Inherently dangerous by definition, the construction industry often finds its home in the most remote and inhospitable locations around the world.
Yet through Microsoft Azure, MOQdigital is laying the foundations of a new approach to building site safety, delivering Internet of Things based solutions to reduce work-related illness and accidents.
Working closely with construction giant Laing O’Rourke, the Sydney-based Microsoft Gold Partner is providing a range of software and services through the Cloud, allowing the organisation to extract business impacts from data.
In developing the ‘Smart Hardhat’, based around a sweatband sensor array and data collection unit which can be retrofitted to an existing hardhat, Laing O’Rourke continues efforts to eliminate workplace accidents, potentially saving the lives of their 6,000 employees with MOQ digital helping to make this a reality by providing reliable data management.
“As a Gold Partner and multi-award winning company, MOQdigital is extremely proud in working with Microsoft to create premium quality solutions which achieve real business outcomes for our’ customers,” MOQdigital CEO, Nicki Page, said.
Through its work on Azure, MOQdigital was recently crowned the 2016 Microsoft Country Partner of the Year Award for Australia, as well as making the finals for the Microsoft Worldwide Internet of Things Award.
For Page, the awards represent a “significant accolade” for the company, ringing as a testament to the teams’ hard work and depth of experience.
“At MOQdigital, we are committed to plan, build and support our customers’ digital environments through the smart integration of technology, enabling people and businesses to achieve more,” she added.
In 2015, Laing O’Rourke worked with MOQdigital to implement a cloud based data system to ensure the integrity of data collected during live site trials and streamline delivery of data to end users.
Laing O’Rourke’s increased 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,” En.Ex.G Device Engineering Lead, Rod Shepherd, added.
The smart hardhat is based around a sweatband sensor array and data collection unit which can be retrofitted to an existing hardhat, which monitors the temperature and heart-rate of the wearer, plus the external temperature and humidity.
“The safety of our staff is paramount at Laing O’Rourke; we want to make sure our people go home safely every single day,” Laing O’Rourke CIO, Ryan Macnamee, added.
“And because of the climate in Australia, one of the issues we face is heatstroke; and the problem with heatstroke is, by the time you feel the symptoms, you already have it, so you need to have been warned well before you are exhibiting symptoms.”
According the Macnamee, the hardhat also contains a GPS module and an accelerometer for determination of orientation and the impact of vibration or shock, with the data collected 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, configured in a way 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,” Macnamee added.
Highlighting the speed of development as one of the key benefits of using the Microsoft Azure platform, MOQdigital CTO, Mick Badran, said there’s a rate of change every two days with a new service coming out.
“So for the problems that we had yesterday there are now solutions for them today, and that’s been very beneficial for this project,” he explained.
“We can use Microsoft Azure to collect the messages from one device or ten thousand devices, and the analytics engine on the platform can readily handle any increase in the volume of data - so we know that it scales.”
MOQdigital’s work was recognised amongst a sea of Australian success at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner of the Year awards, with seven local partners receiving honours against the tech giant's global channel community.
“These awards represent the best and brightest of our partners on a global stage who are working every day to help transform Australian businesses with Microsoft technology,” Microsoft Australia Managing Director, Pip Marlow, added.
“Congratulations to all of the winners this year for this incredible achievement. It’s great to see such powerful examples of innovative excellence in our partner community.”