How 5G and disruptive technology will drive a construction revolution

How 5G and disruptive technology will drive a construction revolution.

The world of construction is undergoing a revolution enabled by 5G. Autonomous machines and robots are taking on high risk tasks, drones monitor and inspect sites, smart device wearables are tracking workers' health and safety, and specialized 3D printers can now create entire buildings faster and more cost-effectively than ever before. Advances in new, innovative technology are literally transforming the industry.

“Today, all industries are undergoing what’s known as a system-level disruption.”

5G is changing the future, today.

The fifth-generation mobile network, 5G, is faster and more reliable than its predecessor, 4G. Combining these benefits with ultra-low latencies and massive network density is supercharging connected devices and systems that our world relies on—and runs on—every day.

As innovative futurist and strategy expert Matthew Griffin explains: “Today, all industries are undergoing what’s known as a system-level disruption. Every action, process, product, and task is being impacted by new technologies and innovations like 5G. Not only in new ways, but in disruptive ways that completely change those industries’ operating models and [the] status quo.”

Disruptive 5G technologies are transforming construction.

New, 5G-powered innovations will increasingly impact construction—especially when combined with other powerful technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR). Reliable 5G connectivity is essential to supporting the massive volumes of data, super low latency, and enormous capacity that AI, AR, and VR require to provide seamless and scalable actions. These 5G-supported capabilities will allow architects, builders, and project managers to create and test projects before the work has even begun and adjust during the project build to improve the quality of work in real time.

According to Griffin: “They’ll also be able to watch in real time as an AI robot sets to work designing a building, a community, or even, in the future, an entire city. The latter of which can then be brought to life and constructed using drones and 3D-printing robots at a speed and cost that no traditional construction company can match today.”

These modern capabilities are just the beginning. High-speed connectivity and 5G-enabled technologies will have a profound impact on the 4 key trends, described below.

With 5G networks, operators today can safely and remotely pilot and tele-operate drone vehicles, even from different countries or continents.

How 5G is changing construction.

1.     Safe, remote equipment operations.
The familiar construction equipment, operations, and procedures of today are rooted in the pre-5G era of doing things. “While some of the technologies and tools that we use have changed,” Griffin explains, “the process itself hasn’t. While more basic than their modern counterparts, the bulldozers, compactors, cranes, diggers, excavators, graders, and loaders found on a 1920s construction site look very similar to the ones the industry uses today.” In fact, construction sites are still statistically one of the most dangerous workplaces. 

However, with 5G networks, operators today can safely and remotely pilot and tele-operate drone vehicles—even from different countries or continents. The increased bandwidth and greater capacity provided by 5G connectivity ensures important data and information are quickly and dependably transferred between operators and machines. In some cases, cranes, loaders, and trucks can fully operate autonomously, completely removing the risk of injury to workers. These advances in safety are complemented by 5G-enabled video streaming, AI-powered analytics, wearables, and other innovations, which together, are profoundly improving safety capabilities and the mental and physical health of workers. Today, more companies can achieve their goals of reaching Zero Harm, a significant milestone.

The high bandwidth, low latency, down to 1 millisecond, and massive capacity of 5G are driving revolutionary ways of building structures.

2.     Limit-busting innovation.
5G connectivity offers incredibly dense connections, so it can support more devices, machines, and systems in a specific geographic space, a benefit that 4G technology struggles to provide. Today, 3D printers, drones, and robots are quickly changing construction by unlocking unprecedented creative solutions. “Drones are assuming responsibilities for everything from site surveys and safety inspections to project management,” says Griffin. “In some cases, they’re also becoming responsible for managing and orchestrating all the drone construction vehicles, which, in turn, are letting some companies create the world’s first fully autonomous construction sites.”

The high bandwidth, low latency—down to 1 millisecond—and massive capacity of 5G are driving revolutionary ways of building structures. For example, Hadrian X, the world’s first fully autonomous brick laying robot, never gets tired and never sleeps. And giant 3D-printing construction robots—able to quicky process and act on massive amounts of data transferred through the bandwidth and capacity of a 5G network—can extrude concrete and other new building materials through their 3D-printing nozzles. These robots can print entire buildings in a fraction of the amount of time and at a fraction of the cost. Now, architects and construction companies can let their imaginations go wild and create buildings that break free of their previous design-to-cost limitations.

By using 5G-synchronized 3D printing, which leverages the speed and low latency of 5G to align the movements of robots, a four-bedroom house can be printed for up to 90 percent less cost and at up to 95 percent faster speeds.

3.     More efficient passive homes.
A passive home incorporates the principles of efficiency to reduce the ecological footprint and energy associated with building, heating, and cooling a home. Because of modern material innovations—like new ceramics and clays, LavaCrete, and even recycled plastics—buildings and homes can be 3D-printed with carbon negative materials instead of concrete. Typically, construction costs 5% to 10% more to build a passive home compared to building a traditional home. However, by using 5G-synchronized 3D printing, which leverages the speed and low latency of 5G to align the movements of robots, a four-bedroom house can be printed for up to 90% less cost and at up to 95% faster speeds.1

With intelligent building design and materials, companies can construct low-energy or passive homes with innovative, cost-effective thermal properties that can greatly reduce heating and cooling bills. For example, materials that absorb near-infrared radiation to heat houses can also emit far-infrared radiation to cool spaces down.

4.     Synchronized swarm robotics.
With powerful dense connectivity and low latency, 5G is redefining how construction companies think about the scale and speed of projects. “One of the greatest challenges the industry will have when it comes to scaling up the size of 3D-printed projects,” says Griffin, “will be coordinating all the individual robots on a building project or site.” One of the ways to solve this problem—a solution that the University of Central Florida is currently developing—is to create robots that can behave, communicate, and organize themselves in swarms, a field called ‘Swarm Robotics.’

An 11-story Pantheon Development skyscraper is already being planned in Dubai, an achievement quickly following an experimental 3D-printed, three-story apartment building being constructed in Germany.

With complex software, sensors, and systems—including AI, AR, and VR—supported by 5G, swarm 3D printers will be capable of collaborating with one another. 5G’s ultra-low latencies can synchronize 3D printers to produce large buildings, as well as other infrastructure such as bridges, faster than ever before. Soon, 3D-printing construction principles will be applicable to any type of building, enabling companies to print various sizes and shapes of buildings, even intricately designed skyscrapers.

In fact, an 11-story Pantheon Development skyscraper is already being planned in Dubai—an achievement quickly following an experimental 3D-printed, three-story apartment building being constructed in Germany. As these new technologies and machines are deployed commercially, the construction industry will become more dependent on having secure, high-speed, reliable 5G networks to complete complex projects requiring innovative technologies.

Our 5G network gives you an advantage today and tomorrow.

The pressure to meet changing expectations is inspiring construction companies to enhance their current operations with 5G solutions. New technologies—from inspection drones and automated bulldozers to massive data-driven 3D printers—offer businesses like yours new ways to work better, faster, and safer.

T-Mobile® for Business is ready to help construction organizations unleash the power of 5G now while planning for what’s next. We offer a collaborative approach, building customized solutions so you can get ahead of the 5G curve faster. Access 360° support from a team of experts dedicated to helping your business get the most from advanced connectivity and new 5G-powered technologies.

To continue exploring 5G-fueled transformations across the construction ecosystem, visit our industry webpage.

Ready to connect with the 5G future?

We’re ready to support your success today. Let’s talk.

Want even more trends, insights, and success stories?

Let's talk 5G.

1-833-349-0677