Young people with vitality and creativity are no doubt an important force for driving technological innovation, but innovation is not only for the youthful. Professionals who have decades of work experience can also think outside the box and use technology to take traditional industries forward and scale new heights in productivity.
Harry Chan, founder of HKSTP incubatee BeeInventor, had carved a reputation in his long-standing career as a building works consultant, but he gave up a well-paying job and invested his savings into starting a business. He felt strongly that the construction industry was reluctant to reform and had missed plenty of opportunities in using technology to elevate efficiency and work management. He wanted to do his bid to bring on changes. Bees, after which his company is named, have an age-old way of building hives, but what’s stopping bees from doing things differently? It could happen any day, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, he believes.
Technological transformation slow to take hold in construction
Harry agrees that the construction industry is rather stuck in its ways. Putting aside bringing in innovative machinery, the industry has very little to show for itself in terms of using technology to improve work flow and management. Although he has proposed technological reforms on various occasions, little headway has been made as the industry sticks to existing management systems and mindsets.
Take work site safety for example. Harry thinks that many work site accidents could have been prevented by using modern technologies such as communication, GPS locators and sensors. That’s why he stumped up more than a million dollars in 2016 to develop a smart device, Dasloop. It can be attached to work helmets, and used to track and sense a worker’s location and physical signs, through Internet of things (IoT) connectivity. The device can alert workers to stay away from danger, and when accidents occur, the device can locate a worker instantly in rescues.
Tracking workers through IoT
BeeInventor has a team of about 10 people comprising specialists in mechanical engineering, electronics, electrical and construction. The lean and mean team is working on refining the device as of early 2018 before launching it in the market. The latest prototype weighs 150 grams, and can be attached to standard work helmets with a silicon strap. It incorporates features such as a walkie-talkie, a head lamp, GPS and sensors that detect acceleration, movement, heart rate and body temperature, as well as IoT connectivity. Other add-ons such as gas detectors, camera lenses and fans are also available.
- The device can set off immediate actions in these scenarios:
- The acceleration sensor shows an unusual reading, indicating the worker might have fallen from a height;
- Heart rate reading is lower than normal, suggesting the worker might feel unwell or is injured;
- GPS positioning remains unchanged for a long duration, indicating the worker might be trapped.
Solution able to enhance safety and management
Dasloop is a comprehensive management solution. The device works with a back-end cloud-based management software to deliver full benefits. Through the management interface, a manager can view a worker’s location, real-time videos of a work site, statistics and alerts, and make decisions accordingly. It’s worth mentioning that due to privacy considerations, the system would only issue alerts when the heart rate and body temperature deviate from the set standards.
The point, though, is whether the device can break into the reserved construction industry, no matter how useful it is. Fortunately, Harry knows the industry well and is able to convince the industry with a targeted approach.
He says the industry is most interested in Dasloop’s GPS function because it is very helpful for daily human resources management. Of course, as the legal requirements for work site safety in different countries have been elevated, it has made it necessary for the construction industry to bring in relevant technology. More importantly, prototypes of Dasloop are available. As decision makers of construction companies can touch the device, and are given a full discourse and demonstration of the device’s attributes, they will feel more assured in adopting the solution. BeeInventor is also taking into account the feedback of these potential users to improve the product’s design.
Harry says a number of major Hong Kong construction companies are trialing Dasloop, and certain companies in New Zealand are interested in testing it too. He is not concerned if there will be takers, and is more focused on perfecting the product’s design, including the stability of IoT connectivity.
HKSTP helps develop markets
Harry says that BeeInventor as HKSTP incubatee has received great support, the most significant of which is the exposure it gains through taking part in multiple events, and getting potential investors and customers to show interest. The training provided by HKSTP has also helped to strengthen the team’s sales skills. In the Elevator Pitch Competition 2017 and JUMPSTARTER 2017, the company had progressed to the final ten and final six. While it didn’t win, Harry thinks the experience from taking part in the competition is valuable, as it helps to hone their operational skills and attract potential enquiries locally and from around the world. It has also taken park in the IndustryConnect scheme recently to further expand its market through connections with industry associations.