From VR tools to sensors and ways to see workers, companies show off latest tech to keep job sites safer

Vests that alert you when your near a dangerous area on a job site, a tiny belt attachment that vibrates when you bend down to pick up something the wrong way, or a ring of light around a hard hart.

This is just some of the latest technology on display at CONEXPO-CON/AGG this week in Las Vegas.

“Over the past three years, all technology has advanced at an exponential rate, and the same can be said for the construction industry,” says Sara Truesdale Mooney, CONEXPO-CON/AGG show director in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Today we have autonomous trucks and augmented reality to allow drawings through glasses on a job site. It is CONEXPO-CON/AGG’s role to raise awareness of new products and technologies, drive adoption and industry efficiency.”

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To help with this goal, the show introduced the Tech Experience this year. The Tech Experience is a 75,000-square-foot immersive, future-forward showcase that allows attendees to see and test what is out there now for companies and what’s possible. Three large futuristic-looking domes sit near the entrance of the Las Vegas Convention Center with each one holding a handful of new technology.

Exhibitors were showcasing remote-controlled bulldozers and other heavy equipment. Other technology included using virtual reality (VR) glasses to inspect job sites from the comfort of your office.

“It’s a pretty neat experience and you really don’t know how much is already out there and available until you see this area,” says Jeff Nordeng.

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Nordeng works as an operator at a large construction firm in North Dakota and could see the benefits of bringing more technology in. “Our safety guy has to travel to about four or five different job sites and if we were to get this VR tool here, he could just do that from the office as one of us wears a small camera on our hard hat.”

The Tech Experience wasn’t the only place where technology could be seen. The indoor exhibits also had plenty of VR experiences for attendees to view. Ditch Witch has four VR stations set up — including one where visitors could sit in a simulated cab of a directional drill and work a simulated job site.

“It’s very realistic and gives those who try it a feel for our machines and how the controls work,” says Seth Matthesen, senior HDD product manager for Ditch Witch. “The simulator provides an opportunity to simulate a real HDD job site via the technology’s two-screen display and joystick. On one screen, operators can simulate drill controls, while getting a 3-D look at the full bore path on the other.”

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The experience simulates a variety of drilling scenarios, including soil conditions, piping options and downhole tooling.

On the other end of the expo center, Illumagear was showcasing its latest technology — making its debut at the show. The company’s new Halo, an update from its original product introduced three years ago, brings safety to the job site through technology.

The Halo lightweight plastic ring with LED lights all the way around that can attach to any hardhat. The light coming from the Halo is visible over ¼ mile away in all directions. An onboard battery provides at least 5.5 hours on full power.

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“I think there’s a lot of things we can do to connect the job site, and not just us,” says Andrew Royal, president and chief product officer for Illumagear. “We don’t think of personal active safety systems as an Illumagear thing. We think of it as an important construction industry thing and we just want to be a part of it.”

The CONEXPO-CON/AGG show continues through Saturday for attendees to take in all the new technology available.


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