Jump in the driver’s seat of almost any newer piece of equipment today and you’ll find a camera of some kind. However, you’ll also find a lot of variation in features, durability and cost. How do you know if you have the right camera? What should your camera be doing for you? There is a laundry list of things you, a construction manager, an owner or an operator might want out of a camera.
It’s no secret that construction equipment is getting larger and more sophisticated, and becoming more complicated to operate safely. Operators are being bombarded with machines that have complex controls, technical sensors and an extreme amount of data, all of which can create more driver distractions, negatively impacting safe operations.
Where cameras were once a luxury, today they have become a key feature to ensure safety on the jobsite. Instead of viewing cameras as a cost component, they should be considered a necessity to not only improve safety in operation, but also the operator’s productivity.
Read on to find five essential camera features to look for when purchasing camera systems for your equipment.
Not all cameras are created equal, and cameras should focus on what is important for the operator to see. The first essential camera feature is auto-focus. Auto-focus allows the camera to focus on the intended image, rather than the spot of debris on the lens.
Construction cameras need to be able to deal with dirty, dusty, muddy, brutal environments, while still providing a clear picture. Debris is going to land on the lens, and, without the auto-focus feature, it will get in the way of the camera doing its job. Imagine getting a clump of mud on the lens.
Most cameras will become useless because they will focus on the object that is closer to it, which is the debris. The intended image will be blurred out until the debris is cleared away, and once again allow for safe, productive operation. Auto-focus is a feature that will keep this from happening.
2. Auto-Darkening Lenses
If you have ever driven into the sun when it is rising or setting, you know how difficult it can be to drive safely. Staring into the sun and trying to see is near impossible. A camera with an auto-darkening lens gives the operator the ability to still see a clear picture by filtering out the sunlight. Imagine trying to back a large piece of equipment into the sun.
It is dangerous and nerve-wracking. With an auto-darkening lens, operators will be able to see what they should and operate safely rather than being blinded by the sunlight.
3. High-Definition Pictures
A low-quality camera and monitor may provide a picture, but operators need to be able to see clearly. Have you ever watched an old rerun on your television and noticed the poor quality? To add to the safety value and to get the best possible video image, both the camera and monitor need to be high quality.
When you are maneuvering in tight areas with large equipment, everything is in the details. As an operator, you want to see things as if you were sitting on the back of the machine yourself.
One of the best innovations in the last few years is analog high definition (AHD), which provides for equipment cameras to operate at a resolution 720 pixels. AHD is something you need to look for in cameras for your construction equipment—it gives a clearer picture, with a truer definition of the objects that are in your blind spots.
Brutal environments can wreak havoc on electronics. That is why a cheap camera with a housing made of plastic or pot metal is not going to hold up. How long is that going to last before it gets scratched or broken? When you add in moisture from rain or a pressure washer to clean equipment after particularly muddy times, you have a recipe for failure.
Two specifications to look for to overcome these issues include the intrusion protection (IP) rating of IP69, which means the camera is impervious to particles like dust and sand and has the ability to withstand immersion in water or direct spray from a water jet. The second is the impact resistance (IK) rating of IK10. IK10-tested equipment can withstand the punishment of 11 pounds being dropped on it from about 16 inches three times while still working.
Anything less is going to become a costly replacement or result in having your operators running without the cameras they need and are used to relying on for safe operation. These cameras also require a hardened glass lens and body carved from something like a solid billet of anodized aluminum (See Image 1).
Many cameras today have a plexiglass lens, that creates static electricity, which, in turn, attracts dust. As you know, when you wipe dust off plexiglass it always brings fine scratches, which will eventually impair the visibility the operator has from the camera.
Making sure the camera has a hardened glass lens is key when looking at the elements your employees are working in. Glass is inherently antistatic, so it will not attract dust. You can also wipe dust off a glass camera lens without damaging it, unlike plexiglass. If the operator is having to constantly get out and wipe off the camera lens, it defeats the purpose of the camera and can create an unsafe and less-than-productive workplace.
Quality equipment is built to last; it is not something you use until it breaks and then throw away. That is an unnecessary cost that can quickly become expensive. Investing in a camera that is built to last—no matter the environment or the machine it is used with—is absolutely critical to enhancing workplace safety.
Finding a product that has a long warranty and can be repaired if needed is preferable. This will ensure your investment is bringing you a return and not just another expense eating away at profits. Like spare parts, cameras should be kept available to easily swap out in the event a camera needs to be sent for repair. Downtime is kept to a minimum and you and your team are not left waiting for a new camera to arrive.
Finding the right camera system is important to ensure your investment brings you long-term benefits. Do your research and ask questions. Do not be afraid to go with an aftermarket solution if your equipment manufacturers fall short of these essential features. You invest a lot of time and money into your equipment, safety, personnel, etc. Do not forget to provide your equipment operators the tools they need to operate safely and efficiently—ultimately driving more productivity into your daily operations.