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Inside Innovation: Apps can address job site mobile distraction

John Bleasby
Inside Innovation: Apps can address job site mobile distraction

The average employee spends nearly five hours per week using their cell phones for non-work activities while at work.

According to a survey conducted by staffing firm OfficeTeam, these valuable hours are lost to personal calls, the internet, social media, texts or email, online games, and news, weather and sports updates. It’s a major issue affecting all manner of companies and industries.

Not only is this a measurable productivity drain in terms of hours lost, but the relationship between mobile device distraction and worker safety is also a critical issue to the construction industry. Mobile devices are in wide-spread use on and around job sites — the latest construction management software programmes depend on that immediate, direct connectivity in order to be effective. However, that same phone or tablet can also take eyes and minds away from the work being performed.

“Most companies have traditionally attempted to minimize device distractions by instituting written employee policies,” says program developer TRUCE Software. “Enforcing such guidelines has proven to be challenging in many cases.” The company suggests such efforts also lack context and are often limited to the use of their own networks.

In response, TRUCE offers software that allows management to control which apps are available to employees, based on their location during work hours, on site or off. It’s called Contextual Mobile Device Management (CMDM).

“TRUCE gives the company a blank slate on which they can configure the exact environment they wish to manage,” says CEO Joe Boyle. “The company then establishes the acceptable policy. We bring that policy to life and the enforcement of that policy.”

In other words, by identifying the context of the environment, TRUCE software installed on the individual’s mobile device allows access to the right app at the appropriate time and place, while blocking access to other apps. The employee is made aware when TRUCE is running and always has access to emergency services. “TRUCE manages access to distracting apps, so employees stay focused on what they are doing.”

CMDM can also encourage business decision makers to expand the use of proprietary mobile apps, once they know that potential non-work distractions caused by mobile devices can be effectively managed. In turn, workers can engage more fully with relevant, company-specific apps. Everybody wins.

What about privacy concerns? “We are not a monitoring technology. We are not watching what is going on with the mobile device,” says Boyle. “We are simply allowing employers to take a set of conditions and say that, ‘Under these conditions, the phone will only make available to you certain functions or operations of that device.’ ”

Examples of CMDM deployment in construction are numerous. For instance, a crane or bucket operator with a mobile device in their pocket won’t hear personal pings and alerts until the equipment’s motor is switched off.

Driver distraction from mobile devices is another major concern. When mobile devices are complicit in accidents, severe penalties to the individual can result. Furthermore, the company can be implicated in liability disputes if corporate vehicles are involved. TRUCE mitigates this by, for example, restricting drivers to Bluetooth calls and navigation apps only. Back in the trailer or lunchroom at break time, the device becomes fully functional again, allowing employees to catch up with personal messages and videos.

TRUCE also aids the development of predictive safety policies. “We strive to provide data that helps our customers better define their policies over time. Those policies will take our customers from good to great in terms of safety performance on the job,” says Boyle.

Management control through the TRUCE consul can generate rules of access based on the employee, zone or activity. “Built-in reports make it easy to modify policies, understand employee behaviour, and get a fuller picture of what happens on every jobsite.” Such reports become part of the company’s overall workplace safety strategy, providing valuable data for determining policies and safety planning.

John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont. based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to

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