While the tower cranes that craft our city skylines are capable of building themselves, they still need a whole lot of human assistance.

And, while we’re seeing the emergence of autonomous welding rigs, mining vehicles and mini loaders, it looks like it’ll be quite a while before humans are able to scale back our participation in crane control. However, the first stirrings are starting to emerge with the development of smartphone apps to monitor hoisting and wind speed.

Smartphone app for crane hoist monitoring

Recently published research in SPIE (the international society for optics and photonics) is leading the way with a team of tech engineers developing a smartphone app to monitor all elements of hoist operation.

crane operating app

Image Credit: SPIE

While you can’t fully control the hoist through the app, it does provide valuable feedbackwhich can be obtained in real time by anyone of the job siteas to the angle of the crane jib, its length, acceleration and the weight of the load. The researchers believe their app will improve onsite safety as it can alert operators, supervisors and other workers onsite if something goes wrong with the crane’s load.

Here’s what the interface looks like:

crane operating app interface

Image Credit: SPIE

Smartphone app for wind speed monitoring

Apart from being a tripping hazard to pronounce, an anemometer monitors wind speed. Providers like Scarlet Tech, Navis and Bigfoot Crane Company have systems available which can be customised to suit your crane and its application (whether it be mining, off-shore drilling, or inner city construction).

While the apps are generally free, these smartphone integrated anemometers require the installation of sensors which detect wind speed, direction and temperature and then wirelessly transmit the datain real timeto your device.

Wind speed monitor system

Image Credit: Scarlet Tech

They provide instantaneous data on current wind activity while also being able to offer analysis of things like average and maximum wind speeds and create history graphs relating to the speed, temperature and direction of wind.

As with the hoist monitoring devices, safety is a big driver for this technology. Director of Business Development for Bigfoot Crane Company, Gerry Wiebe, explained:

“There have been something like 116 reported crane accidents since 2009 with 10% of those due to wind. This easy-to-use wind meter can make a big difference by alerting operators in plenty of time to stop operation and batten down. We think crane companies will see the sense in using them. For our industry, it’s revolutionary.”

While we’re not yet ready to hand over autonomy to the cranes that shape construction, or even control them remotely, these technological advances are another step along that path.

Can You Operate a Crane from Your Smartphone?
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Can You Operate a Crane from Your Smartphone?
With the emergence of autonomous welding rigs, mining vehicles and mini loaders, how long before humans scale back our participation in crane control?
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