Connecting the Unconnected at the Construction Jobsite

Having connectivity out on the construction jobsite is essential. Imagine a jobsite with high-tech equipment, tools and robotics. The systems know how to perform a job autonomously, leading to a safer and more productive jobsite. The reality is this jobsite is possible today—but at the core is the need for greater connectivity.

This helps power connected tools, equipment and systems on a project. However, getting this connectivity out at a site—especially in remote locations—can be a challenge.

This is perhaps one of the greatest barriers to adopting Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, leading to a connected jobsite. Identifying first how to get connectivity on a project will lead to even more advances down the line.

“Having up-to-date information available both to and from jobsites will benefit all avenues of production, financial and HR in the industry,” explains Carol Hagen, president, Hagen Business Systems.

Connecting the Construction Jobsite

By definition, a construction site is truly under construction. Depending on the specific job and location, all infrastructure for communications can be lacking, especially at the early stages of a project.

“With several different types of contractors that work independently, communication via cellphone is much more prevalent,” explains Jeff Gudewicz, chief product officer, Wilson Electronics. “Plus, the fact that most workers are constantly moving around the jobsite and not at a traditional desk or cube environment means they need to be connected via a mobile device.”

Cellular and Internet connectivity are perhaps some of the most important to have out at the jobsite, as it enables the movement of data across a company and project. This can come in many different forms. A cellular router, for example, can connect a construction jobsite to a high-speed network. Another option is cell-signal boosters, which boost the cellular signal for users of cellular devices.

The use of cellular connectivity can lead to a number of benefits on a project. Chiefly, there will be better communication among workers, which leads to a safer workplace.

“Better coordination among subcontractors, suppliers and status on the worksite will lead to better coordination of people and materials,” Gudewicz explains. “Having deliveries for materials not arrive on time results in labor not being fully utilized. On the flip side, having material arrive early can result in scrap cost increases or surcharges for suppliers to have to wait extra time in their deliveries.”

Gudewicz adds that since construction sites are often dynamic environments, scalable wireless solutions are needed.

Hagen also suggests multiparty jobsites will benefit from hard wired networks, but one to four people should be able to work from cellular.

Many companies are addressing this challenge, as they recognize construction companies need connectivity to gain access to innovative applications of technology. One example of this is DEWALT, which offers Jobsite WiFi System Access Points that are built to withstand tough construction site conditions.

The company recognizes that reliable Internet access is a necessity on construction jobsites and offers a system that works in hot and cold temperatures and protects against dust and water submersion. Also the company offers an app that provides detailed steps to guide users through the setup process—without requiring a technician. This is another example of how construction companies can stay connected at the jobsite.

Challenges with Remote Construction Sites

Perhaps one of the most difficult places to connect is remote, rural locations. Construction professionals need to address issues such as zero signal strength and limited or distant access to resources, as well as the practicality of bringing wireless connection to the site.

At large sites, it’s particularly difficult to know what’s going on and the communication lag can be greater than usual, which is especially problematic in a more hazardous environment where every second counts.

One example of this type of a project is a mining construction project. There are often two categories for mining: open pit and closed pit or underground. Each has a unique environment.

“Open pit mining is generally a very large area with large pieces of construction equipment. Think dump trucks with tires as big as a passenger vehicle,” explains Gudewicz. “In this case, mobile communications would be more critical.”

In contrast, in a deep or underground mine, the fact that it is underground prevents or eliminates any available signal due to blockage. Existing tower signals cannot penetrate the ground, so a separate communication link must be physically fed underground. It is more like a building application than a mobile or above-ground application, according to Gudewicz.

While there are many different ways to do it, connectivity is essential to enabling high-tech jobsites of the future. In the end, project leaders and teams will have access to the same real-time data that allows them to keep a project on schedule and on budget. The connectivity will enable total visibility into jobsite operations, worker and equipment location, and safety incidents. This will lead to better project management, heightened safety and improved productivity.

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