Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
The University of Southampton

Mafic-Southampton collaboration to focus on powering new wearable technology

Published: 15 January 2021
Construction worker
Safeguard devices within hard hats, armbands or pockets can recognise and record movement patterns.

The power management of new wearable technology for the construction industry is set for further development thanks to a new collaboration with researchers in Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton.

Leading UK construction technology company Mafic has signed up for its third project with the national SPRINT business support programme to optimise the energy management of its innovative Safeguard Internet of Things (IoT) solution.

Mafic will collaborate with SPRINT partner Southampton to design a suitable energy transfer and harvesting system for extending the battery life of the Safeguard solution. Safeguard is a wearable device that uses a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) sensor and captures location data from plant, materials and construction workers. It is aimed at enabling the real-time communication and analysis of data from remote locations to improve the productivity and industrial health of workforces.

The project will exploit technology developed by the University to increase the range at which the Safeguard devices can be charged, reduce their power consumption, enhance the wireless power transfer rate during charging and increase the alignment tolerance when being wirelessly charged.

The Safeguard devices can fit within hard hats, armbands or pockets. Using machine learning, the devices can recognise the unique movement patterns of users completing different tasks and record exactly what is happening. Combined with location to +/-20cm and data from environmental sensors, Safeguard can provide workforce-wide insight at a level of detail that has not been possible until now, detecting when and where hazards, activity, and opportunities are across an entire workforce and workplace.

This latest collaboration with the University will allow Mafic customers to be less reliant on a power source and deploy Safeguard into remote environments with minimal supporting infrastructure such as on-board commercial ships, in offshore environments, or in ‘not-spots’ or remote construction sites.

The project is funded by a grant from the £5 million SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme that provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

Dr Alex Weddell , Lecturer in the Smart Electronic Materials and Systems Research Group at Southampton said: “The key objectives of this SPRINT project are reducing the power consumption of the Safeguard device, harvesting energy and optimising the charging of the hard hat. We have a long history of working in energy harvesting, including the design and development of power management subsystems for CubeSats.

“More recently, we have explored wireless power transfer technology – which also has applications in space. We are excited to explore how energy harvesting from light, movement, or temperature differences can be used to extend the battery life of Mafic’s Safeguard IoT device.

“It’s very useful to work with innovative start-ups such as Mafic to help us to build stronger links with companies and to further inform our research direction. By getting our hands dirty with real applications, this helps to test assumptions made in the lab and to identify fruitful areas for future investigation.”

On the two previous SPRINT projects, Mafic collaborated with the University of Southampton on the development of the new machine learning Safeguard solution. As a result of the SPRINT projects, Mafic’s technology has now been incorporated into wearable devices worn by the workforce as well as positioned on vehicles and materials.

Will Woodhead, Managing Director at Mafic Limited said: “Whereas the first two SPRINT projects were developing the new technology, this new one considers the power management capabilities to round out the technology and enable us to deploy our IoT devices in remote, challenging environments.

“The ‘holy grail’ is to produce an autonomous device that measures and communicates from wherever it is, so the exploration of energy harvesting and wireless energy transfer takes us closer to that. This time, we’re working with the University’s Electronics and Computer Science team and the expansion of our network of talent is invaluable to us as a start-up.”

The SPRINT projects will further develop the innovative wearable Safeguard devices through implementation with workforces, on vehicles and in materials at key customer sites including Sir Robert McAlpine and Errigal Contracts. It is also used by the America’s Cup Ineos Team UK whose Team Principle, Sir Ben Ainslie, said “The Mafic device is a game-changer for us, it allows us to look at our working practices and make changes to that to ensure everyone is as safe as possible.”

Privacy Settings