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CONSTRUCTION & BIM


DIGITISING CONSTRUCTION WITH MOBILE CONNECTIVITY


Establishing seamless mobile connectivity on construction sites is absolutely paramount going forward, suggests Colin Abrey, Vice President of Channel Sales for the EMEA region at Nextivity.


Few industry sectors encounter as many communications challenges as construction. Sites are either situated in remote locations poorly served by the mobile and broadband operators or involve redeveloping swathes of inner-city areas well-served by the MNOs, but at the mercy of other connectivity obstacles. They also employ hundreds of workers from multiple disciplines widely dispersed across the site and working in precarious locations above or below street level.


To exacerbate an already challenging situation, the mobile connectivity requirements of large-scale construction companies are constantly moving goal posts. What is deemed sufficient one week quickly becomes obsolete as the project advances and building exteriors are filled with glass or metal facades, held together with reinforced concrete and lined with specialist insulation products.


Raw materials such as these interfere with mobile signals, often blocking them altogether. Construction site offices and management teams are increasingly reliant on access to centralised databases and systems and are in regular contact with onsite and offsite personnel. They need a good mobile signal from day one and any disruptions or outages can impact daily operations.


Another hurdle is the sheer number of sophisticated devices in constant use by onsite personnel. Everybody wants super-fast connectivity to the available network simultaneously, causing overload issues.


There are also high volumes of third-party users to take into account; delivery vehicles, site inspectors, land surveyors, security personnel, not to mention the plethora of IoT-driven systems and applications. A decade ago, mobile connectivity requirements on large construction sites were limited to basic services utilised during lunch hours or break periods. Modern construction sites are driven by innovation and IoT which is data-dependant and any outages cause delays and missed deadlines.


Construction sites are becoming digitised Construction is one of the least digitised industries. However,


46 | TOMORROW’S FM


with 5G on the horizon and competition fierce, the industry is being forced to rethink many of its business strategies. In a world driven by autonomation and IoT, seamless wireless coverage is the single most important technology underpinning many M2M services and applications.


The industry is using mobile connectivity to power autonomous applications including access control (to replace manual clocking in and out), automated deliveries, location-based services, and wearable tech for monitoring and wellbeing. Reliable mobile connectivity is not only a key driving force behind performance and logistics, it is fundamental to safety critical communications.


Reliable safety critical


communications is obligatory Ubiquitous mobile coverage for safety critical communications will play an increasingly important role on construction sites as the UK makes preparations to replace its legacy TETRA-based public safety communications network with 4G. Known as the ESN (Emergency Services Network) and on target to be rolled out from 2023 onwards, this new public safety communications network will allow the emergency services and first responders to take advantage of digital technologies such as streaming video or body cameras.


However, the propagation characteristics of 4G frequencies are not as good as those used for Tetra and physical obstructions caused by scaffolding and temporary building structures, or below ground locations, impact their propagation further. What the ESN switchover will mean in practical terms is that without a reliable 4G signal,


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