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Digital tech delivers TfL fire safety project

6 October 2020

Contractor Ringway Jacobs delivered a complex fire protection project for Transport for London at London’s Victoria coach station on time and under budget, using a ‘golden thread’ of information that could be viewed and shared remotely.

Chris Goodacre, contract director at Ringway Jacobs, explained how the firm employed a system called Oculo that sees workers clip a 360-degree camera to an operative’s hard hat while they took a daily designated route through the site to build up a full 360-degree digital record of progress.

The technology then allowed the Ringway Jacobs team to conduct site inspections remotely and point out hazards or problems, as well as building up a record of as-built information as the project progressed. The Oculo system also contains a “time machine” function that allows employees associated with the project to revisit how work looked at a particular point in time.

Goodacre said: “Ringway Jacobs has positioned itself as a digital disruptor within the highways sector. While covid has been a driver to change, we were moving to virtual ways of working and different technology prior to lockdown. In London, the need for a system like Oculo was more driven by considerations like efficiencies.”

He said the system brought several benefits, including reducing the requirement to travel to site and the associated time and costs involved, as well as enhancing worker wellbeing.

Goodacre added: “Traditionally, you would visit site and take progress photos or take site audits. With this product, you have a platform where in any point in time you can take a look at the trajectory of a project. You can share this. Everyone can get into the platform who is associated with it. I think as contractors we need to be visible in what we are doing and this platform provides that real transparency in what you do.”

He also claimed that it made the production of site documentation ten times faster because only one person had to walk through a site with a camera before everyone then had access to the information.

Commenting on the importance of digital tools, particularly during the pandemic, Trevor Hardy, principal engineering lead at Transport for London (TfL), said: “It has not been a quick and easy journey [to adopt the golden thread]. Full BIM adoption is still a long way away and we are not really where I think we would all like to be. There are many projects out there where something other than a full BIM model could be relevant.

“Some of this technology has been very useful for restarting sites [after the coronavirus lockdown]. We already have a wealth of data and it is about making that data accessible to people who need it.”

Meanwhile, Wojtek Szymczak, co-founder and COO of Oculo, explained how the Oculo system uses artificial intelligence to blur out any faces of individuals photographed during site walk-arounds with the 360-degree camera, to address any privacy concerns. The fully system can also run on mobile and tablet devices thanks to being fully web-based.

Speaking about the results of using Oculo on live sites so far, Szymczak said: “The results so far for us from working with a number of people out there from both infrastructure and construction have on the one hand been providing the extra efficiency of both cutting down on site documentation and reducing the time and cost of travel to sites.

“But probably more importantly looking more into the future, it is really trying to think about how we deal with the creation as built and whether there is potentially a different, simpler way to get on board with the golden thread of digitisation and creating the as-built fully in the digital sphere, robustly, so that the next generation of people that come after us have full visibility of how our work was created.”

“It seems like many industries have moved into remote ways of working. Until a few months ago it was less clear what that could mean for construction and we hope that with the benefit of 360-degree pictures and 5G coming to us that this will really enable a much faster and more streamlined collaboration with stakeholders.”

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