University researchers have developed an advanced location monitoring system to detect whether workers on construction sites are staying within approved safety zones, to prevent injuries and fatalities from struck-by incidents caused by moving vehicles, equipment and other objects.
The system, dubbed ViPER+, uses ultra-wideband technology for location tracking —an improvement over other ultra-wideband-based, real-time safety monitoring systems, primarily because it overcomes situations without constant, direct line of sight (e.g., when trucks and other objects are blocking views), according to lead researcher Alireza Ansaripour, a computer science doctoral student at the University of Houston.
“These radios use large bandwidths to communicate, which enables them to perform location tracking more accurately compared to other wireless radios,” Ansaripour said in a university news release about the technology. “This was the technology we used to track the locations of workers and equipment.”
The intent is to determine whether workers are abiding by the location-based safety policies created during the planning stage of a construction project, such as when internal traffic control plans are made. Small ultra-wideband radio transmitters, called tags, are mounted to workers and vehicles to monitor their locations, and ultra-wideband receivers, or anchors, receive signals from the tags. Data is collected from the anchors to estimate the location of vehicles and workers on a construction site.
The researchers twice successfully tested ViPER+, using students acting as construction workers on two actual construction sites in areas cordoned off for their experiment.
“Alireza is one of those students with brilliant ideas and the work ethic to see these ideas to fruition,” said Omprakash Gnawali, associate professor of computer science at the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and co-author of the study. “Having that combination is important to get these technical projects to be successful.”
The researchers plan to further improve on their system by developing ways to
alert construction workers when they are too close to moving machinery, Ansaripour said. They also want to be able to track the entire area of a construction site, not just a portion of it.
“There are still some improvements that need to be made for this to become a commercial product, but our work provides insight on how a real-time safety monitoring system can be used for safety tracking in construction sites,” he said.
The research was funded through a special project of the National Academies’ National Cooperative Highway Research Program, called the NCHRP Highway IDEA Program. The findings and process are laid out in a study published in the research journal Applied Sciences in January 2023.