4 ways mobile technology and 5G are taking the construction industry to the next level.

Mobile technology is a necessity for those in the construction industry that 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 job sites to their offices has been game changing. We are witnessing the evolution of a new era in construction. Mobile apps for construction have now provided unique and valuable ways to enhance field communications.

As mobile technology continues to grow and evolve, let’s look at four ways that better, faster, and more specialized mobile technology solutions are enhancing field communications and the bottom line in the construction industry today.

1. Increasing 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 give 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 job site is Sensor Solutions. These tiny little sensors can be placed just about anywhere and can be used to monitor a wide range of situations.  Connecting to a wireless network, data can be provided to keep track of temperature and air quality on the job site and while working indoors to ensure workers are not in a dangerous situation. A lone worker safety button can be used to alert site managers in case of an emergency and accurately convey the workers 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.

One type of mobile tech that has proved beneficial in helping to improve safety on the job site is Sensor Solutions.

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.

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 Internet of Things (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 quality.

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.

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.

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. Competitive differentiation.

In a 2020 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."

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 forecast 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 embrace this technology and entertain incorporating it into their business plans could be better prepared for the future.

Deloitte cited digital investments as a way for companies to differentiate themselves from the competition.

What about 5G?

The use of mobile technology on the job site 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 2025.6

The newest generation of tech-savvy construction workers expects and 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 provide 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 job site, the 5G revolution is kicking the benefits of mobility up another notch. 5G has greatly improved the performance of wireless networks, leaving past generations in the dust. Not only does the construction industry benefit from faster wireless speeds, an increase in reliability, security, and greater coverage, but the different layers of wireless bands provide better performance and cost efficiency in varied use cases.

Different layers of wireless bands provide better performance and cost efficiency in varied use cases.

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

  • Low-band cellular wavelengths have great range and are 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, to prevent unauthorized workers in a lockout/tagout (LOTO) area, to transmit digital forms, track valuable equipment assets, and other uses.
  • Mid-band cellular wavelengths balance 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, and using mid-band makes it possible to manage and train people remotely.

Mobile technology and 5G are changing the face of the construction industry as we know it today. 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.

T-Mobile for Business delivers a wide array of connectivity solutions that can be scaled to fit the needs of businesses of any size. Whether you are a sub-contractor or a larger enterprise, America’s largest and fastest 5G network, can help construction companies almost anywhere the next job takes them.

Visit T-Mobile for Business Solutions Overview for more information about the wide range of innovative solutions available to support your business on site and wherever you need to connect.

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