By Burcin Kaplanoglu
Emerging as the next generation in wireless technology, 5G is poised to transform the construction industry in the years to come, unlocking new levels of productivity and visibility for project stakeholders while enabling better and faster ways to glean insights from project data.
According to a recent survey by Oracle Communications, while 97 percent of professionals are aware of the benefits 5G is expected to bring to businesses, only 35 percent are currently evaluating vendor solutions to take the next step with the technology. A deeper understanding of the potential use cases is needed to help spur further evaluation—and put forward-thinking contractors ahead of the curve.
WHAT IS 5G?
Excitement and anticipation is growing around 5G and the far-reaching impact it will have—but what is it exactly? Simply put, 5G is the latest wireless networking technology that promises to enable dramatically higher bandwidth and speeds, negligible latency, and increased capacity. It promises speeds 10 to 100 times faster than current long-term evolution (LTE) networks, extremely low latency (as little as one to 10 milliseconds), and density for up to 100 times the number of devices compared to LTE. 5G is also expected to offer the most reliable network availability to date and a 90 percent reduction in network energy consumption.
WHAT 5G MEANS FOR CONTRACTORS
From a contractor’s standpoint, 5G is positioned to revolutionize how we deliver projects by tackling a key challenge to digital transformation: worksite connectivity. 5G can help better enable the collection, capture, and analysis of crucial on-site, real-time data to monitor the health, location, status, and specifications of various assets.
Contractors will benefit from 5G in three key areas:
Delivering Next-Gen Mobile Broadband: 5G is expected to provide 10 to 100 times faster speeds, unlocking 10 to 100 times more capacity than existing LTE networks. These speeds will give construction professionals virtually instantaneous access to data-intensive edge and cloud applications, enabling multiple users to interact with each other in real time from anywhere in the world. Enhancements to broadband capabilities will be crucial to adopting important emerging technologies such as virtual reality.
Mission Critical Reliability and Latency: 5G will unlock the ability to access reliable information immediately with low latency, enabling contractors to better understand what’s taking place on worksites in real time and easily perform remote or autonomous construction operations. This will be a huge step forward given the complexities of constantly evolving construction worksite environments.
Massive Machine-Type Communications: This technology will provide highly scalable and broad geographical coverage to help with initiatives such as smart cities, where the number of nodes will be considerably higher than on a normal project. For contractors, this will mean the ability to monitor assets both on and offsite as well as monitor the health and safety of workers across a project, among other improvements.
These benefits are far reaching. From contractors to project managers, architects to trade workers, significant process and data management improvements will be made.
THE FUTURE WORKSITE
Imagine a construction site where all workers, vehicles, devices, and assets are equipped with sensors and high-resolution camera feeds, providing real-time visual information feeds about a worksite or offsite asset production. The data collected from those sources, combined with real-time analysis using developments in artificial intelligence, will improve productivity, safety and compliance on-site and off-site. The speeds at which issues—even potential ones—can be identified and addressed will also yield improvements across project success metrics.
Rich visual data will enable contractors to continually evolve the project model by taking into account what it looks like at that very point in time. Comparing that with information about how the model has changed—coupled with how assets are progressing in off-site production—could provide predictions for potential scheduling and production issues and guide a plan of action for addressing them.
UNDERSTANDING STANDARDIZATION AND SECURITY
5G represents the next generation of convergence between IT technologies and telecoms business. But with this convergence come several important issues around standardization and security that organizations must consider.
Many construction businesses are sitting on huge amounts of data across their portfolio, but don’t have standardized processes in place to measure, analyze and understand the data. In this case, 5G and the deployment of sensors will compound that data challenge. Only by standardizing data processes across a project portfolio can a contractor ensure governance, control, and visibility of project data.
In the race towards 5G and subsequent advances in everything from artificial intelligence to machine learning to quantum computers, security advances must reach beyond the network itself and support the application layer and the devices connecting to those networks. To reach these goals, 5G security must be built from the ground up instead of being layered in after-the-fact.
NAVIGATING THE UNKNOWN
There are many unknowns when it comes to new technology, and 5G is no different. In the end, we believe 5G is going to help contractors improve productivity, safety and compliance in their construction projects thanks to fast, reliable, and scalable connectivity. And while there will undoubtedly be unexpected developments and discoveries regarding the benefits of this technology, there is more than enough clarity today to begin building the right foundation for the 5G future.
After all, 5G will enable even greater productivity and better data management, yielding the insights needed to accelerate the drive to continuous improvement.
About the author
Burcin Kaplanoglu is an executive director and innovation officer with Oracle Construction and Engineering. For more, visit www.oracle.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, October 2019
Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to the FREE Digital Edition of Modern Contractor Solutions magazine.