I spent most of the day last Thursday at BFK’s impressive Farringdon Crossrail site.
The theme of the day was collaboration, with an inspiring introduction from the BFK team on how they made collaboration and trust the cornerstone of their delivery approach, with great results.
But what was equally as interesting for me was a talk from their H&S lead, who discussed the challenges of bringing two UK contracting teams (BAM and Kier) and one Spanish (Ferrovial) together. One barrier they had to overcome was language, with a large proportion of specialist staff being Spanish speakers.
After reading the article linked below, I realised that the advances being made with wearable translation devices will have a positive impact on health and safety on our sites.
Currently BFK provide inductions in multiple languages, but inductions will be limited by what could be translated ahead of time, or by availability of translators on the day of inductions.
Wearable translation technology, such as these earbuds, will make providing live updates to workers seamless, helping us to overcome language barriers and provide a safer environment for everyone.
I could also see that this type of technology could help break down the social barriers that can build up on site, where groups naturally group together and speak in their native tongue. With an ever more diverse workforce, particularly post-Brexit when we will be looking further afield to help manage skills shortages in our sector, having technology that enables everyone to communicate and collaborate on site will be a big positive for our industry.
Pilot is far from the only player in the real-time wearable translation space. The category is booming of late, including, most notably, Google’s Pixel Buds. Though unlike those headphones, this offering is translation first. And honestly, they’re pretty big for a pair of Bluetooth earbuds, so you probably wouldn’t want to use them your go-to headphones. Also, unlike the Pixel Buds, the Pilot’s earbuds aren’t tethered together. In fact, they’re meant to be shared (but maybe pack an alcohol wipe, if other people’s earwax creeps you out). When you need help translating, you can hand the other bud to someone and have them sync it up with the own phone, and the Pilot will do the inverse translation, listening for speech and speaking the words into your ear