Purdue prof wins prize for research that makes construction sites safer |

Hubo Cai, interim head for the School of Construction Management Technology at Purdue Polytechnic and professor in the College of Engineering, has been awarded the 2023 Alfred Noble Prize by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The award recognizes Cai’s groundbreaking research on 3D location tracking, enhancing construction site safety, Purdue said in a news release.

The Alfred Noble Prize, established in 1929, commemorates the achievements of Alfred Noble, past president of ASCE. It is funded by an endowment from engineers and other individuals to honor Noble’s legacy and dedication to the engineering community. The award is a testament to Cai’s accomplishments in construction technology and civil engineering.

“Robust Hybrid Approach of Vision-Based Tracking and Radio-Based Identification and Localization for 3D Tracking of Multiple Construction Workers” was coauthored with Jiannan Cai in July 2020. Cai presents a novel framework that combines multi-view camera tracking with radio wave identification, according to the release. This innovation addresses limitations of other methods and enhances the accuracy of 3D tracking for multiple on-site construction workers.

Cai’s research shows that camera and radio integration allows digital systems to know where specific site workers are located at any given moment. This ensures safety on construction sites via better management and increased situational awareness. It can help prevent accidents, especially where workers might be hit by moving objects or vehicles. 

Cai’s hybrid approach treats visual tracking from cameras as a primary source to determine object locations. Radio signals are used to complement visual data, providing identity information and correcting errors in object detection. Cai’s two indoor experiments showcased an accuracy increase of 88% to 95% and 87% to 90%, compared to a conventional camera-only approach.

“This award is a testament to Dr. Cai’s exemplary research and dedication to advancing the field of construction management technology,” Dean Daniel Castro of Purdue Polytechnic said in the release. “His groundbreaking work on 3D tracking has significant implications for job site safety and construction management.”

The findings in Cai’s paper serve as the foundation for many applications in intelligent construction management, hazard identification, resource tracking, productivity analysis and more. Potential applications extend beyond construction to include smart building management, autonomous driving, robot navigation, human-robot collaboration, teleoperation and remote control of robots.

The Alfred Noble Prize award ceremony will be during the American Society of Engineers’ Annual Convention in Chicago on Oct. 18 to 21. 

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