It’s no secret that those who are interested in the construction and development industry are a particular community. They are also loyal and committed, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of visitors each month to UrbanToronto. The community is also very visual and enjoys tracking photos of construction progress on several high-profile projects made each day by contributors who post. 

But the gold standard for this community in the visual realm is the timelapse video, which tracks the upwards progress of a notable building from ground to their crown in mere minutes. The more notable a project, the more interesting. [If you can endure the hilarious 1970s documentary music, there is a YouTube video about the construction of the CN Tower which contains some fascinating timelapse footage as it rose into the skyline.] 

Outdoor timelapse shoot of construction site, image courtesy of Zeitdice

More than just eye candy or beauty shots, it turns out timelapse videos are playing an ever-increasing role in the marketing arsenals of developers and general contractors in cutting through the clutter to promote their work in a city filled with new projects. More importantly, the footage from cameras overlooking construction sites is now seen as an important project management tool within the industry.

“Clients often mention that while they initially saw our timelapse cameras as a marketing tool, they quickly discovered their value as an effective project management tool,” says Michael Schwanzer, Founder and CEO of Toronto-based Zeitdice, which manufactures and installs the solar-powered cameras overlooking many construction sites in the city. Their cameras can automatically upload high-resolution (up to 9K) images and videos to the cloud via 4G cellular connectivity. 

The on-site cameras offer a reliable, hassle-free way to document and monitor projects from anywhere. “I especially enjoy hearing stories about engineers catching potential mistakes early from their office on the other side of the country, just because they received the weekly 30-second timelapse video via email. This kind of early detection can prevent potentially very costly mistakes down the line,” notes Schwanzer.  

Close-up of camera set-up for aerial view, image courtesy of Zeitdice

It's hard to think of anything in our consumer world that has advanced further, and faster, than any product related to technology, while at the same time, dramatically falling in price. Remember when a television would cost $1,500?

When Schwanzer founded Zeitdice in 2015, machine learning and AI were emerging hot topics, and he took on the challenge of creating an autonomous camera that could potentially support various AI initiatives. After overcoming some initial challenges, hundreds of fourth generation cameras have already been deployed this year, monitoring construction sites for a cost of $125 per month. The products are solar powered with a battery which can last many weeks without sunlight (think Toronto winter), eliminating the need for external power sources, especially valuable in remote locations.

Camera with solar panel, image courtesy of Zeitdice

“We offer cameras designed to collect visuals, photos and videos, online, which we call “Vision-As-A-Service,” explains Schwanzer. “Once on-site, the camera just needs to be mounted and switched on in order to view images and videos on any dashboard the client prefers, such as Autodesk Construction Cloud, Procore or our own. Customers love it because they don’t need to provide WiFi or power to receive timelapse videos to share, along with an easy-to-use web interface to monitor their site.”

Timelapse videos serve multiple purposes, making them invaluable tools for documenting and visualizing project progress. They are quite mesmerizing and are a perfect fit for social media, effectively engaging potential clients and stakeholders. New condominium purchasers are already excited about moving and being able to visit a project website to see their new home actually being built only adds to the anticipation. 

In the GTA, Zeitdice cameras have been used by many major developers, including Marlin Spring Developments at their House of Assembly, Stockyards District Residences, and The Tailor projects; Hullmark at 80 Atlantic Avenue and 12 Ossington; AMICO at The Mill Landing and McGibbon on Main projects; and Redwood Properties project at Yonge and Green Lane in Newmarket. 

Camera attached to concrete pole, image courtesy of Zeitdice

Besides residential projects, schools, universities, and rural fire stations across North America also employ Zeitdice images and videos. Its products are also applicable outside of urban areas, specifically pertaining to agriculture businesses. Hundreds of cameras have been deployed in greenhouses all over Europe to first train artificial intelligence and later to automatically detect anomalies like nutrient deficiencies or to predict crop yields. 

Today, cameras are everywhere, and in the development industry, images and videos provide instant analysis which can be added to the marketing and project management to increase sales and construction efficiency. New tools and new solutions which the development industry has always embraced. 

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UrbanToronto has a research service, UrbanToronto Pro, that provides comprehensive data on construction projects in the Greater Toronto Area—from proposal through to completion. We also offer Instant Reports, downloadable snapshots based on location, and a daily subscription newsletter, New Development Insider, that tracks projects from initial application.​​