Construction Communication Technology

There is little room for communication errors in hazardous and demanding fields like construction. It’s imperative for workers to communicate with each other and management to promote a safe and efficient work place. Even productivity can be hindered by transmission glitches or lapses, slowing down the process. The ever-increasing demand for faster and more reliable communication technology for consumers has prompted an even greater urgency from the trade sectors. Every day, new messaging and management mobile apps appear to fulfill specific needs in the building industry. For many, these app technologies also make communicating more affordable, encouraging even more conversion and hardware purchases. Consequently, the demand for specialized mobile applications is driving device augmentation and evolution in the race to capitalize on this trend.
Yet, a mobile application is limited without the right devices to support it on networks with reliable connectivity. We’ve already seen how push-to-talk over cellular (PoC) applications has impacted wireless communication and hardware development relative to the construction field, such as Bluetooth equipped two-way radios, transitional gateways for hybrid systems, smart phone adoption, touchscreen iPods or tablets managing large operations, personnel, and material delivery fleets, and professional-grade PTT accessories designed to enhance convenience and audio clarity even in the noisiest areas.
Ultimately, end users—the people in the field actually using the technology—are driving future applications, which in turn inspire hardware and accessory innovations.
There is a definitive benefit to using tools that serve more than one purpose. If site workers can lighten their load, it’s a welcome reprieve since they already lug enough heavy materials. Luckily, there will soon be hardware devices that control multiple communication outlets at once, yet are smaller than ever before. Multi-purpose smart watches are already in use among consumers. Who’s to say this technology won’t evolve within the building industry as well? Pryme is already working on a ring-sized Bluetooth Low Energy (BLTE) button that controls everything, including PTT (App activation), phone calling, channel selection (App groups and channels), and even music programs.
Future hardware will be designed with both the vertical application and the end user in mind. Some users may be hesitant to swap their tried-and-true rugged radios for smartphones. Manufacturers are aware of this aversion and are creating devices that look and feel exactly like radios on the outside, but are really 4G phones on the inside. In fact, Pryme has recently been in development on its own versions—speaker microphones with internal 4G boards and radios with a plug-in sim cards that allow users to talk to anyone in the world. In effect, it’s all just repackaging.
High-labor mobile apps are already widely used in the construction industry. Trimble and Five Cubits are two different tablet-based companies that pair the Zello Work application with Pryme’s BTH-600 for their concrete and building material delivery fleet.
As the mobile app trend matures, eventually every contractor and construction duty will have dedicated applications, just as they will in many other fields. However, today’s cellphones, iPads, and tablets may not always fit the bill for every environment. We are already seeing major manufacturers coming up with app-specific devices in some categories, and expect many more. Regardless of the industry sector, software designers will create apps to meet growing demands, followed by manufactures who will introduce hardware tailored to those apps, but designed specifically for the end user’s environment.
Although new mobile applications are popping up daily, the trend toward consolidation and acquisition of software companies will continue to expand. App developers will introduce fresh programs as fast as they are absorbed. Thus, it’s extremely important for manufacturers to be nimble and react quickly to stay relevant and continue to meet their users’ needs. It’s time to start thinking about what area of your job would be more productive with the assistance of a specialized mobile app.
At the rate things are changing, one of the only ways manufacturers will be able to stay relevant and meet end user requirements is to align with other companies to achieve a joint solution. The trend toward synergistic partnerships has expanded rapidly in recent years and, as new software and technologies arise, sharing the load will be an even greater necessity. Another growing entry point for manufacturers are systems integrators, which allows vendors to compete in new arenas. PoC is a perfect example of the rising partnership frenzy—PTT app companies, network providers, LMR radio, and smartphone makers now work together to keep up with end user mandates.
This speculation and forecasting may sound interesting, but what does it all mean for businesses and their employees? The bottom line is PTT applications, devices, and accessories are improving almost every facet of the construction industry. Instant messaging allows alerts about environmental changes to be relayed in real time to improve safety. It’s now possible to speak with a supplier at their factory, your worker at the construction site, and the driver of the materials truck using the same radio and all without ever leaving your location. Information and support can even be given to remote areas so workers don’t physically have to leave the site, increasing productivity. Most apps are encrypted, making secure communications one less thing to worry about. In short, PoC communication fills the gaps that land mobile simply can’t.
You will always get your hands dirty but, as the construction industry moves towards new technologies, enhanced software applications will pave the way for more advanced hardware developments, resulting in safer, more efficient work environments. ■
About the Author:  Dave George, president and head engineer at Pryme Radio, holds more than 35 patents and has invented multiple award-winning products. George is considered an industry thought leader for his keen insight and years of experience in the communications and technology industry. In his spare time, he also coaches a local Southern California high school robotics team.
Modern Contractor Solutions, June 2017
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