On site: connectivity at both edge and core
An LTE/5G wireless network means more than enabling workers to check their Instagram accounts. (!) Increasingly, it’s about connecting the objects the humans work with – the Internet of Things.
What Things? It includes door access controls, checking workers’ identities as they enter the site (in many countries, it’s a legal requirement to know exactly who’s working today); it’s in the intelligent badges many workers wear, so legal restrictions like social distancing can be checked. It’s also about equipment tagging, so individual assets can be tracked and maintained on schedule. And security infrastructure, too: sensors and alarms for everything from injuries to fire, so “hot spots” can be recognised as risks.
Modern LTE/5G can handle far more nodes (individual devices on the network) than previous iterations – even many kilometres from public network coverage. So even at a single construction site, wireless leaves no device unconnected.
Working together: bandwidth for collaboration
As wireless networks developed around the world, the building trades were among the first business people to use them, starting with those analogue “mobile” phones of 30 years ago. They were the size of a brick; in fact, on a building site, they were easily mistaken for one! But the action’s moved on: today’s hardworking plasterer or carpenter is likely to be toting a laptop with sophisticated business applications.
Because wireless bandwidth is letting designers and project managers collaborate in real-time more effectively. Once, a wiring diagram might have had foremen and crew scratching their heads while phone calls were made to the architect. Today, the actual schematics and specifications can be shared on laptop screens onsite, reducing the risks of being misunderstood.
Faster, easier, less prone to errors? Like in any business, that’s what people on a construction site want.
BIM: Feeding data back to the Big Picture
There’s another angle. A high-bandwidth connection lets people on site see drawings and documents – and that’s great – but it works both ways.
Building Information Management (BIM) software also collects data from the site itself, and feeds it back into an application used by executives to check everything’s going according to plan. While later in the process, other acronyms like CAFM (Computer Aided Facilities Management) and IWMS (Integrated Workplace Management System) also rely on timely and accurate data from IoT devices to keep costs under control. In many industries we work with – agriculture, mining, energy – the building project is never truly complete.
This is why wireless connectivity remains the choice of many building operators long after the contractors have gone.
The initial construction phase may be temporary, but the kind of locations that benefit most from wireless – remote mines, rural agriculture, solar farms out in the desert or logging operations deep in the forest – carry on growing and developing with the business opportunities. A well-thought-out wireless solution can keep the data flowing.