New construction technology to create boundless possibilities
The Government has been encouraging the construction industry to proactively adopt innovation and technology to enhance productivity, built quality, site safety and environmental performance. The Construction Innovation and Technology Application Centre (CITAC) of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) earlier unveiled a new round of exhibition featuring a total of 40 innovation and technology exhibits, many of which are innovative mechanical inventions and adopt high-end construction technology. This time, accompanied by the Executive Director of the CIC, Mr CHENG Ting-ning, Albert, and a manager of the centre, I have invited the Under Secretary for Development, Mr LIU Chun-san, to visit the centre and introduce to you some exhibits in particular.
Striving to enhance site safety
Innovation and technology development is the global trend. The construction industry must keep abreast with the times, introduce new techniques and adopt new technology. According to Mr Albert CHENG, the industry has proactively used smart tools and adopted mechanised processes in recent years to enhance site safety and improve the working environment. That’s why the centre is showcasing a number of related exhibits such as the IoT (Internet of Things) for Smart Helmet and the Proximity Safety Alarm System.
The IoT for Smart Helmet may just look like an ordinary safety helmet that workers wear every day. In fact, it is installed with sensors to monitor the body temperature, heart rate, etc of workers in real-time and the data is immediately transferred to the site safety officers to monitor the workers’ health. This exhibit, being the second generation and an improved version, is lighter than the first generation. As regards the Proximity Safety Alarm System, it is a system that makes use of the Radio Frequency Identification technology. Whenever a worker walks into a danger area, a sensor in the operation cabin of the machine will trigger an alarm to alert the operator to stop the machine to prevent an accident from happening.
Many local products of scientific research
One small step for innovative technology today, one giant leap for the future development of the industry! Quite a number of exhibits in the centre are technologies applied by local start-up enterprises and universities. For example, the Artificial Intelligence technology applied by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) allows the management to analyse the working conditions of construction workers in real-time to monitor site safety. Once the system detects that a worker has forgotten to wear his safety helmet, it will alert a site safety officer to take action to remind the worker of work safety.
Regarding the Mixed Reality (MR) technology applied by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, it is something different from the Virtual Reality (VR) technology. We have Pokémon Go, a popular mobile phone game, as an MR example. When you look at construction facilities or parts with a pair of HoloLens that looks like goggles, you will see relevant simulated images and information on the physical objects, thanks to the MR technology. For example, the technology will show you whether the pipes are water pipes, gas pipes or electrical pipes, offering other relevant information such as the sizes of the pipes and even the direction of the water flow in the pipes. This application software facilitates inspections and maintenance of building facilities.
Helping enhance productivity
Among the exhibits, many are also utilising mechanised processes to enhance productivity. Examples are the “automatic wall plastering machine”, “multifunctional façade and exterior finishing robot”, “power assist suit and power-driven cart”. Traditional wall plastering is a manually-based process, which nonetheless varies in quality with the problem of uneven plastering. The “automatic wall plastering machine”, however, is remotely controllable and fully automatic. With the auto positioning system, the machine can position itself at accurate locations and cover a wider area each time as compared to the manual approach, and it is capable of plastering from ground level up to a height of five metres at one time.
Similarly, the “3D printed structure” technology utilises a 3D printer to extrude concrete material layer-by-layer from the nozzle to construct a 3D concrete façade, allowing workers to dispense with the traditional construction method using formwork. The pavilion in the centre was precisely printed out with this technology in just three hours, saving both time and costs. The technology is also applicable to customised buildings and landscape components.
More than 100 fund applications received
Since the CITAC was established in November 2017, more than 9 000 visitors have been recorded over the past year, which indicates that the centre has performed its function of showcasing the construction industry’s innovative technologies and related products. The Government has been taking the lead in promoting the application of innovation and technology. Among others, the $1 billion Construction Innovation and Technology Fund was launched for application in early October last year, to encourage wider adoption of new technologies in the industry to enhance construction safety. The fund will also support practitioners and tertiary students to learn the latest technologies, enhance their capability to harness technology and cultivate innovative thinking. In just three months’ time, more than 100 applications have been received, of which 28 have been approved.
I look forward to working together with the construction industry to take it to a new height with the use of creativity, active development of innovation and technology, as well as the enhanced research on and wider use of construction technology.
13 January, 2019