The ConTechCrew 237: September’s Talk to The Crew – Live!
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How many of you remember when our podcast was called The ConTechTrio? Episode 237 is not only the ConTechCrew LIVE episode of September featuring questions straight from you – our listeners, we have the original line up from the OG ConTechTrio in the house!
Check out the recap of episode of 237 to hear the recording of the live Q&A we September 25th, and hear the questions that matter most to our listeners. This week’s episode also features sponsor HammerTech.
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In this week’s show, our monthly talk to the crew live! That is right. Bringing it back to the original ConTechTrio! And with that, a little bit of throwback music.
Construction is the world’s oldest industry but spends the least amount of money on innovation. When we realized people outside and inside the industry, did not typically associate with technology like virtual reality, apps, and robotics, we started TheContechCrew. Each week we bring our listeners the latest in ConTech news and interview the minds behind the technological innovations, changing the way we build.
So, strap in, enjoy the ride, and geek out. It is ConTechCrew time!
JAMES: Oh, my goodness. That music is music to my ears, boys. It is good to see you. Of course, you all are over in Atlanta land, hanging out, even in the same room, socially distanced of course. Mr. Josh Bone, good to see you. Now Executive Director of ELECTRI. Big, huge deal. So excited for you, Mr. Bone.
JOSH: Yes. Let me explain something to everyone. It officially starts October 1st, but a lot of you have reached out to me and texted me and did not actually click on the link on LinkedIn and Twitter. ELECTRI is the research foundation that is tied very closely to NECA. I will keep my NECA email address, and everything will still be the same. I have not left NECA. NECA and ELECTRI work very closely together. So do not worry about that. Quit sending the text. I am still with NECA and ELECTRI is our research foundation. I wanted to make sure I communicated that today James because people do not understand.
JAMES: Good point. For those of us, who have been here around the block for a while with NECA, we already know that ELECTRI is the foundation for NECA. I could see how people could be easily confused. Like Josh, what are you doing? No, okay, it is still under the same umbrella organization, but now he is Executive Director of ELECTRI, which is super cool, cause if Josh, you know he is passionate about education. He is passionate about bringing people into the industry. He knows a lot about building and technology and ELECTRI is hand in glove. It is a fantastic deal, bud.
JOSH: Good fit, great fit.
JAMES: Super excited for you. And in the same room, socially distanced, that is right. Mr. Roberto McKinney. Rob McKinney, our favorite ConAppGuru, hanging out there at the Atlanta Electrical Contractors Association building, all good to see you today, Mr. McKinney.
ROB: Good to see you guys. We had a unique opportunity because we are geographically close and we knew we could be here, but in a giant room, spaced apart, and if we need to, we have multiple protocols to keep everybody safe, but we will definitely have some fun today. And man, when you played that old music, I do not know why I feel like I am in a movie. My head immediately starts to bob a little bit.
JOSH: Nostalgia, nostalgia.
JAMES: Yeah, it is been a few years. Oh, my goodness. I do not even have the exact date. 5 years ago, roughly. It is been a while that we came up with the idea to run this show and to speak together and do podcasts and to go to the roadshow. And, we have had a lot of fun with it. This is our 3rd talk with our crew that we have done. And I am super excited about these because we could not do the roadshow for obvious reasons this year. And so we decided to do these every month and hang out and take live questions, so if you are joining us live, feel free to ask questions, feel free to lob them over the fence, into the group chat or on the Q&A section, whichever one you are more comfortable with. Feel free to use that. Again, we do this, the same weekend every month. It is the 4th weekend every month we do this, so you can join us every month and ask us questions. We have of course news articles we would love to talk about, we have topics we want to talk about. We have questions from the previous shows we did not get to, so we have got lots of sweets. Love to hear your questions, your comments, your concerns, what you want us to talk about on the show. And we are going to of course keep it to all thing’s construction tech.
Before we do, just a reminder that during this show and during all shows, you can always just text me. We have a Google voice line for the show, (979) 473-9040 with any questions for the guest or the crew, you can even click call it and leave a message, we might even play it on the show. Just for fun the other day, I saw a call coming in. We had a listener call in and I just picked up and answered it and we talked for 20 minutes. We had a great time. It is always great to hear from listeners. Remember also, you can never miss an opportunity to have every episode sent straight to your email inbox. You can text ConTech to 66866. You get the audio and the show notes, etc. Just text ConTech to 66866. It is only 2 numbers that you can text with us. And again, the question line is (979) 473-9040.
I quick message on preventing construction suicide. According to the CDC, construction occupations have the highest rate of suicide, as well as the highest number of suicides across all occupational groups. To combat these statistics, contractors, unions, associations, industry service providers, and project owners must work together to stand up for suicide prevention. The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention is raising awareness about the risk of suicide within the construction industry and providing suicide prevention resources, and tools, to create a zero-suicide industry. Visit PreventConstructionsSuicide.com for more information.
Before we get started with our discussion today, I spoke with Bradley Tabone, Co-Founder of HammerTech about how they are keeping the job site safe in 2020. And here is a quick word with my discussion with Brad Tabone.
JAMES: And I am here today with the Australian wonder Brad Tabone, Co-Founder, and EVP of HammerTech. Let us talk about HammerTech right now. What is HammerTech and what was the origin story? What does it do now?
BRAD: Hey, James. HammerTech is a safety field collaboration platform, build–out of yours truly, Melbourne, Australia. Over the last 5 years, we have expanded across the Asia Pacific and North America. And currently, we work with a few hundred GCs across $50 billion worth of work. The platform was built with a worker at the heart of it. And that it really is a big differentiation of the tool. And so, we started off the tool with online enrollments and orientations and capture all that work of data, and then pass it along the journey throughout all the digitized processes. And when I say processes, I mean processes. Not documents that have been digitized. So, we understand the nuances of the processes. And so, by understanding the nuances, you get much bigger, higher worker takes up of the software. Because it actually wraps around the existing processes. So, if you have the worker information and you have the process information, you then get a full view of your job site in real–time. And that is really what we are aiming to do. We believe ourselves to be a hedgehog. And so, we do one thing and one thing well.
And we are back to our live question and answer and discussion section. We have got our newly minted Executive Director of ELECTRI with us. We have got the ConAppGuru who actually if you did not know, has been rehomed, to the fantastic folks over at eSub, and he is doing great things over there. Of course, we interviewed Wendy Rogers a couple of weeks ago, if you want to go back and listen to that, so, he is over there. I am still here in lovely, beautiful Aggieland. That is right. College Station, Texas, still running JBKnowledge. The 230 plus team members here at JBK are still building software and having all kinds of fun with construction and insurance technology.
Today, I have got a few things that keep coming up and I am going to lob a couple of items across over the wall, for our initial discussion. We are seeing traditional big mainstay equipment companies getting heavily, and we are talking about major investments, major acquisitions, and major product rollouts in the last few months, into tech. We had a couple that I was excited about, and that was John Deere and Hilti. Deere has done amazing things. I have used an example of one of John Deere’s acquisitions. They acquired an artificial intelligence company a couple of years ago that created a sensor array that you drag behind a John Deere tractor, and they have used machine learning to teach the cameras how to identify something that needs herbicide spray on it from something that does not. And so, by using artificial intelligence and cameras, they were able to reduce herbicide usage by 90%. And you have heard me say these numbers before. And of course, agriculture has been automating since literally John Deere invented the plow.
JAMES: Yeah, they are industrializing agriculture, so output has just skyrocketed, productivity in agriculture has skyrocketed.
JOSH: James, the jobs are staying there by the way. If you go back and look, the jobs are still there as the industrialization happens, but it is more specialization. Just so you know, the jobs are not going away as they industrialize.
JAMES: It is really quite fascinating what is been going on there. Well, Deere is not leaving construction out. A recent article from Construction Dive highlighted this, from just a few weeks ago. They have announced a new operating model to help integrate tech–driven features into construction offerings. And it is pretty interesting. They foresee technology as a solution to a lot of construction challenges. We are happy about that. They have this work site technology. So, grade control, payload weighting, autonomous systems. And of course, the big one that I saw was autonomous systems. Guys, I am curious for your feedback, Rob, of course, we are seeing autonomous systems out in cars and vehicles, but we are talking about rolling it out into one of the largest heavy equipment fleets in the world.
ROB: I would say there has got to be huge labor–saving for this off the bat so my former life, the contractor that I worked for, we did a lot of roadways and a lot of civil work, and watching newer employees learn how to run things like a pan, how to run a dozer, of watching them try and get a piece of uneven earth leveled out to the eyeball. And it is a very subjective thing, of when is it going to get there? And the older school operators who had done it for decades obviously had pretty good eyesight at this, and the mentality, but as they are getting older and have to start wearing glasses, I saw a very big deviation in that skill level, that once now you are going to put a piece of equipment and tie it into some intelligence. That would be interesting. So first, just the labor savings of how long it takes to get something flat, but the second part guys has got to be tying this into the sensors too.
One of the first things that I was learning about with heavy equipment was how did you approach a piece of equipment. So basically, if you cannot see the eyes of the operator, he cannot see your eyes. And there were many bad stories of, unfortunately when the driver was backing up and the backup alarm did not work. Josh had been on those sites. When you have got 8 backup alarms going, you get dull to it really quick over which one is that. We can improve just the labor of using the machine, but also the safety. But James for you, all those analytics going back, what if you now could scorecard your operators of who actually can blade something out fastest, the most level. That is fascinating.
JAMES: Remember how I said, there are 4 buckets you measure return in, hard costs and soft costs, and then you have your reimbursable expenses where you can make money back, and then you have preventable mistakes. And that is actually what I am excited about with all of these autonomous systems is what you are trying to do is make workers a lot safer. And you are trying to make the work a lot more accurate at the same time. And what is interesting, Josh, about most of the technologies that you probably evaluate for your members over at NECA, is you are always looking at both angles whenever you have tech rollout. Like, will this make us safer first, cause our goal is for workers to go home as good or better than they arrived at work.
Ideally, with stretch and flex breaks and with managing their health, they actually go back better than they showed up. We have that aspect. We want them to be safe and healthy. Number 2, we want them to be productive because better productivity drives better wages. I mean, there is a direct connection between better productivity and healthier companies and better wages. And this is interesting to me when you look at technology stuff like Deere‘s rolling out. And, the recent announcement from Hilti, with their exoskeleton. What is important that Hilti has, that all the major tool companies have, which is why it excites me when folks like the DEWALT and Hilti and Milwaukee release stuff, is they have these massive distributions and support networks, right Josh?
JOSH: Absolutely massive. They have a lot of reach.
JAMES: Yeah. Do you think your members are going to be wearing exoskeletons anytime soon?
JOSH: It makes too much sense. I mean, if you think about it, go back to what do we open up with. Construction is a hard profession. It is hard on the body and it takes strain. That probably has a lot to do with the suicide numbers that are in the industry. When you are dealing with pain day in and day out. If we can preserve someone‘s body and extend their life, that working expectancy and give them the capabilities they need to help them lift things, to improve the way that they work. These time and motion studies that, you know what, let us go back to that industrialization conversation around data and analytics and what that means. If we can even use this to correct behavior, safe bodies, it is a matter of time before everyone is using some form of an exoskeleton. I am not talking about an iron man suit.
JAMES: These are all soft fabric. This is a completely different ball game, Josh, and honestly, you know me, Mr. Sci-Fi, right. I am a Marvel guy too, right? So, you can imagine, I like the concept of exoskeletons. They look nothing like I thought they would. They are all soft fabric, they are not powered, and to me, they are going to be de–facto standard safety equipment. This is standard PPE, right?
JOSH: Right. That is, it. It is just a matter of time.
ROB: If you look at the numbers on just back injuries alone or shoulder injuries, that is an easy ROI if you have ever had to fund one of those recoveries.
JAMES: Yep. All right. We got some good questions coming in. So, let us start hitting these up. I have got one from Ben Stalker. Ben, thank you for submitting this. Did you see Amazon Ring’s new indoor autonomous drone announcement yesterday? Yes. You guys know I am a drone fanatic. Do you think this could be used for construction sites too? Yes. All right. So, absolutely. If you did not see this, this is about, Amazon, and their Ring, remember Amazon owns Ring. Ring, started as a doorbell company and the premise here was, do you think that someone would use this on a job site? So, I will just share the screen here. Check this out. Again, this is a flying security camera drone. First off. Straight out of the gate. We have a major problem with job site theft so I think, first off, this would be immensely useful to deal with just with security.
So, the drone flies through the home on predetermined paths, automatically responds to security alarms. And the always home cam costs $250. Super cheap price point. And what they show is a video, and I will go ahead and play the video here, of course, there is going to be an ad, they show a demonstration of someone trying to break in. Here we go, the drone deploys off of its base station and streams live video to your camera, and then flies up to the person breaking into the house, man. All they need to do is add a little BB gun on their Josh, right? There is going to be someone in Atlanta that puts a beep a BB gun, or something more than that, on one of these things, is not there?
JOSH: Look at it. I mean, getting your face captured and then maybe even going outside getting your plate number and those types of things. This is a huge deterrent in itself. When you start inflicting pain, it just makes it that much more, but it is amazing to see. This technology just shows you here, how easy it is, and how it is improving the quality of life, it is deterring crime. And that is when we talk about integrating technology, that is the thing we always talk about is, does it improve the quality of life? And this makes you feel safer, it makes you feel better.
JAMES: Yeah, but Josh, let us talk about the practical usage here on a construction site. What is nice about this, first off, it got collision avoidance. Secondly, it can do indoor positioning. So, it knows the route to fly, meaning it is got some form of computer vision that allows it to memorize a path and to fly around objects, so it is avoiding lights and avoiding all these objects. When you take those skills, those technology skills would be very useful on a construction job site. Just for job site security, if you wanted a drone to routinely fly a path or check out an alert, that would be very useful. But imagine taking the computer vision skills that this device has and applying it to as–built documentation, to job–site documentation.
Of course, we have seen a whole bunch of robots come out. Doxel has been one that I have talked about a whole bunch that has a tracked drone that can drive through the job site. There is been some indoor aerial drones, but not really many that are commercially available. Most drones are geared toward outdoor use. This is geared for indoor use so that is why it has a big cage around the blades, and it is got all kinds of protective equipment on it. This is a drone designed for indoor use. To answer your question Ben, yes, I think this would be incredibly useful for security, as–built documentation, QA–QC, daily drone flights, marketing materials. There is a lot of different reasons why this would be pretty compelling for a job. Not to mention that you could fly this when there is nobody on the job site. And I want to point that out. If your objection to this is, oh, it will hit people, will fly flight when no one is there, right Josh?
JOSH: You know, think about it. If you are doing TI work or you are working indoors, and maybe you have limited security on a job site and you have got a lot of materials in there, set this thing up quickly, and deploy it as you are working on the job. You have got your materials there. Now you have got eyes and ears, 24 hours a day. There is a lot of ways we could use this.
JAMES: Okay. Rob, are you going to get an indoor flying drone for safety inspections? Rob, you are Mr. Safety, this got to be a big deal, right?
ROB: Oh, safety would be huge. And if you think about just the scale alone, smaller jobs, it could be a little challenging, but think about data centers, think about big box stores. What about the previous arenas or the stadiums, think about back in the day of different things that are going on. When you are setting major pieces of structural steel columns, concrete pours, there is a lot of things. If you think about really big mega projects to deploy this on immediately is, man, watching out for safety alone, or James, this is a different way of looking at it. If you actually had the job site DVR recording the whole time on a critical lift, if anything were going on, you could maybe “A” hopefully catch something ahead of time like seeing somebody not tied off, or braces were not secure. But if something bad did happen, you would have a DVR review to go back and learn from it, and figure it out that is not happening again.
JAMES: Yeah. That is true. We got another great question, Trevor Baggett, who is on the line here, we are implementing new accounting software. Should we be trying to test out the integration with our PM software, or wait until it is fully implemented to start testing? That is such a complex challenge when you are looking at technology integrations. My general answer is, I am going to reference an 8th–grade science teacher. Boy, I am from Missouri. Show me, I generally have to see it to believe it. Largely because, and we are not talking about any specific accounting or PM solutions here, we are talking in generalities. There is a lot of marketing BS out there, around integration and pretty much every salesperson in construction tech has this natural tendency to say, oh yeah, we integrate with that. Or, oh yeah, we can work with that. Oh, we have an API. So, they can just work with it. By the way, having an API does not mean everyone can work with you.
First off, we do not know if the API is garbage or not. Secondly, we do not know if it is easy to work with. Thirdly, it is going to take a lot of development labor, to identify how to integrate those things, if they are not integrated out of the box. And if they are integrated out of the box, in my opinion, you should be able to demonstrate and try that integration out during your trial phase for that software. So, there should be a sandbox environment for that accounting system that they should build to let you play with, and then a demo version of the PM software. And then if you can just trade API keys, plug it in, if they are really out of the box integrated, I would test it. I mean, literally, I would run a transaction on the accounting system and then see if it populated the project controls. As I would go into the project system, I would run a transaction there and see if it cross populated. I encourage everyone to be from Missouri. That is the show me state, right? So, make them show you. In general, make them let you do it yourself. It should not be in a canned demo on a zoom meeting.
ROB: That is part of the whole method that we have talked about for years, James. If you want it set up, pick that trial project cause you are basically, what you are advocating is you still do your normal job, but you have to test it on the side because what you are really looking for is when is it going to fail. You want it to fail in a trial, not in a live job, right?
JAMES: Absolutely. Josh, I know you have had to deal with all kinds of integration, successes, and failures in the VDC arena. What are your thoughts on this?
JOSH: So, I look at the process. So right now, if you are successful with a PM tool and you are implementing a new accounting solution, you need to go and evaluate the processes. To now make this integration work, is it adding steps, is it changing your existing process, does it require different types of work that needs to be set up and done or does it require additional steps? I think you really have to look at it from a process standpoint, evaluate the process, and understand what is changing. What new steps, are we taking out steps, can it streamline the process? Several things can be taken into consideration. If it is taking out steps and it streamlines the process, I say try it. Give it a go and test it in a controlled way.
But if it is adding steps to the process, that means you have got to make sure you spend money on training. You have got to make sure that you spend some time and effort getting the teams that are using the PM tool to work through this new process. Do not just force it in and say, hey, it integrates now. There is a process. And it depends on the accounting software. You have got to look at those steps and understand. Is it adding, deleting? Then you make a decision going from there. So, I am about that. And sometimes it makes it easier. Take it and control it and run.
JAMES: Josh, how many providers said, oh yeah, we work with Revit, and then when you actually peeked under the hood and tried to do it, it did not. You do not have to give specific company names, but I am guessing this happened to you a few times.
JOSH: If you are doing VDC, you are accustomed to work arounds, even in Revit. Even in Revit with new features that come out every year, you find yourself like, here is this great new feature. You are so excited about using it. Oh gosh. Okay. It does not work the way I expected it to, so I am going to find workarounds. And with all of these add–ins that are available on top of Revit now, the first time that you get it, and you start deploying it like BIM Track or Revizto, that was not that smooth of a process. You find workarounds and you find ways of making it work. And, and there is a culture there of just understanding that you are going to do workarounds, and we are a lot more open to it than trying to go out to the field teams and say, hey, this is a workaround, can you do this as a workaround in the field site? Yeah. Good, luck.
JAMES: Yeah. I love VDC professionals because they are hackers. They have had to hack for decades now, especially your Salty Dog VDC. You have been doing this for a long time. You have to figure out the nuances of in particular large desktop–based software that you are trying to integrate with. And having a Revit out on does not mean it is always going to work properly. Integrations can be a real bugaboo. So, my general thought again is, I think you have to test it out. Now you do bring an interesting point, Trevor. How can you fully test an integration until both software are fully implemented? And the answer is that you cannot. That is a bit of a moving target. The reality is you cannot test the entire integration until you have both systems online and configured, with your data, doing the functions you want to perform. So, there is a catch. And I agree and understand what you are saying here. I would just say, that is your last 10% to 20% of testing. In other words, ideally, if they are out an of the box solution, you should be able to test the sandbox on one with a test version, demo version of another, and make sure that they actually function, or you could just call one of your buddies who you know that has done it and then asked them about it.
JOSH: That is what I was going to say. Get some references.
JAMES: Yeah, get some references that are actually using both and literally just remember, be from Missouri, right? Show me. Have them bring the screen up and share it with you. Josh, it reminds me. I got brought in as a technology consultant on an M&A deal one time where they asked me to go evaluate the technical capabilities of one of the companies that this company was looking to buy. And so, they brought me in, and the CIO met me at the door, and he was like, man, I am so excited you are here. I cannot wait to show you everything we got going on. Of course, I was there to evaluate technology. And we have just got this great technology stack. And I said, man, I am excited too, it is nice to meet you. Can I hang out in the back with all your IT guys? And he is like, yeah, let me go introduce you. So, he takes me out of the back. I remember this like it was yesterday, but this was over 13 years ago, and I walk in the back, I meet his IT guys, I am like, okay. Hey bud, thanks so much. I will come to get you when I am done. And he leaves the room.
And I turned around and said, hey guys, tell me about your IT. I said, why do not you show me the server room? I did. It was a closet with no redundancy; and I am like, okay, all right, this is bad. Show me your application. It was a converted access database, so he planned on migrating it like, oh yeah, this whole thing’s garbage and we have a plan to rewrite everything. And it was hilarious. It took me 30 minutes of getting eyes on hands–on, to identify that their technology stack was basically valueless in terms of the M&A. So, I called the company that hired me, and I said, hey, I am not telling you what to do with the deal. I am just telling you the technology part of this is a no go because it is all slated to get scrapped and rebuilt because it is a giant heaping pile of garbage. And the deal did die, for that and a couple of other reasons, and that company went out of business, within a year and a half. My point is, the best bet is to get eyes on hands–on, and actually play with the stuff.
Next, oh, this is a good question. Brett Young. Thank you. When will AEC be able to look to Stack Exchange for integration problems? Well, does anybody use Stack Exchange? I do not know if you guys use that. It certainly is something that a bunch of nerds use, including me. I do not know when that is going to happen, so if you have never looked at it, Brett, let us just start the word right now. Let us get a few thousand people familiar with Stack Exchange. If you go to StackExchange.com, it is just a really good Q&A community. And I want to point out, I will just read from their site. Just, for example, they have an information security Stack Exchange with 60,000 questions, 106,000 answers, 91% of questions were answered. These online communities like Stack Exchange, are fantastic if you have got a question. Mind you, Stack Exchange is not specific to IT.
There are all kinds of communities there for questions and answers, that are pretty useful. So, Brett, maybe this is a great opportunity to start that. I have used Stack Overflow for a very long time, to have public and private Q & A, on all things IT and technology. And it has been incredibly useful. I think that would be a really great place. I think there is been a pretty big lack of IT communities for construction, where they can just log in and post questions other than their LinkedIn feeds. I do not know, Josh, where did you all, in all of your years, and you have spent a couple of decades in the VDC, where did you all turn for questions and answers?
JOSH: Yeah, there is online forums that we used to use a lot more back in the day. There was a Reddit community that was there so that we would go in. What was it? Augie. So, the Augie was one that we had local Augie groups that we met up and we would have conversations. And as you got to get into the Augie, you started building these relationships. I guess with technology over time, we do not do those Augie meetings quite as much, but as Autodesk user group, and Reddit was always a big part of that topic. And as we started building these communities, we would branch off and we would get people like you and Brett involved and we would learn about these new things. And they would bring us in, and they would get us involved. And we started building some relationships with some of the developers at Autodesk and Trimble, and we just kind of worked our way through this. But I will tell you, Stack Exchange is the first time I am hearing of this today. I have never heard of it before. So, you got to tell me 7 times before I start to figure it out. So, maybe we should go there. Maybe we should do something like that.
JAMES: It might be good for NECA and ELECTRI to have an Electrical VDC Community Stack Exchange.
JOSH: We do have a forum that is there, but I do not know if it is like Stack Exchange.
JAMES: Just to give you an idea on Stack Exchange, they had 418 million visits last year. They had 3.3 million total questions answered. This is a pretty major network. And if you are in IT and you have never checked out Stack Exchange, or Stack Overflow, you can go to StackExchange.com or StackOverflow.com.
JOSH: Is it nerdy?
JAMES: Yeah. It is pretty nerdy. Reddit is general and I am on Reddit every day. I like to check it out. It is fascinating. To me, it is a hybrid of a social network and a discussion board, and it is what IRC for the people that are over 40, it is what IRC used to be, for those of us used to be on Internet Relay Chat, way back in the ’90s, or a Bulletin Board System. That is really what Reddit is to me. I was super into Digg before Reddit, and then the guy who ran Digg decided to completely tank the entire company, by changing a bunch of things around the way they ran their discussions. And everybody kind of bailed on Digg and then went to Reddit. And of course, Reddit has stayed very popular. Then again, Reddit has stayed true to their model. Digg was trying to pivot and drive revenue up and Reddit has really kind of been hardcore about that. You can find just about anything on Reddit, but the challenge I have with Reddit, is it is not focused on specific communities like Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange where there are two websites, but the same company. I do not know; it is a really great place to get more information.
With that, let us move on to our next subject. I am actually curious to do a little interview with our new executive director of ELECTRI. I want to know you have got one of the largest trade associations in the Western hemisphere. NECA, right? National Electrical Contractors Association. This is your foundation. Where do you see the trade associations, now you are a union trade association, you are an association of union, of trade contractors. What is the big challenge right now, and how are you all guiding the association forward? Obviously, you have got a lot going on with Coronavirus, but that is going to be gone by, and we are still having to deal with all the other issues we have in construction. What are the hot priorities right now over there?
JOSH: You know, so much is changing fast. I think that is the thing right now, as we start to look at the associations, I mean, think about what NECA has been traditionally. It is been a labor relations group. So, our contractors are signatory to IBEW, which is the union labor force. But right now, technology and innovation, owner’s expectations, projects are getting more complex. There are several things. One of the things we are trying to do right now is, what we are trying to really focus on the data side of this. I still think there are many things we do not know right now. We are pushing this massive KPI initiative. That is a big part of what we are trying to do on our end is, leveraged data, turn it into knowledge, and turn it around to something that we can make better–informed decisions about.
For example, one of the areas that we are starting with is attendance. And with the mindset that we are not going to weaponize this data at all. We have got to take this data and learn from it and make everyone better. And when I first started this conversation, it was like, Josh, okay, attendance. If I do not know somebody is on my job site, I have got bigger problems. No, it is not about identifying if someone has at work or not at work. It is about identifying, is a five–day eight-hour work week, are you going to impact attendance more than ⁴⁄₁₀’s? We know attendance is going to fall off after you worked six days a week. What do we expect and how do we bid jobs and look at that job and analyze that around data on, when you start to work six days a week or what about seven days a week? Is August better than July or is July worst?
Is Friday’s worse in August then Mondays in July? If we can start to aggregate a lot of this data. And let us say, let us give you an example. Let us say a local is not performing up to par. Do we go in and beat up a local for their attendance not being where it is supposed to be? No, let us go in and analyze that and understand that maybe they have a lot of travelers, which is going to naturally increase your absenteeism that is a part of this. So, for us, I think there is so much happening. And for a small contractor James, it is a very different world, that is performing a lot of service work, compared to one of my massive contractors that are doing these huge data centers. The challenges are very different for each of these companies. I am trying to do a little bit to help everybody right here.
JAMES: Let us dive on one of the subjects you just mentioned. Of all the things you just said. Of course, I am fascinated on the data of ⁴⁄₁₀’s or ⁵⁄₈ like which one is better, there has been a lot of discussion around whether a 4 day work week with 10 hour days is better than a 5–day work with 8 hour days. If a 3–day weekend is better than 2. I do not think there is any silver bullet, right? There is no single answer because it depends on what type of work you are doing. And you are right. It depends on what time of year it is. What state you are in. Are you talking about ⁴⁄₁₀’s when you are in Georgia in the summer? I mean that is a pretty long day and you are stretching the day. If you start at 7, you are stretching well into the heat of the day, and that might not make any sense. Are we talking about ⁴⁄₁₀’s up in Michigan in the summer, where it is like an air conditioner is running outside all day long?
ROB: What about the shift? Is it the day shift? Is it the middle shift? If any of us that have ever worked the night shift, that graveyard, that is a very big filter to place on those hours. Because trying to work at night for 6 months, I was a zombie.
JAMES: It is really a question only technology can answer because you can certainly survey people so you can find out the subjective answers, and then you can use productivity measurement tools to identify how productive they are in all the different scenarios. You just have to take the same crew on the same job and apply different schedules. You would have to isolate as many factors as possible, and then actually study that, which sounds like a fascinating research paper for ELECTRI to get involved in.
JOSH: If you can standardize a form, that on your daily reports, if you can start to standardize this, for example, if you put shifts, are they working the first shift or second shift? If you can start to put in, even if they have a per diem, does a per diem at a certain point, actually help with attendance? Because there are all these things that we have to measure and kind of have to start standardizing. You have to get data in a way that it is not all over the place and crazy. Because if you start doing that, then you can spend all your time trying to sort through the data, and then you end up looking backward and things have already changed. You have got to find ways of standardizing the data, looking at it in real–time, so that you can make decisions and pivot, and you have got to get very granular about locations, and is it a 3rd–year apprentice, is it a 5th–year apprentice? Is it a journeyman? There is a lot of things that you have to take into consideration, but we are diving into that one neck–deep right now, and very excited to see what this is going to do for us and our contractors as we go forward.
JAMES: Yeah. I want to talk about one of the other phrases you mentioned that we have never talked about in 230 plus episodes of TheConTechCrew. We have never talked about this topic. But you said it now and I love this as a discussion point, the weaponization of data. So, let us talk about that for a second, because this is something that, you know a lot of our speeches, right, the three of us have gotten to speak, the last few years, we have gotten to travel all over North America, speaking to all kinds of contractors and all kinds of trades. And this does come up, and no one has ever used that phrase though, Josh, but this comes up regularly. Are you going to use this data against me, the worker? Will you track how long were in the bathroom? Are you going to turn this into big brother? Am I losing my independence creativity thought process? The weaponization of data. So, Josh, talk to me about what you mean when you say weaponization of data.
JOSH: To get better and to improve, there has to be an acceptance of the data. And if you weaponize the data, you can use the data in your favor to manipulate it and not solve the problem, but actually, it may benefit you for the short term, but it is probably not going to solve problems and benefit you for the long term. So, when we say that, we want everyone to get better. We are very closely aligned with IBEW. When we start to talk about data, we have got to let the data speak for itself. We will go a little bit into politics right now. You can be on one side or the other, and you watch a commercial, and they can use that data, and they throw out these numbers in the debate, you will hear these numbers. 44% and it is 44%. Boom! And I hit you with that 44% and they will use data and weaponize it in the debates coming up in the coming weeks and months. That is what we do not want to do. We want to be able to have a conversation and help us understand what the root cause of this is. How can we solve this problem?
We have to do this, not only with IBEW but with the general contractors, with the owners, we have to build a culture around accepting this data and understanding you know what, by me doing this, it is now impacting others. I went in and I did this, and now there is a ripple effect. And what is that ripple effect educating us and teaching us? And that is a big part of that. We have got to get better. The data needs to be used to improve everyone. And that is what I am talking about. It is got to be holistic. It has to be solving solutions, not weaponizing it.
JAMES: And this is an important topic, there has to be a commitment from owners, general contractors, and subcontractors. For owners not to weaponize this against the general contractors, general contractors not weaponizing this against subs, and subs not to weaponize against the labor, right? Where we are in a low trust environment. You can imagine everybody’s antenna immediately perk up and they go, okay, how am I going to get screwed by this? And so there has to be first a contractual commitment not to do that. And secondly, there has to be a development of trust when you are rolling out time tracking. Let us just use hard examples. I feel like maybe we are beating around the bush.
You know hard examples, like time tracking and time logging, worker positioning, and locations, right Josh? Are you going to use what he is positioning against somebody? That is why I do like the job site clips where you clip on when you come in and you clip off when you leave so you have the certainty; they cannot track you off the job site. I know Rob, you dealt with this in safety a lot where some of your experience, you have you said that the safety plan was stopped. All construction when the OSHA guys were on site. And that is because certainly some safety data is weaponized against the people that are tracking it.
ROB: It goes back to, I think, just that outlook from the company of having the benevolent attitude of we are doing everything to improve and better the company protects the employees. Cause yeah, when you start talking about safety tracking, James, it was very interesting when even the GPS trackers first came out and we were putting them on trucks 10 years ago, and employees were questioning, well, why are you putting a tracker on the truck? Well, number one, it is a company asset that we are providing it as a benefit, but we do kind of want to know when it crosses state lines for a reason. And I am telling you guys this, because there were times we looked up and figured out a truck was at Panama City Beach, Florida. Interesting. I thought you were sick!
That is what I think Josh is getting at with a weaponizing, and there could be times that you are tempted to use the data in a disciplinary manner. And it is a really hard line because when things pop up like that, you kind of wonder why is the truck across lines, or if we are talking about tracking bodies on a site, I have made the joke on stage, we have talked about it before, if we are talking now, James, with what you are talking about, you have got the trackers on employees, and what are the five dots that are behind the Conex box for an hour and a half.
JOSH: The old school mentality is going to go in there and hammer. They would want to know what you all have been doing for 90 minutes. Because I could figure it out. That is where the danger is of weaponizing I would think.
JAMES: Yeah. And I think to back this up a little bit, I was having a conversation with my employees. Every month I do an internal webinar and I started doing this a few months ago where I just do a webinar for my own people every month. I do 30 minutes on a different topic. And we had a good conversation about this and I was talking to them like, all the technology exists for us to install, complete tracking software on the computers that we own as a company, that would log every key keystroke my employees type in their computer, that would take an image of them in their webcam every minute while they are working to see if they are at their desks, that would track how many words per minute they are typing, take a screenshot.
And by the way, back in the day, oDesk, which has been, Josh, I cannot even keep track of these because they have all rolled up now. And they are like vWorker I think, has acquired all of these offshore individual contractor outsourcing companies, but oDesk, on the contract workers, would install an agent that while they were on the clock working by the hour, it would take screenshots, webcam shots, and keystroke logger to make sure they were actually working on your stuff during the time they were billing you. And of course, that is an extremely low trust environment where you have absolutely no knowledge of each other, before or after the transaction. And, of course, contractors really did not like it very much. I mean, you want to talk about Black Mirror style. If you were watching the series Black Mirror. Black Mirror style oversight of a worker, that is about it. Images of workers on treadmills generating their own electricity come to mind, from Black Mirror. Whenever I am on my Peloton, I kind of remember Black Mirror. I am like, what if this is just all some experiment to see if we can act as giant batteries for the planet. Side note.
So, I come back to this and I was talking to my folks and I said, look, I am not going to put that stuff on your computers. We are going to make sure you have an antivirus, that your workstations are protected and secured, but I am not tracking you down to that level. We could technically, but we are not going to, practically, because we are really identifying what are the metrics that matter to us. And it is really just output. What I care about is, what am I paying this worker to work? And what output am I getting? And if those two things are okay, as long as it is done in a safe, healthy, legal manner, I am good. Cause different workers have different styles. And I think have got to wrap your brain around it. If I had Jeff Sample here, he would say, know your why. So, I would know your why. Like why do you want this information? What is the point of the information? If you want to track your workers, why? Do want to make sure you optimize the walking path? That is a good one, right?
JOSH: That should benefit everyone though? And that is the thing. How does it benefit me? What is in it for me? There has to be a mutual agreement and how can it help. And so, if it can be used against me, how can I all use it for me? And we have got to have a lot of conversations around this. Right now, we are just getting into some of these things. This is the thing, James, you have to have enough foresight right now too, that while there is lack of trust, what if it became a competitive advantage for your company against you at some point saying, oh, we track all of our workers and we can tell you exactly what our output is, and you are going to go up in a contract for your software developers at some point, does it become the standard. It is not if, it is when. There is a lot of things that you have to take into consideration, but we need to work on building trust around this process, so that there are advantages like, how do we all win? It is not a Zero–sum game. How do we all win from this?
JAMES: It is only weaponization if you are hurting the person and they are on the losing end of the transaction. Just to be really clear, if everybody consents and everybody wins and everybody benefits, then I do not think you could call that weaponization of data, which means that you have to do a lot of selling to the people that you are tracking.
JOSH: This is educating.
JAMES: Yeah. Well educating. Yeah, you are educating them, and you are trying to win them over for sure. It is a battle for hearts and minds. Joey asked, we have been tracking and collecting data and education for years, needed changes of coming curriculum and testing. Was it weaponizing the data to tell educators and curriculum design people what they were doing wrong? How can the electrical industry move past the finger–pointing? Especially if you are in a union relationship, such as a NECA contractor. At some point, the data has to simply inform the necessary change. I mean, okay. Spot on, absolutely spot on.
JOSH: That is across the board. That is owners to the electrical contractors, that is electrical and mechanical, and that is, how do we work together? There needs to be a common language, so you could understand how we impact each other.
JAMES: Yeah, so no. I do not believe it was weaponizing the data to tell educators and curriculum design what they were doing was wrong. No, that is a healthy feedback loop, right? Weaponization, the result of weaponization is paranoia and distrust. Just to be really clear, if something leads to paranoia and distrust, you know you have weaponized your data.
JOSH: Or if you get into it and you use it to your advantage, but ultimately you are now steering everybody in the wrong direction. So, you come in and beat somebody over the head with it now, and you use it to help you make more money, but ultimately it leads to loss of market share. It leads to other things. That is a good example to me that, if you go back and you make that education worse, and now the kids are performing and they are not doing as well and it impacts the quality of the education, that is weaponizing the data, because they want to be able to use it in a way to their advantage to lower salaries or to do something that benefits them, in a window of time, not for the greater of good.
JAMES: Kind of like standardized testing in public schools. Oh man, when we were growing up, we had standardized tests, but we barely talked about them. And now it is like one of the chief discussions. They literally teach the standardized tests and I think that is when you have really impacted that process so much. There is a process that is been impacted so much by data, that you have got a really big problem on your hands now. Because now you teach to the test instead of teaching them what they need to know. Tell you what, we switched our girls to a different school that does not have to deal with the standardized testing stuff, and it is just a completely different experience now. And by the way, it is far more rigorous, it has been pretty interesting.
Of course, I went to a public magnet engineering school that was part of the public schools, but you had the test to get into it, and it was extremely rigorous, and it was not wrapped around standardized testing okay. Standardized testing was an afterthought because they pushed us so far ahead of where you were supposed to be, so that is interesting. This is a topic course we could go on about for quite some time, and Brett has mentioned there are all kinds of examples where data is used and potentially weaponized. He gave me an example of Google using your data from providing WI-FI at Starbucks. That is one of the reasons Google’s in the WI-FI business, right? Is if you are not using their search engine, they still want your data. Of course, you can get around that with really good VPN, let me mention the ExpressVPN. That is the one I use. Not a sponsor of the show. I certainly am a big fan of VPNs because they do not use my data.
Oh, man, what else is in the news? We have had some interesting news stories around funding and acquisition as always. Why is funding still active? Money is still looking for a home because interest rates are near zero. So private equity groups are flushed with cash because investors have to take a good bit of risk, mark to market assets, like the stock market are highly volatile and not based on reality always, but on how active the treasury is. And so, money’s looking for a home which results in ideas getting funded.
Core has recently joined, they had $4 million in backing to launch yet another jobs platform. And you will notice I say yet another job platform because the three of us have interviewed many job platforms on TheConTechCrew podcast, over the years. And I have got to be honest. I have not seen a lot of success in this area. And I am interested to know what your thoughts are and why. Again, Core says their mission, they are out of Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, led by Google Alumni, they want to be a labor marketplace for construction that leverages algorithms to produce a match score between workers and actual skills and companies open positions. It is another job site. We have had a bunch of these, and I think 75% to 80%, one of the ones we have had on the show are no longer in business.
And so, there has been a really hard time getting alignment around, and it mind you, these are jobs for the trades, right? LinkedIn is a very active and very well used and very profitable company that recruits executives and VDC professionals in construction. We are talking about job boards for the trades. I want to start with Rob. Rob, why do you think there is been such a hard time getting alignment around digital, job boards, and online job boards for the trades? Why do these companies kept going out of business and really had a hard time getting traction?
ROB: The first thing I will say, because I have seen some of these come up recently like you are talking about, and I challenge any new company that comes into our industry. First thing, first guys, you have heard me say before, do your homework. I do not think they have scoped out, and they understand this industry, because we have seen many come and go. The core to me, James has always been, this is a transient labor market at its core. But one of the things that we are talking about, and we are speaking from a union stronghold, if you do not fundamentally understand that there is 2 types of labor, you have union labor in this industry and open shop labor, and that is 2 separate pools that really do not cross, right. Josh, so how are you ever going to get 2 sets of groups that do not normally talk together to talk, and specifically, because I have had a couple of reaches out to me the past couple of years and wanted to understand, well, we have got this great app. How could we work with union contractors?
And I would tell them, well, first, why do not you call the union and pitch what you got and explain how you do replace the book. We could go on for hours about the book at a local. How are you going to take that and put it into an app, and James, the stuff that you are reading, that the metrics and everything that they are trying to do, I do not think that replaces the human to human interaction of, let us be honest, Josh, when contractors are interviewing and bringing people in, and I will say this is union and open shop side, this is eyeball to eyeball situation, where they want to look at the worker and size them up. And let us also be honest. I am probably pushing too far, but hey, they will call around to other people and ask them, hey, look, Billy came to see me about a job. Should I hire Billy?
ROB: Apps cannot replace that.
JAMES: No. Let us go back to our weaponization of data discussion. When you roll a rating engine at these job sites where you can actually rate workers, then theoretically you would get that, but you would all get a whole bunch of anonymous blackballing that goes on when people would just get ticked to that person because they do not like them. And this has been the challenge with any system that rated subcontractors from a GC perspective, because you guys know I was involved in the bidding space for quite some time, a dozen years, we had hundreds of thousands of subs. The rating system on those subcontractors was internal. It was internal with that contractor because, it was so dicey on how different contractors would rate their subs and it depended on the relationship they had, and what kind of trade it was, what the issue was. It really gets complicated. Certainly, you do have union and non-union labor issues. And when you said transit, you mean very portable mobile workforce, that changes markets regularly and moves. If they hear that there are higher labor rates or more jobs, they will literally move their family and move themselves to those markets.
And so, not every job sector is like that. But this one is certainly more mobile and portable. I think the other challenge on all these technologies plays, this one has a bunch of funding, all the other ones had a bunch of funding too, might I add. They are intensely local. Construction, unlike many industries, is hyper-local. And you have got to build up a ton of mass and momentum in every individual market. It does not matter if you have 100,000 people from the whole country. If you only got a few in every market, right Josh?
JOSH: Yeah. I look at this and I think, we have got a labor shortage. Here is the thing. If you have a skill, if you are a welder, if you are an electrician, guess what, what you are not worried about, is work right now. You can go somewhere, and you can find work. We are working on recruiting. That is the thing about us, is we are working on trying to bring more people into the industry. Several factors come into play around this. I would love to do a survey and understand how many people that work on job sites have taken an Uber. How many of them have social media accounts that they actively pay attention to that it is not passive? There is a lot of things that come into play. If it is not done well, it can be a very dangerous profession.
That is why you see a lot of people go into the union side is because they know they are going to get some training, they are going to get support, there is going to be several things put into place that protects the workers, and our contractors are nonunion, they are signatory to a union labor force. And there are things that they have to do to meet those requirements. It is just going out and working for Joe Shmoe, you could put yourself in a very compromised position and be very unsafe. You want to know that you have got a buddy on that job site. You hear about people, I got off that job, it is a dangerous job. They are doing this, and they are doing that. You hear guys talking about that all the time, is that I am not putting myself in that position. I can go somewhere else. And it is several factors.
JAMES: So, you have got a bunch of Google guys backing this. There is certainly a good deal of funding arrogance in general, right? That funding and Silicon Valley can solve X, Y, and Z. You know name the X, Y, and Z. We are going to disrupt the world. We are going to disrupt every industry.
JOSH: By making some assumptions.
JAMES: They are making a lot of assumptions, that first off, they assume that nobody has tried it their way, or no one has tried digitizing this process. By the way, we have seen a lot of attempts at digitizing this process, but I do not hear any of the conversations, I just heard from you, which is, people, like to work at jobs where their buddies are. They like to know they are going to be safe at that job. And the foreman on those jobs wants references. They like it when their good workers bring their friends. Cause generally they know they tend to hang out with each other. Good workers tend to draw and attract other good workers.
JOSH: They look out for each other. They pay attention. They know their safety is not compromised by having someone next to them that may do something that jeopardizes their safety. I grew up around this, my dad, my grandfather, my great grandfather, they had to be very careful about the apprentices that they selected, that they brought on. It was a very rough like, hey, you do it my way, because we want to get home safe and go back to our families. There was even a mentality around that.
JAMES: Before we do our wrap up, our last topic here, I want to play the second half of the conversation we have with Brad Tabone, co–founder of HammerTech, the sponsor for today’s show. Here is my conversation with Brad.
JAMES: And I am back here with Brad Tabone, Co-Founder, and EVP of HammerTech. What would you say the killer features are from HammerTech that people jump at?
BRAD: I would say the thing that has become really apparent is the worker at the heart of the platform. There is a whole bunch of safety tools out there that might do risk assessments or inspections or incident management. But because we start with the worker enrollment, the worker orientation, demographic questions around that work, or what license or certification that workers have, or previous training and meetings they have been to. The worker at the heart of HammerTech, would be, I will say the number one, because it allows us to do a whole lot of stuff like contact tracing, connecting in devices to the individual, and knowing what individuals are doing.
And then the last point is probably process, not document. So, you have a permit, it can be replicated digitally across a myriad of different electronic platforms today. Just like an editable PDF but breaking that down into each of the stages and only presenting to the user what they need to see, or need to read, are probably the two key features of differentiating HammerTech from other field platforms.
JAMES: I have heard, you are not afraid to say no. Explain what that means to you.
BRAD: I believe in the principle of being a hedgehog. Being really good at one thing like Jim Collins, obviously from the hedgehog side of things, and because we are focused on doing one thing really well, we do not let ourselves get distracted into the other kind of areas of construction technology. We just want to focus on one and be really good at it and let other people be really good at the other areas of their app. And that is what we mean by no. I would say 90% of the functionality that comes out of HammerTech and its release comes from our clients and engagement from our clients.
JAMES: Now Brad, I have gotten a little surprise since you brought this up. This is Wrigley. This is my African pygmy hedgehog. And if you want to be like a hedgehog, like Brad was talking about, if you want to do something well, check out HammerTech. So, Wrigley the hedgehog, says give HammerTech a try! That is HammerTechGlobal.com, and Brad Tabone, Co-Founder and EVP can definitely help you out there. Brad. Thanks for joining us on the podcast.
BRAD: Thank you for making my afternoon, James! You have a good one!
And we are back. Last article. I feel like we should talk about COVID for just a second. It is still roiling the planet. Some countries are far worse than others. Some locations far worse than others. Here in Bryan College Station, of course, our local health district releases numbers. Those are the ones that kind of pay attention to because it is the local numbers that impact us. Fortunately, the hospital occupancy’s pretty low and the ICU occupancy is pretty low. Once they put masks in, the case counts just dropped way off and that has been really encouraging. The schools restarted face to face. Life has somewhat started to resume. The governor of Texas has allowed for restaurants to go to 75%. Bars are still closed. And no surprise there, you get a bunch of drunk people in a small close room, talking right next to each other, you are going to have a bunch of infections. It turns out that is not a great combination for Coronavirus. But it turns out you can have a lot of kids in schools and masked up. George has been running schools for a couple of months now, and they are still open. They are playing football.
JOSH: They are, but they are wearing their mask. I have been hearing from the teachers that they are wearing their mask heavily. Did you see Josh Canner’s LinkedIn message about the reporting?
JAMES: Yeah. The stats?
JOSH: Really high. The Southeast was wearing their masks 92% of the time.
JAMES: Yeah. This is fascinating. This is what I wanted to talk about. Because there are 2 news stories. Both of which we posted on our social channels. One was, Josh Canner actually has data on this. Thank you, Josh. He has data on this, because SmartVid.io uses a form of artificial intelligence, to identify workers that are wearing PPE, including workers that are wearing masks. They built some software to identify if a worker has a mask or gloves or other PPE. And so, it turns out, compliance rates, and again, this is from SmartVid.io, compliance rates are going way up in certain parts of the country. In other parts of the country they were already high, but the South actually came in at over 90% usage of masks.
And he has this COVID compliance dashboard that he just posted a few days ago. And, in that, the South, has 82% social distancing compliance, which is actually, they passed the Midwest and are just behind the West and the Northeast. And then glove compliance was in the low 90’s, pretty much everywhere. Facemask compliance went to 91% in the South, 83% in the Midwest, 93% in the West, and 88% in the Northeast. So, the South actually surged passed the Northeast in mask compliance. And this is going on the job site as handled by artificial intelligence. We are using a lot of software now to drive PPE compliance to measure and identify where we are making gains. Mind you, the South had really miserable numbers in the beginning. This was a 44% increase in workers complying with social distancing in the South, from the previous measurement done by SmartVid.io. This was a major improvement.
ROB: James, I think you could call that the pollen effect, because we have all talked about the hidden benefit of wearing one of these, living in that yellow snow. Do you know what I am getting at?
ROB: There is a big benefit that when people complain, oh, I cannot wear this mask, it is often like, have you tried wearing it outside?
JAMES: During allergy season? I will tell you what, I have raging horrible allergies, and this has helped me big time with my allergies. So, Wisconsin based contractor, and this is from several weeks ago, but I just wanted to point out The Boldt Co, has been using facial recognition and temperature scanning from a remotely mounted camera, to ensure employees are not showing signs of infection. And so, the workers, self–registering using a QR code, sent by the company, they take a selfie, and then the system uses that selfie in the QR code to facially recognize them. And then they scan the face, recognize, and they test for possible elevated temperature before the door to the office unlocks. What?
There is some really high tech being put in place for COVID. And honestly, when you see reports like what Canner is doing with SmartVid.io, there is a case to be made that COVID19 has been a catalyst for a bunch of technology change, that is going to end up benefiting the construction industry long into the future, from the use of Microsoft Teams and the deployment of technology. And Boldt is also using OpenSpace for 360 cameras. And we have seen funding for a remote inspection app to sell the municipalities so they can inspect remotely. There is a case that could be made that COVID-19 will drive some very positive, permanent technological change. And this is our last topic of this webinar, but Josh, your thoughts on this?
JOSH: Yeah, I am really anxious to see what comes out of this. We heard initially early on, when the hospitals were shut down and they were only taking COVID, our safety numbers actually went up very high across the country cause nobody wanted to get hurt. They were extra cautious because they knew they did not want to go to the hospital if something happened or have to go to the emergency room. So, it changed some behavior. Now I am wondering, with this, is it going to help mitigate the spread of the traditional flu? Is it going to help with other types of viruses, like Strep? And are we going to see an improvement in some of those areas now? Because as the temperatures cool off too, it makes it a whole lot easier to wear that mask in the Southeast, by the way. When it is 95°, 96° and you have got that extra hot air, it is a lot harder to wear that for 8 hours plus a day.
I think we are going to see some new behaviors, some things that we will find some benefits and it will work itself out. And hopefully, the goodwill carries forward and the bad, and some of those things where you say, that is just not the right fit. I am hopeful that some of the things too, does it spread as much as we originally thought by touch and picking some of those things up, or if it is, you know maybe it is certain temperatures. I think, hopefully, we will just continue to learn and make sure that these job sites are as safe as possible. And we can all work and be healthy. How many people do you think today would show up with a fever, to be honest with you, compared to maybe this time last year? A lot of people would have shown up at work, I do not feel good, but who cares? Now, I bet a lot of people, if they have got a fever if they are showing certain symptoms, they know, stay at home. There is been some education that has happened through that process. So, we will see. I think we will continue to learn. We do not know what we do not know today. We will continue to learn.
JAMES: Absolutely. Rob, your closing thoughts on this?
ROB: I think we can have some very long–term positive changes cause Josh, you hit the nail on the head. In the past, how many times have sick workers come to work? I can tell you guys, about 10 years ago, I was sick one time and I remember going to a site to try and do my safety inspection. And the grizzly old superintendent looked at me, he is like, boy, what are you doing here? Go home. I said, oh, I am not that bad. He is like, you do understand the sick days, they are not for you, they are for me. There to keep me and the crew healthy. Go home! I mean, he was basically pushing me out of the trailer and told me to go home and I needed too. I was sick, but I was trying to push through it.
The other part Josh that we talked about before, the schools, anyone that has children in schools, you all know the purple elephant that I am talking about. How many sick children used to get sent to school daily? When you go to the bus drop off, and you could see the ooze coming out of the head and the red eyes, and you are like, yeah, why is little Johnny going to school? Now those parents that before might have tried to put a little Tylenol in the morning, and follow me, you know what I am talking about, and to send them anyway, you cannot have it. There may be some very long–term positive effects on our whole society. Everybody has got to make their money and take care of the family, but when it is at the greater risk of everyone else, let us just think about some of the right things to do for your own family, but everybody else, and carry those healthy things forward, is what I am saying.
JAMES: That is a fascinating comment. The sick days are not for you. They are for me. And I think that is been the biggest one eye–opening experience that sick days really are there to protect all the other workers. You are already sick. We are trying to keep that from spreading, even if it is not Coronavirus. Did you know the flu kills hundreds of thousands of people a year? It is a lethal virus.
ROB: Traditionally it is been accepted. Well, it is just the flu. What do you do?
JAMES: What do you do?
ROB: Was your hands. Stay home. Take care of yourself. Do not spread it.
JAMES: Yeah. I mean, sick days are not just for you. They are for everybody else and their protection. And on that note, it is time to wrap it up for this ConTech Trio throwback. Oh, baby. Super exciting time to hang out with you guys. And I really appreciate our live attendees. Thank you everybody for attending and asking such wonderful questions. As always, I appreciate it. We do this on the last weekend of every month. We are always happy to have you on board. Josh, good to see you.
JOSH: Yeah, man, this is a nostalgia float. James was playing us some Stairway to Heaven and some stuff as we were coming on. And we were reflecting back on that first few episodes. I will never forget them. I will remember where we were at the time that we did it. Listen, thank you guys for all you have done for me and the friendships. This has been great for our careers and everything else. And we get so many people that we love now that are part of this community and seeing these names on here, a lot of love. Missing everybody.
JAMES: Yeah, Same here, Rob. Thanks for joining us.
ROB: Absolutely, man, it is been a great ride with you guys. It is making each other better. It is one of the best common bonds. Period. Just the learning aspect of not trying to show each other up. I knew this and you did not. We have all learned from each other, honed our craft of everything that we try to do between education speaking. So, look forward to seeing how much longer we can keep this thing going, man.
JAMES: Yeah baby!
JOSH: Everybody keeps sharing their knowledge.
JAMES: Yeah, that is the whole goal. Remember we are here every week, at TheContechCrew and these guys are part of our awesome group of cohosts. And we will be back here again a month from now doing the same thing. So, if you did not get your questions in today, get them in next month and we will keep the conversation rolling. Of course, you can listen to our entire back catalog online. We are always happy to have you. A big thanks to Brad Tabone, from HammerTech, our sponsor of the show today. And always good to have you and thank you for tuning in today to geek out episode 237, our monthly talk to the crew live.
Remember you can read all of our news stories, learn more about apps, workflows, and hardware. Subscribe at jbknowledge.com or text ConTech to 66866. Big thanks to Jim Greenlee, the Podcast Producer, Kara Dalton–Arro, our Creative Producer, Tish Thelen our Advertising Coordinator, and our Transcriptionist, Adéle Waldeck. To listen to this show, go to the show website at TheConTechCrew.com This is TheConTechCrew, signing out.
Until next time, enjoy the ride and geek out!