Applications of Ultra-Wideband Radio Technology to Enhance Construction Safety

Category Engineering

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University of Houston computer scientists have developed a new location tracking system, ViPER+, to better keep construction workers safe on the job through the use of ultra-wideband technology. The team tested the system twice in cordoned-off construction zones in Houston, which proved that ViPER+ was able to accurately estimate the positions of workers and vehicles and also detect any policy violations that might have occurred.

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University of Houston computer scientists have developed a new system to keep construction workers safe at job sites. Their findings and process are laid out in a study published in the journal Applied Sciences.According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 4,764 workers died on the job in 2020. Employees in construction and extraction occupations accounted for 20% of those deaths. Many were struck by a vehicle or mobile machinery on construction sites. Although the construction industry has enlisted the help of safety experts, a great number of fatalities and injuries still occur.

Most fatalities and injuries in construction sites occur due to errors in manual tracking or a lack of accurate tracking alltogether.

"The point of our research project was to enhance safety of workers and equipment on a construction site by tracking their location," said Alireza Ansaripour, a computer science doctoral student at UH and first author of the study. "By tracking their location, we can monitor location-based policies related to the safety of workers and equipment in construction sites." .

These location-based safety policies are created during the planning stage of the construction site, such as when Internal Traffic Control Plans are made. These policies define safe areas for workers and equipment or define a safe distance between them when equipment is operating in the construction site. ViPER+ automates the monitoring of these policies and detects any violations of the policies while workers and equipment are working.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health states that falls are the leading cause of death in construction sites.

ViPER+ utilizes ultra-wideband technology for location tracking. "These radios use large bandwidths to communicate, which enables them to perform location tracking more accurately compared to other wireless radios," Ansaripour said. "This was the technology we used to track the locations of workers and equipment." .

The team's ViPER+ system surmounts challenges of other ultra-wideband based real-time safety monitoring systems primarily because it overcomes non-line of sight situations. These are instances in which trucks, construction loaders and other equipment block the signal between the transmitter and receiver in ultra-wideband radio transmissions.

The team tested ViPER+ in two actual construction zones located in Houston.

Ansaripour and his colleagues implemented a correction method in their localization, or location tracking algorithm to reduce the error caused by non-line of sight.

--- Testing ViPER+ in construction zones --- .

ViPER+ is an updated and improved version of the group's initial system ViPER. The greatest difference between the two is the enhanced location tracking on ViPER+, which is more accurate in non-line of sight situations.

The most significant difference between ViPER and ViPER+ is the enhancement and increased accuracy of the location tracking feature.

The team tracked locations through tags and anchors. Tags are small ultra-wideband radio transmitters, mounted to workers and vehicles to monitor their locations. Anchors are ultra-wideband receivers that receive signals from tags. The researchers then collected data from anchors to their computer server and estimated the location of vehicles and people in a construction site.

They tested their system twice in actual construction zones in Houston that was cordoned off for their experiment. But instead of real construction workers, students had to play that part.

The ViPER+ system implements three main parts: tags, anchors, and data collection.

"In our evaluation, all four construction workers had tags mounted. We also had one vehicle, either a truck or bulldozer with multiple tags on it, and another static vehicle was used to create a non-line of sight situation." .

The first evaluatrion set tested their system in an ideal setting with no non-line of sight situation. The second evaluation set simulated the non-line of sight situation with two trucks parked side by side. Results showed that ViPER+ was also able to show the estimations of objects' positions and additionally indicate all the violations from their safety-related policies.

Ansaripour's team is working on introducing safety alerts to ViPER+ so that workers can be alerted easier when a violation occurs.

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