Construction Week set to see ECA host Virtual Reality experience for guests

The ECA are set to make a major impact at this year’s UK Construction Week event. The event will be hosted in Birmingham October 9-11 at the Building Tech Live Theatre and is set to see the first ever trial of a Virtual Reality experience by the ECA. They will be showcasing their Virtual Reality experience at the stand BT165. People attending the event should expect to see some examples of the electrotechnical sector and how it could be affected by applications such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and AI.

Also featuring at the event will be displays on key factors in the industry such as smart homes and cyber security, as well as fire safety and prevention methods. There will be a variety of high profiles from the ECA and within the construction sector attending. One of those people will be Rob Driscoll of the ECA, who has been nominated as the UK Construction Week 2018 Role Model. The Role Model campaign is in place with an aim of raising the profile for professionals in the industry who have done more than is normally asked of them in their specific job role, or faced some sort of struggle or adversity to reach the current position they are in.

The Director of Business for the ECA, Paul Reeves, commented on the upcoming Construction Week event: “ECA is delighted to strengthen our partnership with UK Construction Week, and the establishment of Building Tech Live is a superb development. We are looking forward to offering ECA members events benefits such as VIP status, and a new VR experience for all attendees at the ECA stand.”

Electric vehicle charging and its business benefits

The rate at which electric vehicles and related technologies are developing is important for all forward-thinking businesses, but so is the rate at which organisations are picking up these technologies. This could be crucial to their progression, as it is environmentally and commercially positive, something heard in a webinar run by FM World in association with E.On.

Hannah Collishaw, director of E.ON Drive UK said this; “The future of energy is decentralised and local. It’s about giving customers control. We’re focused on digitisation, decarbonisation and electrification… Driven by the clean air strategy, we’re offering sustainable solutions to our 22 million customers across Europe including 6.8 million in the UK.”

E.On believe that by 2020 there will be half a million electric vehicles on the road, rising to over a million by 2023. Collishaw continues; “Stretching targets to improve air quality, transport and electric vehicles are a game changer. Our vision is to provide sustainable electric vehicle charging to drivers, wherever their destination at places such as hotels, motorways, public parking spaces and at home and work.”

EV charging stations can differentiate progressive businesses, as they would allow employees to charge cars while working; “Businesses should be considering installing EV charging points that will offer benefits and advantages to their employees and will create new value for their businesses, whilst also reducing their reliance on the grid,” said Collishaw.

Tom Donnelly, product strategy manager at Productiv, said the government is concerned with two main issues relating to this subject: reducing global warming and improving air quality.

“This is driven partly by legislation, but also by customer requirements,” said Donnelly. “London is leading the world in reducing air pollution and in 2020 will introduce the world’s first ultra-low emissions zone, followed by a number of other cities including Birmingham, Rome and Amsterdam.”

The government’s ‘Road to Zero Strategy’ targets 50-70% of new cars being ultra-low emission vehicles by 2030, and a number of initiatives are in place to encourage this, such as the Workplace Charging Scheme which will reduce the cost of installing EV chargers by up to 75%, Donnelly claimed.

Legislation like this will increase the uptake of electric vehicles over the years to come, therefore charging infrastructure will become very necessary.

So EV charging points will certainly become a crucial consideration for corporate businesses, and it makes sense for those that are able to get a head start on this provision. There are however certain factors to consider, such as peak charging, which means that the main time businesses’ employees will charge their cars is during working hours when the use of electricity is already quite high, as opposed to overnight when the government intends for most EV’s to be charged. This is something which further legislation and sustainability schemes will look to tackle, as government bodies and industry leaders aim to improve sustainability on our roads.

(Source: FM World)

Tool theft has risen by 15% in just 3 years, according to Volkswagen

Tool theft has risen to record levels in the past 3 years, this according to a recent survey carried out by Volkswagen. They also reported that these thefts of tools over the 3 years have costed businesses an estimated £46m.

On record there have been a staggering 64,000 cases of theft from commercial vehicles, logged across the UK by Police. Almost 24,000 of those cases occurred in just 1 year from 2017/18. In the report, Central London was the worst area for commercial vehicle thefts, with on average, more than 8,000 cases reported each year, this meaning roughly £11 million worth of loses.
Second worst were Northumbria, with 4,000 cases logged and West Yorkshire at 3rd with 1,000 cases logged. It was Humberside Police with the biggest rise in thefts, with the number of reported incidents being up by more than 1000% in the last 3 years.

Sadly, very rarely is it just the replacement of tools that ends up costing a tradesman, people are often left unable to work while they wait for their tools to be restocked and for the locks to be replaced or repaired. We previously went through various steps that can be taken to avoid being a victim of tool theft, and they were the following: try to park in an area with active CCTV, a well-lit place, also tactically parking with a colleague to block certain access points to your vehicles.

Head of service parts for Volkswagen, Trevor Hodgson-Phillips, commented on the findings: “Today’s findings are startling as it shows the problem is only getting worse right across the UK. Tool theft costs owner drivers and businesses millions of pounds each year in insurance claims and downtime. Any amount of time where a van can’t be used is additional cost on top of the replacement tools. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is committed to supporting our customers wherever possible and that includes preventing them from becoming victims of tool theft.”

Does AI pose a real threat to humans in the workplace?

Concerns about artificial intelligence and its potential place in the labour market have continued to grow, but will our dependency on technology really threaten to displace humans from the workplace? This is something that has been considered during there CoreNet Global Summit this week in Madrid, where it was asked whether artificial intelligence could initiate ‘Homo Obsoletus’ in relation to the working environment.

Opening speaker Anders Indset, the business philosopher and author, highlighted the need for professionals to embrace different mindsets and perspectives to navigate this new era of constant revolution and complexity; “We need a new, plausible and validated view of the world,” he argued. “We’re currently heading for ‘Homo Obsoletus’. The more information there is, the less we know, and IQ levels are going down. We need to create a society of understanding. As a society, we’re starting to rely on technology.”

He also called for corporate leaders to be innovative in pushing new business models forward; “The biggest threat to the future is that we think everyone else will take care of it… Take conscious small steps every day to be leaders of change and curators of compassion,” he concluded.

Other industry experts focused on how AI is affecting workers and the workplace. Kay Sargent argued that the future of humans place in the corporate office would rely on the experience of employees and visitors in feeling connected and a part of something; “We are no longer designing environments, we’re designing experiences”, said Sargent.

The traditional corporate roles and how technology will change them was also discussed, for example Facilities Managers, whose focus will turn to creating good workplace experiences rather than the everyday functions which technologies are already replicating.

Electricians face issues regarding rising prices and late payments

Many construction companies within Scotland and other parts of the UK are facing a new battle against the changing economy, prices are rising, and payments are late according to new reports. The reports come from a sophisticate survey tracking quarterly activity as well as trends.

Respondents, when asked about the issue of payments, stated that almost half of all payments that come from public sector bodies were made within a 30-day timescale. This compared to a small percentage of payments that came from commercial clients were made within a 30-day timescale. The rest of the payments from commercial clients were more likely to take up to almost 90 days to be paid.

The survey was conducted on behalf of the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA), as well as other prominent organisations in the construction sector such as SELECT. The survey also showed a significant rise in costs faced by companies in the 2nd quarter of the year, some feel this could be due to political uncertainty.

A huge percentage of respondents (more than 70%) claimed that material costs had risen since the start of the year, just under 30% said that the cost of being tendered had gone up.
Managing Director at SELECT, Darrell Matthews commented on the survey: “The construction sector is currently in a good place in Scotland, but this masks some bad practice in the industry, as this survey highlights. Whilst it’s good to see some public sector clients’ efforts on fair payment policy heading in the right direction, it is vital to ensure that SMEs, the lifeblood of the Scottish economy, are paid on time. It is also a tribute to the resilience of both small and large employers that they are generally more optimistic about future work despite rising costs and recurring late payment issues. The Scottish Government could do more to assist SMEs by enforcing their own powers under the Procurement Act to make sure payments are made on time right down the contractual chain. Changes to the levels at which PBAs are introduced would also help in speeding up payment”.

The IET warns of distribution of fake wiring regulations

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has recently urged electrical professionals to make sure they acquire genuine copies of their most recent set of wiring regulations, BS 7671:2018. This comes after the IET has been made aware of counterfeit copies of the regulations being on sale through various outlets in recent weeks, potentially posing a danger to the electrical industry.

The warning states that misinformation in these fake copies could be damaging for the work of electrical professionals and public consumers. The IET highlights that using these copies to carry out electrical work could result in unsafe wiring, potentially causing fires and electric shocks.

Mark Coles, Head of Technical Regulations at the IET said: “The counterfeit PDF copies of BS 7671:2018 we have seen initially look very convincing but are sprinkled with errors which can lead to dangerous practices. Unless you know the origin of the document how can you rely on it?”

To counteract this problem, the genuine IET Wiring Regulations are now having official holograms placed in the inside covers of their books, making them far more difficult to replicate and easily identifiable for consumers. The hologram contains the official IET logo as well as the word “GENUINE”. There are other icons imbedded to ensure authenticity, which can be located with a magnifying glass.

As well as the obvious dangers of the counterfeits, it is important to make sure people purchase legitimate regulations because the IET is a charity, therefore proceeds from the purchases will go back into the organisation and the industry to help them continue their crucial work.

Mr Coles continued: “Ensuring that genuine copies of IET publications are being used by electrical professionals is important in order that correct standards are used to protect the public and those working in the industry from injury and fatality.

“My advice to people looking to buy a copy of any IET publication would be to buy it directly from the IET if they are in any doubt about the supplier they are making a purchase from, or to consult our list of validated suppliers in the UK.”

Electrical implants allow those previously paralysed, to walk again

It has been reported by many now, how 3 patients who were previously paralysed from the waist down have been somewhat miraculously made able to walk again, this after having an electrical implant inserted into their spinal cord. One of the patients who took part in the research was the Kelly Thomas (pictured above). The implant which is placed below the injury and is thought to help retrace lost signals from the brain and direct them back to the muscles in the legs.

Kelly Thomas, who became paralysed following a car accident, says her life has been transformed, adding: “Being a participant in this study truly changed my life, as it has provided me with a hope that I didn’t think was possible after my car accident. The first day I took steps on my own was an emotional milestone in my recovery that I’ll never forget, as one minute I was walking with the trainer’s assistance and while they stopped, I continued walking on my own. It’s amazing what the human body can accomplish with help from research and technology.”

The electrical patch doesn’t necessarily heal the injury it works around it, stimulating nerves located lower down in the spinal cord. The patch seemingly allows signals from the brain to reach specific targeted muscles in the legs, allowing the person to voluntarily control their legs movements again. When the implants were switched off, conscious movement stopped.
Dr Kendall Lee, a Neurosurgeon, who was jointly responsible for leading the research spoke on his excitement: “It’s very exciting, but still very early in the research stage.”

Fire door safety being overlooked despite post-Grenfell warnings

Despite the tragedy of the Grenfell fire last year and the constant fire safety warnings that have followed, people still seem to be neglecting the advice relating to the security of their offices and homes. A recent online poll discovered that less than 20% of tradespeople have seen an increase in demand for fire safety products such as spare intumescent strips for fire doors. This is recorded after more than a year since the Grenfell fire occurred, in which time there has been extensive media coverage about the importance of fire safety and employing fire-resistant materials and products in buildings.

This poll followed a national survey of 2,000 adults across the country, conducted by online trade supplier IronmongeryDirect and supported by the Fire Industry Association. The survey was initiated in support of Fire Door Safety Week, which commences today, aiming to raise awareness of the importance of fire door safety and the potential to save lives.

The results show a worrying lack of public awareness over the role that fire doors can have in human safety, something which is shown by the fact that they are a legal requirement in all commercial, public and multi-occupancy buildings. One alarming statistic found is that 70% of participants would not know who to contact if there was a problem with their fire door. Furthermore, almost half of the respondents admitted they are unsure how they would even identify a fire door.

CEO of the Fire Industry Association, Ian Moore, said; “Fire doors are one of many essential elements to keeping safe from fire.  In all cases, a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment should be carried out by the responsible person – usually the building owner.  A fire risk assessment should determine, through thorough inspection, any potential risks or hazards so that they may be resolved.  If you are worried about hazards and risks from fire, you can always contact us, the Fire Industry Association, for free and impartial information and we will be able to direct you to an expert on the subject.”

Amazon smart plug to enable Alexa voice control for electrical appliances

Despite there being a host of other equivalents already out, Amazon are set to release their new smart plug, the plug will be equipped with the well-known Alexa voice control and will enable any electrical appliance to have Alexa voice control. The primary function will be to enable the scheduling times to turn on and off for appliances, such as coffee machines and for control of devices when away from your home or office space.

As with other Alexa products, all that is required is to plug it in and make sure to add the smart plug to your devices. Perhaps the biggest and best feature which will really set the Amazon smart plug apart from the other similar products out there, is that it will be available to control straight from your mobile phone.

The smart plug is now available for pre-order and can purchased for roughly £25.

Reinforcing fire safety warnings for home electrical appliances

A fire safety warning has been issued in the North-East of England, after a survey revealed that three in ten people continue to use electrical appliances in their homes even after they have been recalled and are known to be potentially dangerous. Residents have been urged to register their appliances online to monitor their safety, after figures released by Electrical Safety First showed that 13 fires a day were caused by faulty electric devices in the home. In the region last year, there were over 200 fires caused by electrical items.

Craig Farrage, community safety manager for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We would always advise safe and sensible use of all appliances. We recommend everyone to register their appliances to stay up to date with safety issues and recalls.”

When an appliance is registered, it means that manufacturers can easily contact consumers if the product is found to be faulty or dangerous in some way. Saying this, 50 per cent of residents in the North-East admitted to not registering their electrical devices online.

Mr Farrage added: “Electricity is a major cause of fire in the home accountable for 216 operational incidents in the last 12 months alone. Never overload sockets, always unplug appliances when not in use, never use appliances which have damaged leads or plugs and ensure electrical heaters are kept in a safe place when in use.”