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New technology won’t build houses for you. But it may tend the wounded and keep your tools from being stolen.
Electronics and digital communication are coming to the construction jobsite in unexpected ways. We all know about smart phones and iPads. But what about other hardware? Does it have a place on the job? How about off-grid solar power to keep tools powered up far from any outlet? Will the day come when noisy generators are obsolete? New software is helping contractors keep track of valuable inventory, and your next first aid kit may contain a digital diagnostic tool.

Solar Powered Tools
Working on a jobsite far from the grid? EarthTech Products in Merrick, N.Y., has a complete line of solar kits, solar battery chargers, and flexible solar panels to charge up power tools, cell phones, laptops, lights, and more. The company’s solar kits combine flexible solar panels and solar battery chargers with inverters and battery packs that allow users to charge just about anything that can be powered by 12 volt DC or 120 volt AC power. In the meantime, its line of flexible solar panels are rollable and foldable for easy storage while being able to produce up to 25 watts of power for direct charging or powering 12 volt systems. EarthTech also offers lines of solar-powered vents, fans, and outdoor lighting. 


The power of the sun is giving contractors new and varied ways to charge up power tools, cell phones, laptops, lights, and more. Sold through:


All-Seeing GPS
Increasingly, construction companies want to link trucks and heavy machinery back to the home office via global positioning systems that can be programmed to report everything from an asset’s location to its level of activity. With GPS repeaters like those currently available from the Finnish company Roger GPS, it’s possible to receive uninterrupted GPS service inside buildings, tunnels and vehicles.

Super Goggles
While they don’t have a jobsite application yet, innovative goggles created for the recreation market seem likely to lead to useful heads up tools for the construction industry.

Introduced last year, Recon Instruments Transcend Goggles display real-time feedback to snowboarders channeling their inner Shaun White. They get info on location, speed, distance, and temperature, among other things.

Information recorded by the GPS-enabled goggles can be downloaded on a home or office computer, where downhill or half-pipe runs can be recreated using Google Maps.

Can a jobsite model, perhaps relying on augmented reality apps (see main text) be far behind? Virtual goggles such as those available from Google as an app for the iPhone and Android already give us a taste of the possibilities. Point the smart phone’s camera viewer at an object or place, and the user is immediately linked to a Google search of relevant information on what’s being viewed. Scan a logo and name or barcode, and call up supplier or manufacturer Web sites and contact information.
Recon Instruments:
Google Goggles:


Transcend Goggles display real-time feedback to the wearer that later can be tied in to Google Maps.


First Aid 2.0 from Cold Wall Studio redefines the notion of first aid on the jobsite, by enabling construction site personnel to access concise, yet comprehensive instructions on how to provide aid to an injured co-worker in a fast and efficient way.


Hand Me the Tricorder, Scotty
First Aid 2.0 from Cold Wall Studio (top) redefines the notion of first aid on the jobsite. The streamlined, LED-equipped kit’s most unique feature is its red cross embossed face, which doubles as a computer touch screen, programmed with a database of comprehensive first aid instructions.

Inventory Tagger
Now, contractors can easily track tools to an employee, sub-contractor, a job, a jobsite, or a location, right from the home office. GigaTrak tags tools with a barcode designed especially to adhere to rugged contractor tools. Then, the tools are “checked out” to an employee, location, or jobsite by scanning the barcode with a barcode scanner or handheld mobile terminal. For the “check in” process, simply repeat the barcode scanning step in reverse.


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