Roger Bisby charts the emergence of Bluetooth Connectivity in power tools and wonders how we find the line between work and play.
There are now whole generations of tradespeople coming along behind me who have grown up with the mobile phone and will find the ability to control their power tools via Bluetooth as instinctive as breathing. For me it took a little longer to embrace. I sat in the audience at the launch of Bosch Blue Connectivity and questioned whether it was over-complicating what had previously been a simple task. Back in the day you got your drill or angle grinder out from the box and pressed the switch and got on with your work. Now you have the opportunity to fine tune or optimise those tools for the task ahead. In the case of drills you can limit the speed to prevent drill bits overheating, similarly with angle grinders you can slow the grinder down to get more life out of the disc.
Some tools have Bluetooth built in and some can have it added by screwing in a small transmitter tag.
Milwaukee has OneKey which seems to be evolving year by year into something very useful. The ability to report your tool or anything else that is tagged as stolen to the OneKey community and for them to alert you when it enters their zone is genuinely exciting. It is like having Crimewatch through your phone.
The ability to report your tool or anything else that is tagged as stolen to the OneKey community and for them to alert you when it enters their zone is genuinely exciting. It is like having Crimewatch through your phone.
Bosch has also moved on apace with their Connected tools controlling an angle grinder, drill, laser level and more with their phone app.
With the Bosch laser you can move the line around the room by rotating the motorised base. You can also switch the laser on and off and select plumb, horizontal or both for cross line. Of course you could also do this with a remote control device but remote controls get lost whereas hopefully phones tend to stay close to your skin.
Hilti has also been busy setting up a bar code system which you can read with your phone, It tracks tools and gives you important information. Furthermore they have chipped their tools to give a complete history of their usage.
There is now no hiding place because this smart technology allows your employer to see how many holes you have drilled in a day and what time you stopped drilling. Phone app controls have now gone beyond the gimmick stage and they will find a willing market delineated by age. Personally I can do without it but I am perhaps unusual in that I often leave my phone in my van all day and just check the calls at the end of the day. Few things are that urgent in my life. Many larger sites are also phone free zones and insist that they are deposited in the locker. You see the workers heading for their lockers to turn their phones on at break times as if they were applying an oxygen mask, grabbing a few desperate, deep lungfuls before returning to the dark side.
Phones are also increasingly being used to film mindless pranks for facebook and that is turning building sites into playgrounds. It will end in tears for sure as pranks have a way of going wrong.
It may seem draconian to some but phones are banned, not for any kill-joy motive, but because they are a dangerous distraction. People who are supposed to be concentrating on working as a team are often seen peering into their screens checking their messages and social media. I have had many young people working with me who have an incurable phone habit and I have read about a passer-by being killed because one end of a scaffold board has been dropped as the scaffolder scrambled to answer a call. Phones are also increasingly being used to film mindless pranks for facebook and that is turning building sites into playgrounds. It will end in tears for sure as pranks have a way of going wrong. Employers now have the challenge of distinguish between those who are using their phones for play and those who are using them for work. I won’t pretend to know how to do that. Maybe it needs an app.