Manage Remote Jobsites with Wireless Technology

Construction projects are always accompanied by a bevy of challenges, including costs, scheduling and planning. But when the jobsite is remote, new obstacles typically arise. Contractors must concern themselves with jobsite security, effective communication and monitoring machinery, to name a few.

The question becomes, what technology tools are available to help contractors manage these challenges? For many construction companies, wireless technology is key to managing remote sites and keeping the operation running without a hitch.

Wireless networking technologies and scalable IP-based (Internet Protocol) video systems have converged to provide the ability for construction managers and other stakeholders to remotely monitor progress at construction projects of any size and any number, according to IV&C, a manufacturer of camera-management software and IP cameras.

Indeed, the use of cameras is one of the most effective tools contractors have at their disposal when overseeing remote jobsites.

After all, construction professionals want to minimize the number of trips to distant, remote locations. Yet they must have a constant view of the site in order to track project status and make critical decisions.

IP-based camera systems help them achieve that goal. And use of the cameras is not limited to contractors. Other project stakeholders, such as company executives, subcontractors, government agencies and the public at large can view jobsite progress as well.

Wireless video systems offer numerous benefits including the ability to monitor and document construction progress, machinery and security of the projects from practically anywhere. According to IV&C, cameras and video-management software provides the tools necessary for project managers, engineers, executives and security personnel to monitor the job remotely, thereby reducing transportation costs and maximizing response time in case of any events.

The fact is, contractors have little choice but to deploy remote monitoring tools, especially at remote locations where extreme weather conditions can be a factor and distance to the site is an extreme disadvantage. Today, however, there is also technology that allows the generators, ground heaters, alarms and other systems to monitor themselves and send alerts when problems arise.

In many instances, however, contractors may not know which tools and technologies are appropriate for their jobsite. The answers depend, of course, on a variety of factors including project size, duration and number of personnel. Equally important are the amount of equipment and supplies at the site and its distance from a metropolitan area.

“It can be difficult for people to understand the various options,” says Ven Dixit, marketing manager at NimbeLink, an IoT (Internet of Things) solution company. “They have lots of questions.”

Typically, Dixit says, he’ll start by asking how often clients want to refresh their data, which helps him recommend the type of network they will require. From there, he discusses the types of sensors and processors best suited for their needs. “It always ends up being a different configuration,” he notes.

OxBlue Corp.’s construction site cameras and time-lapse videos are used by real estate developers, general contractors and other construction professionals to document, monitor, manage and even market projects. The technology diminishes many of the problems previously encountered when working remotely.

OxBlue developed a wireless construction-camera system that was easy to install and use and provided high-resolution images that documented the build. Additionally, imagery is accessible via the Internet so that teams anywhere could monitor and review progress anytime.

The time-lapse technology offered by OxBlue includes professionally produced time-lapse construction movies; automatically generated instant time-lapse videos; and custom time-lapse movies that clients can generate at will. Clients use time-lapse videos to review and show project progress and even incorporate them into their online marketing and public relations efforts. 

The construction camera interface is accessible from any device with an Internet browser. High-resolution images, complete with jobsite weather data, document virtually every moment of construction. Users can zoom in on images from any date and time to see details of the build. The camera system also gives clients the option of making access to the construction camera interface public, allowing project owners to inform and engage everyone interested in a project. 

Building professionals, such as real estate developers and general contractors, use construction time-lapse cameras to help them and their teams monitor the build and manage project logistics. Via the construction camera interface, project managers, design teams, investors and other stakeholders track progress using high-resolution images and high-definition time-lapse videos of the jobsite. 

Staying Connected

Many remote construction sites won’t have Internet access, but there are several alternatives for builders to consider, says Procore Technologies, a developer of cloud-based construction software.

Satellite

This Internet service relies on a dish that communicates with an orbiting satellite to transmit and receive data. A jobsite will receive uninterrupted Internet service assuming there is an unobstructed connection. No telephone lines or cable are required. All that’s needed is a small satellite dish and a modem that also acts as a router. Satellite Internet is the best option when it’s not possible to use wired or wireless connections.

Fixed Wireless Broadband

These systems transmit radio waves, providing Internet access between a fixed transmitter and a fixed receiver. The receiver is generally a cable modem or one using a Cat 5 cable. The modem has wired ports and serves as a wireless hub as well. These systems are most prevalent in rural areas.

Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

This technology combines a cellular network and a mobile device to create an Internet hotspot where other devices can connect. Cellular service at the jobsite is required.

DSL

The DSL (digital subscriber lines) are a credible Internet connection for remote sites even though they require a standard telephone line. Many times those lines are near enough to remote sites to make it a viable option. DSL works by sending data over the higher frequency bands and using filters on voice devices to prevent interference. The modem offers the standard network outlets so you can plug in laptops and desktops while also providing Wi-Fi that other devices can use wirelessly.

M2M Advantages

M2M (machine-to-machine) monitoring for construction equipment is nothing new, as the technology continues to gain momentum. Contractors understand that every time a piece of equipment goes idle due to equipment failure, and there will be subsequent repair and labor costs as well as the cost of lost revenue. There’s also substantial downtime while equipment is broken.

However, remote-monitoring tools provide detailed information on how construction equipment is performing. The data is updated immediately and can be delivered wirelessly virtually anywhere. That’s a huge benefit at remote jobsites where mechanical problems might not otherwise be noticed immediately and time is required to dispatch a specialist to repair the damage.

Cloud-based software accessing tiny sensors by Wi-Fi have made M2M possible for even the most common equipment. In many cases, some type of onboard diagnostic system has become standard equipment.

Autodesk’s SITESENSR is a hosted Internet application that tracks and monitors critical assets, tools, equipment, vehicles and inventories across multiple work sites using the latest GPS (global positioning system), barcode scanning and online workflows.

It connects to existing telemetry, asset and work systems via API (application programming interface) to provide a single lens for distributed operations. The result is SITESENSR can keep remote jobsites up and running. Additionally, by staying ahead of wear and tear, companies can avoid equipment failure and increase maintenance speed.

Tips for Managing the Remote Jobsite

  • Understand Your Needs. Contractors can’t effectively take steps toward managing a remote jobsite unless they first know what they’ll require in terms of hardware, software, and data. Ask questions. The size of a site, the duration of a project, and number of workers will help you choose the appropriate solutions.

  • What Are Your Security Concerns? Remote sites can be at risk for unauthorized fire, entry, vandalism, materials and tool theft. Educate yourself about the myriad technology tools available to prevent these incidents. Everything from wireless security systems to Webcam solutions are available.

  • Understand Your Video Needs. Do you prefer live images and video or project time lapsing? Fixed cameras or pan-tilt-zoom-panoramics? Remember, cameras aren’t just for security; they play a big role in project management, documentation, communication and marketing as well.

  • Managing Personnel. Managing workers at a remote jobsite also presents challenges. Yet technology exists that can make the task easier. Biometric print authentication uses a camera phone photo of an employee's eyes to perform verification of identity. GPS (global positioning system) and geofence technologies can compare a worker’s exact location to predefined jobsite areas designated as valid for timekeeping activities.

  • Understand the Value of M2M technology. The technology, using the smallest of sensors, can be applied on even the most common equipment. Equipment breakdowns are common at remote jobsites and can take longer to detect. But sensors can help you evaluate heavy equipment and determine if repairs are needed. Additionally, technicians are prepared with the right tools when they know what equipment failures they’ll be facing.




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