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Aramco adopts heat-sensing construction helmets

The WakeCap system being used on a construction site WakeCap
The WakeCap system being used on a construction site
  • WakeCap system sends heat alerts
  • Sensors track core body temperature
  • Internet-of-things technology

Saudi Aramco is deploying advanced safety helmets equipped with heat stress sensors to protect workers on some of its construction sites, a critical concern in the Gulf region’s scorching climate.

The helmets, developed by Dubai and Saudi Arabia-based construction tech startup WakeCap, utilise internet-of-things (IoT) technology that monitors worker attendance, location, and safety incidents in real time, to improve safety and operational efficiency.

The IoT connects physical objects – like appliances and machinery – through embedded sensors and software, enabling them to exchange data over the internet.

In a significant upgrade, WakeCap has expanded functionality of the helmets with patented sensors from Japanese company Biodata Bank.

The sensors track core body temperatures and alert site managers if a worker’s temperature surpasses the World Health Organisation’s critical 38°C threshold.

The same technology is used in Biodata Bank’s smartwatches aimed at preventing heatstroke.

Ishita Sood, COO and co-founder of WakeCap Technologies, said that while governments have mandated reduced working hours during the scorching summer months, WakeCap’s hard hat provides added safety with its heat-warning technology.

The UAE’s midday break rule prohibits work under direct sunlight and in open-air areas between 12.30 and 3pm, from June 15 until September 15.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states also implement similar policies.

Face, Happy, Head

“Heat stress can impact workers’ health, safety and productivity,” Sood (pictured above) told AGBI. “This [continuous monitoring] ensures each site worker is protected at all times.” 

The introduction of these helmets comes as the region grapples with extreme temperatures. Last weekend, the UAE recorded temperatures above 49°C, making Sunday June 16 the hottest day of the year so far.

In Saudi Arabia, hundreds died and thousands suffered from heat stress during intense high temperatures at this year’s Hajj pilgrimage. Temperatures at times exceeded 51°C.

In Kuwait, unprecedented summer heat has led to temporary power cuts during peak hours.

Extreme heat can lead to serious health problems when the body becomes severely dehydrated or loses its ability to regulate temperature. In extreme cases it can lead to heatstroke, which can be fatal.

Despite the construction industry’s growing inclination towards technology, Sood said investment in safety features still lags. 

WakeCap revenues have surged by 300 percent over the past year, driven by demand for solutions that aid with efficiency and productivity gains. 

But, so far, only oil major Aramco has made the shift to the upgraded helmets.

“Owners and contractors don’t really invest a lot in safety solutions,” Sood said. “They do only what’s required to fulfill their standards, and nothing additional.”

Sood attributes WakeCap’s growth to owners mandating technologies on construction projects.

“More owners are ready to invest in technology for contractors,” she said. “They know that technology can give real-time visibility and help deliver projects on time. Even smaller contractors or owners are looking to deploy technology, which is a change that we are seeing.

“But putting a sensor on each worker’s hat to get notification is something that I don’t think construction is ready to invest in yet. Maybe they will in the future.”

The shift to monitor heat stress is not just about immediate safety but also points to the broader implications of climate change

A World Economic Forum report predicts that heatwaves could lead to 1.6 million deaths by 2050 and cost the global economy $7.1 trillion in lost productivity. 

The Mena region is particularly at risk, with projections suggesting heat-related death rates could rise sharply unless significant mitigation efforts are made.

Sood’s colleague and co-founder Doctor Hassan Albawabi

A study on heat-related mortality by scientists published in The Lancet last year said the average annual heat-related death rate across all Middle East and North Africa countries is currently two per 100,000 people.

Amid these challenges, WakeCap is preparing to expand its impact. 

The company will soon announce the acquisition of Crews by Core, a Silicon Valley-based AI field scheduling platform. 

This merger will create a comprehensive suite of tools designed to enhance safety, productivity, and profitability on construction sites.

The company, which was founded in 2017, raised an undisclosed amount in funding from Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Centre Wa’ed in 2021.

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