
1. What’s the history of Triax Technologies? Where and how did you begin?
CH: Triax Technologies was founded in 2012 with a head impact monitoring technology designed to tackle the concussion crisis, particularly in youth sports. Through the development of a proprietary communication protocol, Triax enabled coaches to see head impact data in real time across an entire team and over a wide geographic area. Starting in 2015, Triax adapted this networked safety technology for the construction industry to meet customer demand for a robust IoT solution in this incredibly challenging IT environment. Triax is playing a key role in transforming construction from one of the least digitized industries in the U.S. to a connected, data-enabled field. We are proud to expand upon our company’s legacy of keeping athletes safe on the sports field to keep workers safe on the jobsite.
2. What specific problem are you solving? How do you solve it?
CH: Spot-r by Triax is the only commercially available solution today that offers real-time location services on a construction site as well as a robust suite of safety features. We offer an unprecedented level of digital worksite visibility and effective, real-time communication tools to make the connected jobsite possible for the first time. Up until now there has been no reliable, real-time way to monitor site operations or know who is on the jobsite and where they’re located. Traditionally, most construction companies have relied on manual headcounts and periodic visual checks to keep track of safety incidents and who’s on site.
In addition to leading to potentially dangerous situations if safety incidents are not recognized quickly, these manual methods are extremely time-consuming, inefficient, and often inaccurate. Think of all the time that is lost recording key project information, transferring it to a company’s Excel spreadsheets, paper logs or project management software, and then compiling it for reporting and analysis. Not to mention the time spent tracking down people and information to get the project information in the first place.
Spot-r is the future of the connected jobsite. We deploy a non-GPS network on the jobsite.
By giving each worker a safety device that clips onto their waist belt, we’re connecting them to the network – and connecting superintendents, upper managers and executives with site operations and safety incidents at any point in time, regardless of where they’re physically located. We can tell you who is on a jobsite and where they’re located by project zones. The worker clip also detects when a worker has a slip, trip or fall and sends an automatic, geo-tagged alert to the safety superintendent, who is now able to respond more efficiently and effectively.
In addition to safety visibility, we’re also providing real-time safety communication tools that enable workers to report site hazards and injuries by pushing a button – without having to leave their work area. And, superintendents can trigger site-wide emergency evacuation alerts that are received by each worker.
3. What’s the future of construction?
CH: There is a digital transformation occurring in construction. This isn’t just a hot topic, it’s a call to action, and the leading contractors are embracing innovative technologies that make their jobsites and companies smarter and allow them to do more with the same number of resources. Here’s what we see for the space over the next 12-18 months:
Prediction #1: The future jobsite is a fully connected jobsite. Companies will be able to know where all their resources – workers, equipment, tools, machinery, and materials – are located on the jobsite, how they’re being used and how they’re interacting with each other. Processes will be automated, information will be streamlined, resources will be optimized, and project costs will be more accurate and reliable.
Prediction #2: Integration will be the norm. In the fast-paced, results-driven construction industry, workers don’t have time to flip between eight different platforms or solutions to access project information. As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace as well, contractors will not have the time or budget to adopt new systems every few years. As a result, construction technologies will need to work together to ensure relevance and survival; emerging technologies will need to work with existing systems and systems must be configurable to companies’ own platforms.
Prediction #3: Companies – and the industry – will be less fragmented. Automatically collected data will be centralized in a single, real-time dashboard. With information across assets and resources, there will be increased transparency – and accountability – across industry stakeholders. General contractors will have insight into subcontractor operations, and subcontractors will have easy access to project information, including manpower, that will enable them to bid more precisely. On top of that, robust safety data will allow all parties to participate in and improve site safety culture. Instead of a top-down approach, it will be a two-way, bilateral flow of information and communication. Knowledge is power, and the digital, data-enabled construction industry will reduce inefficiencies and miscommunication that could lead to oversights, and safety and productivity issues.
4. What are the top 3 technology trends you’re seeing in construction?
Trend #1: Drones for site surveying, project documentation, and hazard evaluation that are reducing inefficiencies and potentially hazardous situations.
Trend #2: Sensor-based technologies for automatically capturing information, ranging from environmental sensors that monitor air quality, temperature and humidity to wearable sensors that monitor worker safety and streamline activity.
Trend #3: Virtual Reality (VR) during the pre-construction phase to view and evaluate building plans before breaking ground. By walking through projects with the occupants, firms can develop designs that are more practical and on target. Having an ER nurse or doctor walk through proposed operating rooms, for example, allows them to identify key issues and challenges – before construction gets underway.
5. Why is construction ripe for disruption?
CH: Attend any construction event and you will inevitably hear how construction lags behind other industries when it comes to productivity and technology. A 2015 McKinsey report found that globally, labor productivity in construction has averaged 1 percent per year over the last two years compared to 3.6 percent in manufacturing and 2.8 percent for the total global economy. When you consider that construction is the second least digitized industry in the U.S. – second only to agriculture and hunting – this stagnant productivity is less surprising.
There are several factors that have contributed to the industry’s poor technology progress. Jobsites today look very similar to the jobsites of twenty years ago, in part due to construction’s inherently challenging IT environment and the variety of trade activities, materials, machinery, tools and equipment that need to be accommodated in any technology solution. Also, until recently, the technology wasn’t available to make the connected jobsite a reality. When you further consider the other pressing issues facing the industry—increasingly complex buildings, tighter budgets and timelines, 1-3 percent profit margins and a skilled labor shortage – it’s understandable that technology may have been less of a priority for some general contractors. However, technology is rapidly becoming a key part of the solution to address many of these issues.
The world has gone digital, however, as have most other industries, and leading construction firms are embracing technologies to keep up. As consumer information is readily available at our fingertips, it is transforming business expectations. Owners, contractors, and workers expect real-time, data-driven information and reports. Also, as competition increases and project margins remain tight, general contractors need to connect jobsites; automate manual processes; and streamline data collection, analysis and reporting; to ensure project quality, maintain a competitive edge and keep the industry momentum moving forward.