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More than just a webcam

More than just a webcam

Construction cameras can supplement traditional construction reporting, recording and indexing visual documentation about any detail of jobsite conditions with resolution greater than 20 megapixels.

IP construction camera technology continues to evolve.

By Ken Pittman

In the decades since remote monitoring technology became available to the public, it has evolved beyond simple webcams to become a high-tech construction management tool.

Development of internet-enabled (IP) construction cameras has its roots in the 1990s with the widespread adoption of webcam technology. Basic webcams had limited functionality, allowing live pictures or video to be streamed remotely. That began changing as innovative companies integrated webcams into the cloud, allowing pictures and footage to be saved on remote servers. The technology continued to be refined and new functionality added.

At first glance, webcams and IP construction cameras might seem alike. A webcam is a simple camera that connects to a computer and allows users to record or stream video over the internet. An IP construction camera also gives users access to live video from anywhere in the world.

Since being introduced as a dedicated tool for the construction industry, though, IP construction cameras have evolved into sophisticated tools that offer powerful new features. They can capture images, create time-lapse video, record security footage, and offer interactive features. Some cameras are robotic or integrate drone services.

Most construction cameras are accessible through web and smartphone apps that provide users a suite of management and informational tools. Construction cameras can allow unlimited users to view the camera’s footage in real-time.

Cellular data coverage and solar power allow greater flexibility for construction camera placement.

Always connected

The massive adoption of cell phones over the decades and the related increase in cellular data coverage and speed changed the game for construction cameras, which can now be installed as turnkey units. Without the need for a fixed internet connection, construction cameras just need power to operate — whether electrical or solar. This means there is much greater flexibility in where the cameras can be placed.

As the data speed has increased, construction cameras have been able to offer higher resolution, meaning increasingly better image and video quality. Some internet-enabled cameras can surpass 20 megapixels in resolution.

Because they’re also connected to the internet, manufacturers can future-proof the cameras by remotely updating them with new capabilities and software fixes in real time. Construction camera systems can be set up to flag events based on specific circumstances, such as a motion detector being triggered. Some IP construction systems can send out real-time alerts, keeping stakeholders informed of any suspicious or criminal activity at any hour of the day.

Management capabilities

Cloud technologies have allowed some construction camera manufacturers to evolve into large-scale image-hosting providers, allowing live product management, data archives, and image documentation. This allows construction cameras to effectively supplement traditional construction reporting, recording and indexing visual documentation about any detail of jobsite conditions.

IP construction cameras don’t just provide after-the-fact documentation of jobsite conditions. Project managers can use them proactively to find and correct safety issues before they turn into accidents.

A growing trend in construction camera technology is integration with popular project management software platforms. This allows the recorded images to be viewed, stored, and shared within the project management software, allowing construction companies to seamlessly save, document, and find images of specific projects or events. Contractors can pull up an image, mark it up with notes, and then share it with fellow contractors or subcontractors.

The future

Construction camera technology continues to get smaller and faster with higher resolution. This is leading to more indoor applications for the units. Traditionally, once interior work begins on a jobsite, construction supervisors can be at a disadvantage trying to keep track of workflow.

Indoor construction cameras allow project managers to remotely monitor interior construction on multiple jobsites. The photo documentation can also be useful further in the life cycle of the project. For example, if a year goes by after a building is completed and electrical or plumbing work is required, archived photos can be consulted to show the exact location of wiring or plumbing.

As cloud-based computing lowers the cost of large-scale data analytics, construction cameras can begin to integrate machine learning and smart tagging capabilities. This means that someday, cameras could automatically detect safety issues while scanning a jobsite.

Since the first construction cameras appeared, they have evolved far beyond simple recording devices and their webcam roots. Advances in cellular technology, data analysis, cloud-based computing, web apps, and robotics continue to drive further innovation in the construction camera industry. Tomorrow’s cameras promise exciting features that can only be imagined today.

Ken Pittman is the chief marketing officer for Winston-Salem, N.C.-based TrueLook (www.truelook.com), which provides construction cameras that combine live jobsite viewing, project time-lapsing, and HD security, as well as webcams for various other industry applications. TrueLook has been providing camera technology for more than 20 years.