The critical role of 5G and mobile technology in revitalizing construction

The critical role of 5G and mobile technology in revitalizing construction.

Mobile technology is a necessity for those in the construction industry who want to stay safe, productive, and connected while keeping an eye on the bottom line.

It’s no wonder that 60% of venture funding in the construction technology sector is allocated to mobile solutions. According to McKinsey, the low cost of mobile technology and connectivity "has ushered in a new generation of 'mobile first' cloud-based, crew mobility apps that can be deployed, even on remote construction sites, with real-time updates."1

Almost every worker has a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to assist them with various aspects of their job. And the impact of having access to reliable wireless connectivity that links jobsites to their offices has been game changing. Mobile apps for construction have now provided unique and valuable ways to enhance field communications. We are witnessing the evolution of a new era in construction.

How 5G technology will make a difference.

Just as mobile technology continues to be of major significance to those in construction, 5G will take an increasingly critical role. The use of mobile technology on the jobsite will only continue to increase in significance. Globally, construction industry investments hit $7.6 billion in information technology and communications in 2020. The commitment to increasing the use of mobile tech is evident with these types of expenditures forecast to increase each year through 2025.

The newest generation of tech-savvy construction workers expects the latest cutting-edge technology for use in the field. Looking ahead, companies that use mobile, wearables, and Internet of Things technologies on the job may have a leg up in recruiting and retaining the next generation of workers.

In addition to the benefits provided by adopting a more mobile centric way of managing day-to-day tasks on the jobsite, the 5G revolution is kicking the benefits of mobility up another notch. 5G has greatly improved the performance of wireless networks. Not only does the construction industry benefit from faster wireless speeds, an increase in reliability, security, and greater coverage, but the different layers of 5G wireless bands provide better performance and cost-efficiency across use cases.

Let’s explore how some of the different layers of 5G network could support the construction industry.

  • Low-band 5G has great range and is not affected by obstacles, allowing for greater geographic coverage. It is used above ground at construction sites and provides long-distance connectivity to vehicles to monitor bad driving, toprevent unauthorized workers in a lockout/tagout (LOTO) area, to transmit digital forms, track valuable equipment assets, and other uses.

  • Mid-band 5G balances speed and range, covering a broader area larger than high-band. Mid-band provides faster speeds and greater capacity than low-band and a much larger coverage area than high-band millimeter-wave  spectrum. For construction, mid-band connectivity is ideal for data capture for OSHA compliance reporting, helping ensure worker safety with real-time monitoring. In addition, it can make it easier to manage and train people remotely.

  • High-band 5G (mmWave) covers a small area with super-fast data transmission but can’t penetrate walls, which could be a benefit for those deploying private networks in buildings. Currently, high-band is primarily used for venues with large groups of people, such as a football stadium.

As 5G continues to make an impact on how we do business now and, in the future, mobile technology also continues to develop and grow. Let’s look at four ways that better, faster, and more specialized mobile technology solutions may enhance field communications in the future as 5G evolves, and the bottom line in the construction industry today.

1. Increasing construction safety.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 2.8 million non-fatal private construction site accidents in the U.S. in 2019.2 And on-the-job fatalities hit a 12-year high in 2019, at 1,061.3 The serious nature of this situation has moved safety to the highest priority for construction firms. It’s considered so important that some insurance companies are now assessing the option of giving discounts to those in the construction industry once they prove they have updated and kept their safety measures current.

One type of mobile tech that has proved beneficial in helping to improve safety on the jobsite, and will continue to develop with 5G, is Internet of Things (IoT) Sensors. These tiny little sensors can be placed just about anywhere and are used to monitor a wide range of situations. Connecting to a wireless network, the sensors can provide data to keep track of temperature and air quality on the jobsite and while working indoors to ensure workers avoid dangerous situations. A lone worker safety button can be used to alert site managers in case of an emergency and accurately convey the worker’s location for immediate help. And fleet management tools connect to sensors in vehicles to identify reckless driving on the site and in transit to reduce accidents.

In addition to sensors, wireless connectivity enables workers to seamlessly access safety compliance management software 24/7 via smartphones, tablets, or laptops, to identify hazardous conditions, monitor adherence to LOTO (lockout, tagout) procedures to control energy hazards, and initiate corrective action if needed. And safety assessments and permitting can now be done on the spot, with workers on-site and specialists watching remotely via video.

2. Enhancing efficiency in construction.

With mobile technology, it’s no longer necessary to carry contracts, blueprints, and work orders around to different stakeholders. Digital forms can be routed for review and sign-off on location to a worker’s smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The efficiency gains in effort and time from mobile timekeeping, material tracking, and incident reporting add up quickly.

Another efficiency booster is the ability to automate processes, such as the gathering of data for more informed decision-making and process standardization. Sensors in equipment, cameras on work sites, wearable technologies measuring bodily and environmental conditions, and other IoT devices can transmit data to analytics programs to monitor productivity, provide proactive maintenance and repair recommendations, monitor safety, and populate regulatory compliance forms.

Drones connected to wireless networks are becoming increasingly popular to provide on-site asset and materials tracking, inventory management, continuous spatial inspection (e.g., shape, size, location of geography), and progress monitoring.

3. Improving data accuracy.

Mobile technology also enhances quality and accuracy. Data that once took days or even weeks to shuttle to and from the field or office locations is instantly available via smartphone, tablets or laptops with the speed provided by 4G and 5G network connections. Project managers don’t have to drive to an offsite location to pull reporting. Instead, all the information needed can be retrieved in the field or from a remote home office, saving time, while allowing employees to work safely from home if necessary, eliminating errors based on insufficient information, and thereby enhancing the quality of work.

Communication across mobile applications is faster and simpler than keeping up with long email threads. Teams provide higher quality work and faster and smarter decision making with constant updates on progress, challenges, and business operations.

4. Driving competitive differentiation.

In a recent report on the construction and engineering industries, professional services firm Deloitte cited digital investments as a way for companies to differentiate themselves from the competition and urged firms "to identify ecosystem partners they can work with to enable connected construction."4

The benefits of digital technology enabled by wireless connectivity in the field of construction has given those that have made the investment a leg up on their competition. Those businesses that have not stayed current by making the move to mobile tech risk appearing antiquated and out of touch with the latest technological advances to do their job safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively. In addition, fast, reliable, high-capacity mobile networks can open the door to advanced technologies that further drive the differentiation of one construction firm from another.

For example, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the global construction industry is forecasted to grow from $466.9 million in 2020 to $2.31 billion by 2026.5 It’s being used in a variety of ways: for planning, design, innovations in safety, and to send real-time updates to architects, designers, and contractors working on the same project together. Construction companies that incorporate these technologies into their business plans could be better prepared for the future.

Mobile technology and 5G are changing the face of the construction industry as we know it today. Leveraging the benefits that they both provide will be pivotal. As the technology rapidly evolves, those that embrace the opportunity to reinvent the industry will be better able to compete and have an exciting future in store for them.

We built our 5G network to give you an advantage today and tomorrow.

With America’s largest and fastest 5G network, T-Mobile® for Business is here to help construction companies like yours unlock the possibilities of 5G now and prepare for emerging opportunities in the future.

We offer a collaborative approach, building customized solutions so your sites can get ahead of the 5G curve faster. Lean into 360° support from a team of experts dedicated to helping you enhance the customer experience and improve operational efficiency.

T-Mobile for Business has an ambitious vision for fueling innovation in construction. To continue exploring 5G-fueled transformations across the industry ecosystem, visit our 5G Construction industry webpage today.

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