connected sites

Building better requires connected job sites

5G can help teams work more efficiently and speed up projects
Wednesday, August 23, 2023
By Jason Falovo

After many years of being under-served by technology, construction is achieving greater efficiency, safety and savings through digitization. Technologies such as IoT and drones are made possible by next-generation networks, which enable applications not possible before. But Canada still faces a decades-long housing crisis that only seems to get worse, even with the rollout of emerging technologies.

Between the labour shortage, supply chain woes and other pressures, the building sector is struggling to meet the demand for new housing. The country has seen double-digit price increases in recent years, with the problem spreading from major urban centres to areas that used to be comparatively affordable. No longer.

Canadian construction companies need to take advantage of all the technology at their disposal to make projects as efficient and fast as possible. Unfortunately, the sector has seen less digital investment than other industries, according to a report from BDC.

Reliable internet connections in the field are key. According to a recent State of the Connectivity survey by Cradlepoint, in cooperation with Censuswide, 92 per cent of Canadian respondents agreed that good connectivity would make their company more resilient to unexpected changes (economic, political or global pandemic).

Wireless networks make sense for field work

Construction projects are well known for going over budget and over time, and as a result, firms are under constant pressure to complete projects as efficiently as possible to keep their clients happy. They don’t have the time to build and work out of “fixed” sites, often setting up temporary trailers and offices in remote locations to operate their builds. Traditional wired networks, however, cannot keep up with the demands of these ever-moving office environments, often taking up to 120 working days to set up a new line.

These pop-up sites still need immediate, high-performance broadband connectivity for staff to access cloud-based applications through their laptops and tablets and for collaboration with headquarters, contractors, architects, and suppliers. This is where 5G and LTE connectivity can come in to help address these issues. By embracing mobile networks, construction sites will benefit from the exact same connection that their wired counterpart offers, but with the ability to have their connectivity infrastructure seamlessly move with them. And with highly sophisticated cloud management of these networks IT teams will be able to manage all remote sites and let the on-site personnel focus on the job at hand.

Armed with a ruggedized Wireless Wide-Area Network (WAN) router and a 5G or LTE-connected SIM card that provides ultra-low latency and high-bandwidth connection, builders will gain access to cloud-based applications. This is where the benefits truly come into play—with centralized connection management, and secure data transmission all available more quickly than if they were waiting for wired cables to be placed.

Enabling 24/7 video surveillance for greater safety

On-site video cameras are a staple on any construction site, helping companies deter theft, conduct inspections, and monitor safety compliance. These cameras run 24 hours a day, hence the high data usage. Luckily, wireless broadband solutions can withstand the high bandwidth and low latency needed for constant streaming.

A camera that loses its connection essentially becomes useless, as a single 20-minute lapse could be the space where something goes wrong on site, such as a flood, and not knowing the root cause could cost a company significantly.

Suppose a cloud-managed Wireless WAN router is deployed, and a camera does, in fact, go down due to a problem associated with its connection. In that case, the central IT team would be able to address the issue remotely. With one fewer thing to worry about, constructors can concentrate on producing buildings quickly, at a rate that coincides with the market.

AR applications need next-gen connectivity

One of the most exciting technological processes construction organizations have embraced is the ability to visualize design concepts. This comes in an array of forms, but augmented reality (AR), or the ability to visualize, for example, a building in a real-life environment, enables construction teams to deliver incredible results. One such result is the ability to reduce the need to rework a project once built, as building issues can be picked up in real time through this system, potentially saving massive amounts of time and capital. Empowering constructors to deliver outstanding projects quickly will only aid efforts to diminish the housing crisis.

Like on-site cameras, AR requires constant connectivity with ultra-low latency. Due to the high-performance connection and maneuverability needed to wear a set of goggles constantly feeding high levels of data, broadband-powered Wireless WAN routers with edge computing are really the only option, especially when adding in the ever-moving office factor.

Tracking performance with IoT devices

IoT devices also provide insights into how resources are performing, instantly flagging to construction teams if they detect a defect or if machines are starting to develop faults or issues. Armed with this information, workers can optimize processes and monitor equipment, and proactively take action if needed. For example, smart sensors can be affixed to rebar and embedded in concrete aggregate, which sends data to the cloud via a 5G router. This helps  companies determine if the concrete is poured correctly and track any shifting of the concrete, improving the overall outcome of projects and their safety.

Builders struggling to build sustainably

Building quickly is the goal, but construction organizations are also increasingly being called upon to make projects more sustainable. This is proving difficult to implement.

A robust cellular network can help firms step up sustainability initiatives early in the project life cycle. For example, drones can be used to capture data that can then develop aerial surveys, reducing the need for physical site visits and providing information on how to work with biodiversity and geographic features of a landscape. More smart technology means better-informed decision-making.

Four out of 10 Canadian respondents agreed that 5G will ensure greater environmental sustainability through improved energy efficiency and real-time control of consumption (domestic, business and smart city), improve bandwidth and improve security.

By embracing 5G and LTE and their ease of deployment, speed and low latency, Canadian construction firms have a chance to develop completely new use cases at every level of the construction cycle. It might not end Canada’s decades-in-the-making housing crisis, but it will put construction organizations in a better position to alter its course.


Jason Falovo is vice president and general manager, Canada at Cradlepoint, a global leader in cloud-delivered LTE and 5G wireless network edge solutions.



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