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Changes in technology are taking various industries by storm, and the construction sector is one of them. In fact, mobile device adoption in construction has grown rapidly in recent years. For example, five years ago, drones and wearable devices for construction workers had little, if any, role on the jobsite. Now, they’re quite common, along with the continued use of laptops, tablets and smartphones.

And, thanks to the continuous evolution of these devices and the apps that accompany them, remote controls have long passed the days where they were just for home entertainment. Contractors can now control an endless number of devices with a phone: including the thermostat, lights, blinds, doorbell and even a car.

With all the advancements, imagine if these same devices could allow contractors to turn on and control a machine on the jobsite.

For example, what if contractors could navigate a scissor lift to various places on a jobsite by using a smartphone as a remote control? Or perhaps control the boom of a telehandler from outside the cab, providing improved visibility during load placement? Or even complete a machine inspection on the equipment fleet?

Technology advancements today, including the latest in mobile technology, are expanding across the construction industry and making these scenarios possible—and it’s having a big impact on jobsites.

Advancing the industry

Looking at the latest technological developments, like BIM files and virtual reality training, it is easy to see how they enable equipment operators to perform their jobs faster and with higher precision.

But besides making the industry more efficient, technology advances have also helped to make the jobsite safer. Ask anyone who uses a scissor lift regularly, and chances are they’ll say they’re restricted from performing various tasks due to the length of the cord connected to the platform control box. Whether it’s driving or loading the machine onto a truck through a narrow doorway or navigating it through a muddy outdoor space, there are several circumstances where operators want to control the scissor lift from outside the platform.

Why not just make the platform control box cord longer? Sure, that’s an option, but how long? What works for one application may not suffice for another. Instead, what if the cord was eliminated all together? Well, that’s what mobile control technology makes possible. For example, a mobile control app can enable operators to drive, steer and load scissor lifts while in a stowed position from a mobile device.And for those contractors that use telehandlers to place loads on top of buildings, such as setting HVAC units into place on rooftops, remote boom control gives operators the ability from outside the machine’s cab to place material at height, achieving precision placement further onto a building. When equipped with a manufacturer’s remote boom control feature, telehandler operators are also able to wirelessly operate the following machine functions: Engine startup, boom raise and lower, boom extend and retract, fork tilt up and down, and auxiliary hydraulics. And, it can potentially eliminate the need for two people—one in the cab and one at the location where the material is being placed—for improved jobsite efficiency.

Going mobile

With the mobile control apps, operators have a better view of the jobsite while moving equipment, which helps improve safety conditions and reduce potential damage to the working environment. The technology is an evolution of the remote frequency control box, which allowed operators to perform a similar function but required the device to be tethered to the machine.

Among the various advantages, having the ability to remotely control the machine assists operators in positioning the machine into areas with low clearances, while also allowing them to choose the most suitable location from which to see obstacles on the jobsite. Additionally, this kind of app allows machines to be loaded onto trucks at the end of the day without the need for an operator in the platform or walking next to the machine.

Designed to be easy to use and equipped with an intuitive user interface, today’s app technology incorporates a display with all the essential features needed to run a machine as if the operator was inside it. In addition, this type of app also features an important horn symbol which allows operators to easily alert jobsite personnel when the machine is operating nearby.

More digital jobsite tools

Mobile apps are becoming more prevalent on jobsites. Not only can today’s mobile apps offer remote control of aerial lifts, like scissor lifts and telehandlers, without tethering to the machine, but many are evolving to improve the operator’s experience with the machine before work begins.

For instance, augmented reality (AR) apps can enable users to scan a machine’s safety decals to get the current information on industry standards’ requirements, as well as to see an overlay of a specific machine’s control panel with explanations of its functions prior to machine operation. And, AR apps can offer machine visualization that enables users to place “to-scale” 3D machine models into the actual work environments the equipment will be used in. As an example, equipment users could use an AR app to virtually move a selected aerial lift through doorways, into small spaces and/or around obstacles to help determine if the particular machine can be used in the space it will need to maneuver.

In addition, this type of AR app can also allow for accessory visualization so users to see the various options and accessories available for the selected machine in order to better visualize what may be needed to further enhance productivity on the jobsite.

Looking ahead, technological advancements will continue to transform the construction industry, helping equipment owners and end-users to maximize productivity and enhance safety. One of the best ways to continue advancing the industry forward with technology is for OEMs to develop solutions and tools that create “moments of autonomy” on jobsites, taking steps to connect jobsites through practical and digestible features and applications.

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