Mark Davidson, Enterprise Wireless Specialist at Cradlepoint looks at the future of house building.
The UK is facing one of the worst housing crisis in a generation. There is a huge burden on the government and house builders to construct more homes, and at a faster rate, to overcome this. Technology is playing a crucial role in helping builders greatly improve efficiency and leverage automation to accelerate project pace, while leaning on IoT devices to do everything from track assets on construction sites and delivery of raw materials, to monitoring worker safety, to using sensors to ensure building is going to plan. However, for this technology to be effective, construction sites must have seamless network connectivity from day-one of the project.
In an industry that is increasingly under pressure, next-generation networks are a necessity. Adopting cellular infrastructure, and even turning to 5G, can address many issues faced by house builders, and ensure they have access to connectivity that is easy to deploy, reliable, secure, and efficient.
Connectivity and rapid deployment
Construction connectivity needs to be flexible for site offices as well as the site location, which can change daily as the project progresses. Further to this, as the use of technology expands, and the proliferation of connected devices continues, so does the pressure on networks as the connectivity needs continuity across devices, machinery and workers. The low-latency, increased bandwidth and higher speeds of 5G networking will change the way the construction industry designs and builds as well as bring a whole new level of monitoring to employee safety and assets.
If you attempt to opt for traditional wired network infrastructure, it’s slow and expensive to set-up — as it can take up to 120 working days. This, along with the monthly upkeep and the inflexibility to relocate the wires as the project progresses can quickly increase the costs.
IoT asset tracking and data insight
IoT asset tracking is undoubtedly one of the most efficient and effective tools in modern day business. It enables full traceability of products throughout the supply chain, whether it’s a container, pallet or individual items. Real-time automated monitoring enables constructors to know what is on site, and exactly how much of it remains. Helping keep projects on track by identifying when more supplies need to be ordered, or when orders are due to arrive. With this intelligence they can also better manage manpower — assigning workforce as inventory arrives.
While tracking resources is important, data insight also provides valuable information on how those resources are performing, automatically detect defects in construction, optimise processes and monitor equipment for compliance. For example, Taylor Construction uses smart sensors affixed to rebar and embedded in concrete aggregate which send data to the cloud via a 5G router. This helps the company determine if concrete is poured correctly and track any shifting of the concrete, helping improve the overall outcome of the project and its safety.
Future proof connectivity
The needs of connectivity are changing. With new building projects beginning all the time, and old sites closing down, it is imperative construction companies can adapt their connectivity needs to what is happening in the moment. 4G LTE and 5G has this ability. By extending the corporate network with flexible, high, bandwidth connectivity that can be managed from anywhere through cloud-based tools, IT teams can manage all remote sites - including network performance, bandwidth requirements, and cellular data usage - in a single management console. New networks can be configured at the central office and as the site requirements change they can be redeployed instantly wherever needed. Operational costs of wired connections and on-site personnel are virtually eliminated.
Having a network with this flexibility is fast becoming essential to businesses across all sectors, but is extremely valuable to construction firms looking to manage several different sites at once. Avoiding long delays to projects and ensuring networks are secure at all times.
Addressing Corporate Social Responsibility
Following the commitments made at COP26, there is pressure on every sector to step up true sustainable efforts, and deliver on them. While it might not be obvious, construction companies can make small changes to lessen their impact.
With a robust cellular network, it’s possible to start working on sustainability objectives from the get-go. For example, drones can be used to capture data that can then develop aerial surveys, reducing the need for physical site visits, and provide information on how to work with biodiversity and geographic features of a landscape. With more data points and sensors, there could be a reduction of wasted materials, and excessive site visits. Overall, more smart technology means better informed decision-making.
By implementing LTE or 5G’s low latency, ultrafast connectivity, and ease of deployment, builders have an immense opportunity to streamline operations, utilise technology in novel ways, and develop completely new use cases at every level of the construction cycle.