Sponsored: Triax Technologies

How the Internet of Things Can Help Solve Construction’s Safety Challenges

Contractors need a tech-driven answer to increase worker safety and productivity on the jobsite.
By: | May 30, 2018 • 5 min read

Heavy machinery, tall scaffolding, a diverse workforce, and large, chaotic project sites are just some of the factors that make worker safety a top challenge and priority for the construction industry.

“It’s one of the more dangerous industries in the U.S. with disproportionate fatality and injury rates compared to the rest of the working population,” said Pete Schermerhorn, President and Chief Operating Officer, Triax Technologies.

In 2016, construction accounted for 21.1 percent of all private industry fatalities, and falls accounted for 38.7 percent of those fatalities [1]. As a result, construction companies pay some of the highest workers’ compensation premiums.

The construction industry’s reliance on manual processes, paper-based records, and legacy reporting systems also presents safety and risk management challenges for construction managers and insurance professionals because it traps important project information away in a filing cabinet or in the jobsite trailer.

This makes claims management and investigation a challenge, forcing contractors to dig through written reports that can be incomplete or inaccurate. Without a digital database of safety incident information across projects or an organization, contractors and insurers miss an opportunity to seamlessly analyze data to identify trends and risks that can help them build safer in the future.

The Internet of Things (IoT) offers a promising solution to some of these pressing challenges.

Innovative, connected solutions combine a mesh network, wearables and equipment sensors to help solve construction’s safety challenges while boosting productivity and providing unprecedented visibility into safety practices. Spot-r by Triax Technologies is one such solution. Combined with intelligent software and data analytics, this system gives insurers a new look into what’s happening at the jobsite with their contractors.

A Tech-Driven Answer 

Pete Schermerhorn, President and Chief Operating Officer

Triax’s cloud-connected worker wearable, the Spot-r Clip, provides an improved, streamlined form of on-site monitoring and communication. With the press of a button, a worker can alert his foreman to an unsafe condition, such as loose scaffolding, or a situation that requires assistance. The supervisor need only check the Spot-r system’s central dashboard to identify the worker’s floor and zone-based location on site.

These sophisticated wearable tags can also detect fall events and collect data around the circumstances of an injury, tracking factors such as the height of a fall and the ambient conditions. The dashboard will also let the supervisor identify who else was in proximity when the incident occurred.

“A wearable device records the fall and tells us when and where the incident occurred,” Schermerhorn said. “It automatically notifies designated personnel, which helps to improve injury response by more than 90 percent, but it also documents critical incident information including a timestamp, distance of fall, and weather on site. This completely streamlines the documentation process and creates a robust digital record that can be used to identify risks in the hopes of preventing future incidents.”

Connecting the Spot-r Clip to the Spot-r EquipTag can also help reduce the risk of non-certified workers taking control of a piece of heavy machinery. The EquipTag adheres to machinery and equipment on site and works with the Spot-r Clip to detect operator identity. The system also checks worker certifications, maintained in the Spot-r dashboard, sending supervisors a notification if there’s an unknown or unauthorized worker in the vicinity of tagged equipment.

In addition, despite today’s tech-advanced world, most site supervisors use nothing more sophisticated than a blowhorn to signal an evacuation. Given the size and high noise level of some job sites, this is not an efficient way to get a message to workers quickly, and every moment of delay further jeopardizes workers’ safety. In the event of a fire or other emergency, evacuation speed is critical, and IoT-enabled alert systems are improving this process.

“With a connected solution, like Spot-r, a general contractor would only need to access the cloud dashboard and click ‘Enable Evacuation’ to sound an alarm on all of the workers’ Clips, as well as a system of mounted evacuation alarms,” Schermerhorn said.

Designed to withstand the challenges of an active construction site, the Spot-r EvacTag can get the message to workers faster with a 100-decibel, flashing alarm, that is also amplified by an audible alarm on each worker’s wearable device.

“Our EvacTags help get people off-site as much as 70 percent faster. The human and safety implications are significant — in an emergency situation, you want to get people out of harm’s way as quickly as possible.” Schermerhorn said.

Productivity Pros

That speed is also a boon for productivity. General contractors are often required by their jurisdictions or their insurance carriers to conduct evacuation drills at regular intervals. If those drills can be completed 70 percent faster, the entire emergency preparation process is much more efficient and effective. When workers or sites view practicing safety as a time-consuming distraction, safety itself can suffer.

There is also great value in digitizing and centralizing this data, eliminating paper processes and the time associated with locating and verifying paper records. Assigning a wearable Clip to every worker helps contactors accurately document where those workers are spending their time on site, allowing foremen to proactively measure progress and adjust scheduling or reassign workers to different tasks as needed.

Similarly, the Spot-r EquipTag optimizes equipment usage by collecting data around a machine’s utilization and active vs. idle time. That information can be used to reassign that equipment to another location where it can be put to better use.

A Solution Built for Construction

The realities of the construction site, however, often impede the use of platform technology that can centralize the data generated by connected devices and make it accessible in real time. Such a system requires reliable connectivity and must have the ability to withstand the dust, vibrations and tough building materials created by construction work.

“A primary challenge is that there’s no fixed structure to attach a network to. The materials in play are constantly moving. Additionally, concrete and steel are difficult to penetrate from a radio frequency standpoint, so it’s tough to maintain a steady connection,” Schermerhorn said.

There also aren’t many places to plug in.

“It’s one of the most inhospitable environments for IoT technology.”

By creating a closed mesh network, Triax’s construction-specific Spot-r solution is not reliant on any existing Wi-Fi networks.

“It exists on its own, which means you’re able to travel throughout the site and stay connected in areas where you might not normally have satellite connectivity,” Schermerhorn said.

Spot-r’s wearable devices and equipment tags are rechargeable and automatically switch on and off, saving a lot of daily hassle.

“The system is low-maintenance and non-invasive,” Schermerhorn said. “It’s solutions like this that are helping to bring construction into the 21st century.”

To learn more, visit https://www.triaxtec.com/workersafety/.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Triax Technologies. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Through its flagship Spot-r system, Triax Technologies provides real-time visibility into workers, equipment, and safety on site, resulting in increased operational efficiency, faster response to injuries and overall improved project management.

Insurtech

Kiss Your Annual Renewal Goodbye; On-Demand Insurance Challenges the Traditional Policy

Gig workers' unique insurance needs drive delivery of on-demand coverage.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 6 min read

The gig economy is growing. Nearly six million Americans, or 3.8 percent of the U.S. workforce, now have “contingent” work arrangements, with a further 10.6 million in categories such as independent contractors, on-call workers or temporary help agency staff and for-contract firms, often with well-known names such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.

Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO, Trōv

The number of Americans owning a drone is also increasing — one recent survey suggested as much as one in 12 of the population — sparking vigorous debate on how regulation should apply to where and when the devices operate.

Add to this other 21st century societal changes, such as consumers’ appetite for other electronic gadgets and the advent of autonomous vehicles. It’s clear that the cover offered by the annually renewable traditional insurance policy is often not fit for purpose. Helped by the sophistication of insurance technology, the response has been an expanding range of ‘on-demand’ covers.

The term ‘on-demand’ is open to various interpretations. For Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO of pioneering on-demand insurance platform Trōv, it’s about “giving people agency over the items they own and enabling them to turn on insurance cover whenever they want for whatever they want — often for just a single item.”

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“On-demand represents a whole new behavior and attitude towards insurance, which for years has very much been a case of ‘get it and forget it,’ ” said Walchek.

Trōv’s mobile app enables users to insure just a single item, such as a laptop, whenever they wish and to also select the period of cover required. When ready to buy insurance, they then snap a picture of the sales receipt or product code of the item they want covered.

Welcoming Trōv: A New On-Demand Arrival

While Walchek, who set up Trōv in 2012, stressed it’s a technology company and not an insurance company, it has attracted industry giants such as AXA and Munich Re as partners. Trōv began the U.S. roll-out of its on-demand personal property products this summer by launching in Arizona, having already established itself in Australia and the United Kingdom.

“Australia and the UK were great testing grounds, thanks to their single regulatory authorities,” said Walchek. “Trōv is already approved in 45 states, and we expect to complete the process in all by November.

“On-demand products have a particular appeal to millennials who love the idea of having control via their smart devices and have embraced the concept of an unbundling of experiences: 75 percent of our users are in the 18 to 35 age group.” – Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO, Trōv

“On-demand products have a particular appeal to millennials who love the idea of having control via their smart devices and have embraced the concept of an unbundling of experiences: 75 percent of our users are in the 18 to 35 age group,” he added.

“But a mass of tectonic societal shifts is also impacting older generations — on-demand cover fits the new ways in which they work, particularly the ‘untethered’ who aren’t always in the same workplace or using the same device. So we see on-demand going into societal lifestyle changes.”

Wooing Baby Boomers

In addition to its backing for Trōv, across the Atlantic, AXA has partnered with Insurtech start-up By Miles, launching a pay-as-you-go car insurance policy in the UK. The product is promoted as low-cost car insurance for drivers who travel no more than 140 miles per week, or 7,000 miles annually.

“Due to the growing need for these products, companies such as Marmalade — cover for learner drivers — and Cuvva — cover for part-time drivers — have also increased in popularity, and we expect to see more enter the market in the near future,” said AXA UK’s head of telematics, Katy Simpson.

Simpson confirmed that the new products’ initial appeal is to younger motorists, who are more regular users of new technology, while older drivers are warier about sharing too much personal information. However, she expects this to change as on-demand products become more prevalent.

“Looking at mileage-based insurance, such as By Miles specifically, it’s actually older generations who are most likely to save money, as the use of their vehicles tends to decline. Our job is therefore to not only create more customer-centric products but also highlight their benefits to everyone.”

Another Insurtech ready to partner with long-established names is New York-based Slice Labs, which in the UK is working with Legal & General to enter the homeshare insurance market, recently announcing that XL Catlin will use its insurance cloud services platform to create the world’s first on-demand cyber insurance solution.

“For our cyber product, we were looking for a partner on the fintech side, which dovetailed perfectly with what Slice was trying to do,” said John Coletti, head of XL Catlin’s cyber insurance team.

“The premise of selling cyber insurance to small businesses needs a platform such as that provided by Slice — we can get to customers in a discrete, seamless manner, and the partnership offers potential to open up other products.”

Slice Labs’ CEO Tim Attia added: “You can roll up on-demand cover in many different areas, ranging from contract workers to vacation rentals.

“The next leap forward will be provided by the new economy, which will create a range of new risks for on-demand insurance to respond to. McKinsey forecasts that by 2025, ecosystems will account for 30 percent of global premium revenue.

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“When you’re a start-up, you can innovate and question long-held assumptions, but you don’t have the scale that an insurer can provide,” said Attia. “Our platform works well in getting new products out to the market and is scalable.”

Slice Labs is now reviewing the emerging markets, which aren’t hampered by “old, outdated infrastructures,” and plans to test the water via a hackathon in southeast Asia.

Collaboration Vs Competition

Insurtech-insurer collaborations suggest that the industry noted the banking sector’s experience, which names the tech disruptors before deciding partnerships, made greater sense commercially.

“It’s an interesting correlation,” said Slice’s managing director for marketing, Emily Kosick.

“I believe the trend worth calling out is that the window for insurers to innovate is much shorter, thanks to the banking sector’s efforts to offer omni-channel banking, incorporating mobile devices and, more recently, intelligent assistants like Alexa for personal banking.

“Banks have bought into the value of these technology partnerships but had the benefit of consumer expectations changing slowly with them. This compares to insurers who are in an ever-increasing on-demand world where the risk is high for laggards to be left behind.”

As with fintechs in banking, Insurtechs initially focused on the retail segment, with 75 percent of business in personal lines and the remainder in the commercial segment.

“Banks have bought into the value of these technology partnerships but had the benefit of consumer expectations changing slowly with them. This compares to insurers who are in an ever-increasing on-demand world where the risk is high for laggards to be left behind.” — Emily Kosick, managing director, marketing, Slice

Those proportions may be set to change, with innovations such as digital commercial insurance brokerage Embroker’s recent launch of the first digital D&O liability insurance policy, designed for venture capital-backed tech start-ups and reinsured by Munich Re.

Embroker said coverage that formerly took weeks to obtain is now available instantly.

“We focus on three main issues in developing new digital business — what is the customer’s pain point, what is the expense ratio and does it lend itself to algorithmic underwriting?” said CEO Matt Miller. “Workers’ compensation is another obvious class of insurance that can benefit from this approach.”

Jason Griswold, co-founder and chief operating officer of Insurtech REIN, highlighted further opportunities: “I’d add a third category to personal and business lines and that’s business-to-business-to-consumer. It’s there we see the biggest opportunities for partnering with major ecosystems generating large numbers of insureds and also big volumes of data.”

For now, insurers are accommodating Insurtech disruption. Will that change?

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“Insurtechs have focused on products that regulators can understand easily and for which there is clear existing legislation, with consumer protection and insurer solvency the two issues of paramount importance,” noted Shawn Hanson, litigation partner at law firm Akin Gump.

“In time, we could see the disruptors partner with reinsurers rather than primary carriers. Another possibility is the likes of Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook and Apple, with their massive balance sheets, deciding to link up with a reinsurer,” he said.

“You can imagine one of them finding a good Insurtech and buying it, much as Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods gave it entry into the retail sector.” &

Graham Buck is a UK-based writer and has contributed to Risk & Insurance® since 1998. He can be reached at riskletters.com.