BUFFALO, NY - Everywhere you look, there's construction in Western New York. But is the modern construction site utilizing technology to make conditions for their workers as safe as possible? One Buffalo startup thinks the process for notifying workers on a job site can be better, and they've developed safety glasses built for a modern day construction worker.
"Heads Up Display is a wearable notification system for workers in hazardous environments," says Clark Dever, who is the co-founder of Heads Up Display. Heads Up Display is located at the Innovation Center on the medical campus.
By law, all construction workers need to wear safety glasses on the job site. One of the big distractions for workers is constantly looking at their phones every time the foreman has something to tell them. The Heads Up Display unit uses a sensor mounted on the side of the glasses, and through bluetooth, connects to your mobile device.
"That allows us to send from anywhere in the world to a worker in the field."
But the Heads Up display isn't the type of smart glasses you may think. Remember Google Glass? That was ultimately abandoned in early 2015 and other companies offer full HD video smart glasses. But, Clark Dever thinks that's overkill.
"So a lot of the other displays like Google Glass or our competitors if you drop them they'll break. Ours are designed if you throw them across the room and they'll work."
The Heads Up display works in a very simple way. Programmable LED lights in the periphery of the glasses flash a specific combination of colors and blinks. For example, the light can be setup to blink four times green, letting a worker know it's lunch time. The lights can also be setup to rapidly flash red when there's an emergency. The heads up display can also help protect workers from the loud noises of a construction site.
"It has an on-board noise dosimeter. Noise induced hearing loss is the number one claimed disability in the United States."
The heads up display will prompt a worker to ensure their hearing protection is in when a certain decable is detected.
These basic functions of the heads up display are designed with one purpose in mind.
"We build this device to save lives."
The heads up display system is currently being tested on undisclosed job site in Buffalo, but the system is working quite well a source tells us.
Clark and the rest of the team at Heads Up Display don't believe construction sites are using technology efficiently. "There's a lot of stuff that was invented before that became the standard but we think we can do more proactive things."
At the end of the day, for the heads up display team they want to ensure workers as safe as possible, even in environments known for danger. "We want to make sure they get home safe to their family and kids because because they're what allows Buffalo and the world to exist."
Once in full production the Heads Up system can be deployed as quickly as shipping allows. Speaking of production, where are a lot of these heads up displays getting produced? At SoPark Electronics.
"We are Western New York's largest contract electronics manufacturer," said Gerry Murak, CEO of SoPark Electronics. "We're producing the components that go inside their products."
No, SoPark isn't putting together the circuits for smartphones or tablets. Consumer electronics are mainly assembled overseas for low costs. SoParks client base tends to lean more towards the medical and government sectors.
SoPark, which will celebrate their 35th year of operation in Western New York, takes the components required for a client's product and assembles them onto a the circuit board. Some parts as small as a grain of salt assembled onto a circuit often times no bigger than a quarter.
"What we do here is more of a manual process, but surface mount we have high speed pick and place machines."
High speed is an undersell, the automated systems at SoPark electronics could assemble 60,000 components an hour if they were operating at full capacity.
"When we're talking about components the size of a speck of salt, that's a big challenge," said Murak.
So how does SoPark help start ups like Heads Up Development? SoPark is a high-mix, low volume facility. A combination of a flexible workforce and state of the art automation allows SoPark to assist businesses of any size.
"Taking a startup for example, they'll have a design. We can give them feedback on their design, whether or not their design is going to be able to be efficiently produced in a quality way on robotic equipment," Murak explained.
SoPark can test the products, help determine if the product is a good fit for high speed automation and even assemble them such as the case with the Heads Up display.
A diverse workforce of 75, many of them working at SoPark for ten, even twenty years coupled with the company's advanced automation attracts government and medical contractors to work with SoPark. Often times these type of clients require their intellectual properties to be maintained and security is another reason why SoPark is successful.
"That's a significant issue especially when it comes to matters of Space and Defense and Homeland Security, security is very important and intellectual property. So we offer that to all our customers."