Published Friday, April 27, 2012 5:59PM MDT
Researchers at the University of Calgary are developing a high-tech tracking tool to prevent accidents at construction sites.
There have been numerous incidents of construction materials plunging from building sites, sometimes with tragic consequences.
In 2009, three-year-old Michelle Krsek was killed by a piece of corrugated steel that fell from a building.
The U of C technology was created to prevent items from being left too close to the edge of a building or any declared danger zone, and can be programmed to sound an alarm or send an urgent message to a supervisor.
The system uses radio-frequency signals to track the locations of objects, equipment and people in real time.
Students and professors at the Schulich School of Engineering have placed small transmitters and receivers around their workshop to test the technology.
"And then you start looking into devices, bringing it, so it's a very long process, and then seeing it finally it's working, and then you can see the data, it's absolutely exciting," said Professor Farnaz Sadeghpour.
The researchers hope to test it at an actual worksite within a year.
"My prediction is that if it works here very well, and it's showing good results so far, it will work in a construction site. Safety is everybody's job and I think it's everybody's concern," said Sadeghpour.
The design team also envisions attaching transmitters to crew members, but there could be an ethical hurdle to overcome.
Masters student Reza Maalek agrees there could be some resistance from workers who don't want their every movement tracked.
"If it's, in terms of safety applications of the workers, we're hoping that this will be used in the near future, because we don't need to fully track everywhere on the site. We could just track the places that are dangerous," said Maalek.
Members of Calgary's construction industry are already interested in the project and have chipped in to help fund part of the project.