In 2015, Laing O’Rourke worked with MOQdigital to design a hardhat with sensors to gather and transmit data from both its wearer and environmental conditions. Laing O’Rourke’s IoT focus and the hardhat technology is being driven by an internal innovation team, the Engineering Excellence Group (En.Ex.G), established five years ago to deliver disruptive innovation and explore emerging technologies – “and that’s not just new bits of tech; it’s a big process,” said Rod Shepherd, Device Engineering Lead at En.Ex.G.
The smart hardhat is based around a sweatband sensor array and data collection unit which can be retrofitted to an existing hardhat. It monitors the temperature and heart-rate of the wearer, plus the external temperature and humidity. It also contains a GPS module and an accelerometer for determination of orientation and the impact of vibration or shock.
The data collected is transmitted in real time over a low-power Zigbee radio protocol via a central gateway to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. The system utilises the Azure IoT Suite, Power BI and Stream Analytics to analyse and report on the stored information. The system has been configured so that individual alerts in the form of sounds and vibrations can be delivered back to each wearer, and alerts can be sent to site supervisors warning them of potential dangers facing individuals or entire teams.
“We can analyse the trends and find that a person is suffering from heatstroke, typically half an hour before they realise it,” said Macnamee.