Manufacturers of electrical equipment and vendors of construction software, estimating systems and other job-site tools and services have always focused on helping NECA contractors do their jobs faster, safer, more efficiently, and more profitably. But it’s amazing how so many of the new tools and services they showed off at the 2018 NECA Show in Philadelphia incorporated web-based apps, the Internet of Things (IoT), drones, paperless job-site solutions, augmented/virtual reality, and the latest generation of 18V batteries and LED lighting technology. Let’s take a look at some examples of the technologies we saw on the NECA show floor or were discussed during the seminars.
Web-based apps are becoming commonplace in lighting.
We saw plenty of Web-based apps in the lighting market where users can change the color of light that a LED fixture emits and remotely analyze the energy savings LED lighting systems produce. Eaton’s Halo Home lighting app was featured in the the second installment of EC&M Product Picks for the 2018 NECA Show.
IoT is for real in certain applications.
Sensors no bigger than an eraser on the end of your pencil can transmit an amazing array of information from job sites, including data on heat, moisture, vibration, intruder detection, and dozens of other applications. In one seminar, “Implementing an IoT-Enabled Worksite,” Jeff DiLullo of United Rentals offered real-world examples of IoT in the field, worker safety, business intelligence, materials management, and trade sequencing. He is also working now on a project with autonomous (driverless) vehicles on a large solar installation where the trucks are delivering and pre-positioning equipment on the field. This allows workers to spend more time on installing the panels, and not just driving equipment out to the job sites.
Drones are taking off.
It’s amazing how quickly drones are being used out in the field, and how many NECA exhibitors were showing off their drone technology. In the Techtopia session, “Drones & Energy: Using Drones for Industrial Inspection,” the folks from B&C Aerial Solutions, Indianapolis, gave a nice summary of where drones fit into the electrical contracting field.
Paperless job-site solutions to clean up the communications on construction projects.
It was hard to find time to visit all of the booths at NECA that offered some sort of mobile web-based solution in this area. Many of the companies exhibited near the Techtopia pavilion and did sessions promoting their products and services. One of the exhibitors, TopCon Solutions, exhibited what it had to offer in the way of job layout, BIM, AutoCAD, and related software and solutions. The company is partnering with a new player in this niche, TriBuild, which announced at NECA that two executives from Trade Service/Trimble, Tony Dubreville and Tod Moore, were joining the team. Read more here.
Re-imagining the job site with augmented/virtual reality.
At the 2017 NECA Convention in Boston, when Trimble let booth visitors try on VR googles to see job sites in 3D, it seemed like something from the far-off future. The future seems to have arrived early, as several of this year’s NECA exhibitors were showcasing their capabilities in this area, as we discussed in our overview of the Techtopia sessions.
18V batteries repowering job sites.
Many of the power tool manufacturers at NECA, including DeWalt, Greenlee, Makita, and Milwaukee Tool, were showcasing their latest battery-powered tools. We found it interesting that Dynamize's Ripjack for stripping URD primary cable, which won a NECA ShowStopper Award, utilized a Milwaukee Tool M18 battery pack.