Why 5G will transform construction worksites

5G has the potential to unlock new levels of productivity and visibility on worksites that haven’t previously been possible. PwC predicts 5G will impact the Australian economy by a cumulative AUD$230b over the next decade across all industries. In construction, 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, improving overall worksite connectivity. Here are four ways 5G will transform construction worksites.

Higher bandwidth will support new technology

Construction businesses are increasingly working with very large data sets for richer visualisation and multi-dimensional data sets, such as with building information models, image/reality capture, 4D, 5D, and laser scanning. Add in new technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality (AR), and faster broadband will become increasingly important.

The high bandwidth of 5G is expected to reach speeds that are 20 times that of 4G LTE. This could give construction professionals nearly 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. Not only will this help foster interactions between worksites and the office for better measurement and tracking, but these improved speeds will enable video feeds with artificial intelligence (AI) that help recognise objects, workers, and safety issues.

Tapping into the possibilities of IoT devices

5G will also have a significant impact on the growth potential of the Internet of Things (IoT), with the capacity for more static and mobile IoT devices which can be applied in all aspects of construction, including manufacturing and supply chain. IoT describes the network of physical objects—“things”—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.

Eventually, work sites will be able to sensor virtually anything on a worksite, allowing companies to collect data from tools and materials. For example, workers could put sensors in concrete to assess cure time. IoT sensors can be used for smart buildings, and with 5G, contractors can have a digital twin of that building with data from the very start of the project throughout its life.

IoT sensors can also be used for projects such as bridges while they’re being constructed, monitoring while they’re being moved and installed, tracking when they are complete, and then later measuring data such as vibrations. Capturing information from these IoT sensors will make 5G a critical component of a worksite.

Unlocking edge computing

As 5G continues to enable increasing data volumes, not everything will be able to be done in the cloud. It will require some of the computing to be done on-site with edge computing and mobile edge computing on 5G networks. Edge computing is a distributed computing framework that brings enterprise applications closer to data sources such as IoT devices or local edge servers. This proximity to data at its source is extremely necessary in construction. For example, if a machine is digging on a worksite, it needs to be able to respond immediately to a safety issue. This will require the low latency of edge computing.

Edge computing and mobile edge computing on 5G networks can deliver strong business benefits, including faster and more comprehensive data analysis and insights, improved response times and better bandwidth availability.

Less lag = more real-time data

5G will give construction professionals the ability to access reliable information in near real-time with low network latency. The technology’s extremely short lag time could be the gateway to remote or autonomous construction operations. Construction businesses can understand what’s taking place on worksites quickly and easily perform the work with machines. This will be a huge step forward given the complexities of constantly evolving construction worksite environments.

Greater mobility and the advancements in connectivity brought about by 5G will further propel the industry’s ability to utilise insights provided through IoT, AR, AI, and machine learning. Being able to unite and analyse all this data quickly in a common data environment will be game-changer in how projects get built.

To do this, there will be significant changes to device architecture and where computing occurs. Imagine a day where a pair of augmented reality glasses can connect to a 5G network and enable you to see into the various building phases in a project’s future. With these technologies providing greater connectivity, capacity, and democratisation of technology, 5G stands to be a key element in transforming the construction industry.

By: Burcin Kaplanoglu, PhD., Vice President, Oracle Innovation Labs, Oracle Global Business Units  

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