Pillar Technologies is making construction sites safer with smart sensors

Construction sites can be dangerous places. And while recent advancements in safety technology have done a lot to help protect workers, there hasn’t been as much focus on protecting the site itself from things like fire, water and mold damage.

Any of these three risks can cost construction companies (or insurance companies) millions of dollars in damages, and are the biggest causes for loss in construction damage.

So how do you prevent these things from happening? Pillar Technologies, a New York-based startup competing in TechCrunch’s CES Hardware Battlefield 2017 has a solution.

The company has developed smart sensors for construction sites, as well as a backend system to turn all the data collected from the sensors into a system that gives both real-time alerts and long-term analysis of the risk level for these accidents.

The sensors themselves are a little smaller than a shoebox, and are designed to be mounted throughout a construction site – about one per every 2,000 sq. ft. of building space.These sensors can detect temperature, humidity, dust particulates, pressure, noise vibration and volatile organic compounds (which arise from an overload of varnish or paint).

By combining all of these data points from hundreds of sensors across a job site, Pillar Technologies can essentially understand the changing environmental conditions across an entire construction site. They then provide these analytics to builders and contractors via a monthly subscription service that lasts for the entirety of the job.

The most important thing this system does is give real-time alerts to site managers – for example rising temperatures or humidity in one part of the site. Alex Schwarzkopf, co-founder of Pillar Technologies, explained that by getting this information quickly to contractors they can mitigate or prevent damages before it occurs. For example, a construction company could be alerted by the humidity sensor and catch water damage before it spreads to the rest of the building.

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The second thing they can provide is an analysis of data over time, so contractors can learn about how their job sites fared over the entire lifecycle of the job. For example, were there certain days that exposed our workers to a high level of dust? And if so, when did this happen so we can prevent it in the future?

Data like this is also important for compliance. Schwarzkopf explained that when construction defect claims arise down the line, builders (and building owners) often don’t have any data points to back up their assertions. By collecting a record of all conditions over a building’s entire lifecycle will provide these parties data to reference, potentially saving either party millions of dollars in defect claims.

Pillar Technologies is currently focused on selling their service directly to contractors and construction companies – but eventually sees itself working with insurance companies as channel partners. Essentially they think that insurance companies may one day be willing to offer a price break in site insurance to builders who use Pillar’s solution, since it will reduce the risk of site damage.

The startup will charge by square foot – both in the form of an initial set up fee to deploy the sensors then a monthly fee to supply the analytics until the job is done – at which point Pillar will remove the sensors.

While they aren’t disclosing price, the company is adamant that it will be extremely affordable for construction sites. The company has worked with 4 pilot sites last year, and hopes to do 8-10 more in the coming year.