Recent improvements in hardware, software, and technical services have helped construction cameras gain currency as a must-have tool for documenting project progress, boosting worker performance, minimizing errors, improving communication and enhancing stakeholder relationships.
A point of clarification: Job site construction cameras should not be confused with security cameras. Construction cameras can provide high-quality photos at much greater resolutions than security videos; plus, they can deliver high-definition, time-lapse movies and stream high-definition video on demand.
Among project managers, the most cited benefit of construction cameras is how they reduce the frequency and expense of job site visits over a project’s lifecycle. For owners, the transparency they provide includes not only project progress, but also insight into contractor processes, which can help build confidence and trust.
In short, the construction camera is becoming an essential element of productivity.
Understanding the Options
Investing wisely in a construction camera system involves matching a project’s size, scope and buyer objectives with compatible cameras and equipment, service and support options and, of course, budget. Costs can range from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
Camera types include fixed-position and pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ). Fixed-position cameras are well-suited for projects where the desired coverage can be achieved from one or two camera locations, and if time-lapse movies are a priority. PTZ cameras are designed to respond to preset controls or remote commands to move vertically and horizontally to capture projects from various angles. PTZ cameras are ideal for capturing large, wide-expanse structures such as bridges and stadiums.
For projects in remote locations or in areas where power is not conveniently accessed, solar-powered camera systems are a practical solution. They work with both fixed-position and PTZ cameras and can be tailored to any size project. Solar-power trailers equipped with camera mounting poles enable users to place a construction webcam virtually anywhere.
Deciding on megapixels boils down to what level of picture clarity and detail is desired. Most construction cameras offer a range of six to 50 megapixels. All construction cameras provide high-resolution images, but those on the higher end of the megapixel scale increase the user’s ability to zoom in very closely and vividly capture details (e.g., for professional quality photos and time-lapse videos used for marketing).
Focus on the Fine Print
Proper camera placement is critical. Beyond making sure images are minimally affected by sunlight, a full-service construction camera provider can offer placement recommendations based on a full survey of the project site and the client’s desired objectives. Optimally, cameras will be positioned to provide not only the best daily views but also superior time-lapse videos at the end of the project.
The camera should interface seamlessly with company project management systems, and give all designated users — internally and externally — a hassle-free experience. A well-designed dashboard will allow users to view a job site from an office workstation and from any mobile device.
What happens after the construction camera is up and running depends on the applicable agreements and warranties. Here are some important due-diligence considerations:
- What is the quality of the construction camera? (The manufacturer’s warranty offers a clue.)
- Is camera mounting equipment included in the purchase price?
- Will it cost to upgrade the camera with the latest technology?
- Does the purchase price include maintenance and repairs?
- How long will data be stored?
- Can the camera system provide images and a time-lapse history from any desired date and time period?
- Does the provider offer 24-hour monitoring?
- Will the buyer be assigned a designated support person throughout the life of the project?
Fully understanding the lifetime cost of owning a construction camera is the key to making a smart purchasing decision. Top notch construction camera providers offer warranty and service benefits that ensure ease of ownership and long-term satisfaction and value.
The sweeping impact of construction cameras ranges from reducing the costs of deploying personnel to the field and verifying the timing of deliveries to documenting weather conditions and catching errors before they become disastrously expensive. They also protect companies against claims by documenting whether that work was done properly.
Following are additional benefits:
- They resolve disputes by providing clear evidence of what happened, and when.
- They give the heads-up that jobs are running ahead of or behind schedule, allowing work to be re-planned.
- They educate contractors on the effectiveness of their work processes, advance project teamwork, and enforce job site discipline and professionalism.
- They keep community stakeholders engaged.
- They arm owners with stunning project update presentations for their investors.
No one can keep a constant eye on every aspect of a job site — but construction cameras can, and they’re making everyone’s job easier.
By Chandler McCormack. This article originally appeared in Construction Executive, January 24, 2017.