Technology, when used properly, can help to improve efficiency, increase communication, and improve safety in the construction industry. New trends and innovations in electrical engineering are being adopted and utilized every day. Consider the following technology trends and innovations for your next construction project.
The need for prefabricated products is growing as there is still a labor shortage in the industry. Using prefab products on large jobs with identical layouts such as hotels or hospitals can save an electrical engineer valuable time on a project. Prefabricated products allow the electrical engineer to focus on more technical work, rather than doing repetitive electrical work that can be completed offsite. Using prefab products also increases electrician safety on the job.
The Smart Grid
“The Grid” is a network of transmission lines that deliver electricity from power plants to the public. Anytime you plug something in, or turn on a light, you are utilizing the grid. The grid has been advancing in recent years and is going to continue to do so. This new grid is called a “smart” grid, which is the advancement of the current grid, and enables technology to communicate with the network to get more details from the information. Electrical engineers will play a crucial role in transitioning into a smarter grid. For future construction projects, consider installing utilities with these smart grid technologies, as you’ll be able to gather more information from them and help to transition the grid as well.
Client Relationship and Project Management Software
The most significant way to improve efficiency as an electrical engineer on your next construction project is by reducing the amount of time spent doing paperwork. There is an increase in software directed towards electrical contractors. This software helps keep track of interactions with customers, maintain billing records, and keep all paperwork organized. Using a cloud-based software can keep all your project information organized and accessible anytime, which can allow for more time spent on the job site, and less time spent in the office.
Internet of Things (IoT)
What is the Internet of Things? In a simple sense, it is the collection of smart devices or objects that connect to the internet. These objects link to a network and collect and exchange data. Objects include smartphones, wearable technology, simple sensors, and any other technology that has internet capability. The more these devices “talk” to each other, the more data can be collected. Electrical contractors will be seeing an increase in IoT devices being used in the construction industry and will have the ability to collect data from these sources.
In the future, electrical contractors will see a higher demand for installing these systems into buildings and making sure they are functional. This service goes beyond just installing sensors and includes an ongoing performance of monitoring and maintaining the system. Learning how to work with IoT and being comfortable with these devices will be very beneficial for electrical contractors and open new job opportunities. Electrical engineers can also begin to utilize these internet-connected tools themselves during construction projects.
Wearable devices such as Fitbits or Apple Watches are quickly becoming popular among consumers. Technologies like these and new trends and innovations in electrical engineering have been developing and beginning to enter various industries to help improve safety. Electrical-shock is an ever-present risk that comes with the job of an electrical engineer. There are devices out there that can reduce this risk. For example, one wearable device Proxxi has been developed to help prevent electrical contact injuries. It consists of two electrical bracelets that the electrician wears and detects energized equipment that alerts the user of the danger. The bracelets identify information which the mobile app collects for the user to review.
Another example of wearable technology is SolePower smart boots, which work to improve efficiency and safety for the user. The boots have sensors that measure user fatigue, provide alerts of unsafe environmental conditions, and can increase workflow transparency. These wearable devices are changing the safety and access to information in the electrical industry and creating better working environments. Wearable devices are just a small portion of tools out there that can assist you during your next job.
Robots can significantly improve working conditions and safety risks for electrical engineers. There are many ways to implement technology into the construction industry; here are a few specific examples for electrical engineers. The use of drones in the industry has skyrocketed in recent years. Drones will survey a situation and notify the electrician of issues before they go in. The drone helps to keep the electrician safe and keeps them informed. For example, when working with downed powerlines, drones can go in and survey the site to make sure there are no unsafe conditions before the electrical engineers go in to fix the issue.
Another potential use of technology that is still in the prototype phase is a utility pole climbing robot. These robots will be in use when electrical engineers work with powerlines. This robot enables the engineer to avoid working at a dangerous height and improve working conditions. Both applications of robots in the industry improve the safety and well-being of electrical engineers, without replacing them. A significant concern in the industry when bringing in robots and technology is the idea of being replaced. Utilizing this technology will not put these professionals at risk of replacement. Electrical engineers have a specialized skill set and expertise that cannot be replicated by robots. Robots help to improve efficiency and allow for safer methods of doing the job.
Augmented reality is an immersive technology that overlays images and information onto real life, to bridge the gap between the digital world and the physical one, in real-time. AR differs from virtual reality, which is an entirely artificial environment that the software creates. The construction industry, specifically electrical engineers, can benefit from the use of this technology to ease the construction process. There are products out there like Microsoft’s HoloLens that partner with Trimble to bring augmented reality into the industry. This functions as a tool to provide information about the job while contractors are working it. For example, headsets can overlay important information for a technician’s use in their current working environment. AR can improve working conditions and the working environment by providing real-time information to be more accurate on the job. It improves efficiency and productivity by speeding up processes involved in electrical engineering.