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Mace Group uses RealWear to support Covid-safe site inspections

Construction consulting business is using augmented reality headsets to enable people on Microsoft Teams to inspect building sites remotely

Global consultancy and construction firm Mace Group has used augmented reality headsets from RealWear to enable workers and clients to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

The construction consulting business, which was responsible for The Shard’s design and build contract, has been using virtual reality headsets for the past four years, primarily to render 3D models of a construction site to help consultants manage a design.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the company has needed to adapt to provide Covid-safe working practices on construction sites, said Phil Sedge, head of facade, Mace Group. “When lockdown started, we needed to do a load of work that required inspections,” he said.

Sedge was tasked with finding an approach that would enable such inspections to be done in a Covid-secure manner. “We wanted a headset that was easy to use, offered ruggedness, and was hands-free, affordable and could link in with other platforms to enable us to communicate remotely,” he said.

Following an in-depth consultation with RealWear partner SystemActive, which involved various demos via video conference, Mace selected RealWear’s purpose-built, voice-enabled HMT-1 over other products available in the market, including smart glasses.

The RealWear headsets met Mace’s requirements for no compromises on safety, for hands-free operation and the ability to clip to the side of hard hats. Its other requirements included durability and functionality at the right price point.

By using RealWear’s assisted reality head-mounted wearable computers, Mace has only required a single site inspector to be physically present, while multiple others “view” the site clearly and remotely from their own location, via a feed that streams from the innovative headset directly to the viewer’s handheld or laptop computer.

The technology negates the need to physically travel to a site, while also delivering on Mace’s requirement for its workforce to be fully connected through remote collaboration.

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Sedge said Mace was able to work with RealWear to add enhancements to the headset to support how it wanted to work. “After using it for six months, we needed to link RealWear to Microsoft Teams,” he said. “That feature was released three months later.” The headsets received the new functionality automatically. 

According to Mace Group, the headsets have enabled it to reduce the logistical and planning complexities of trying to coordinate the diaries of several site inspectors to be present at the same time on the same day. Since the deployment was completed this month, Mace has been able to reduce in-person site visits, and its façade team has seen a 75% reduction in travel, freeing up staff to be more productive during their day.

Sedge said the company is looking at other ways that the RealWear headsets could be deployed. “Once you have tools, you look at efficiency,” he said.

For instance, he said, a typical business trip to Japan for an inspection may mean three or four days away for perhaps only one day’s work. Technology such as the RealWear headsets could greatly reduce the need for such travel, he pointed out.

Not only is this more efficient from a time-management perspective, but it also helps to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

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