The Best Connectivity Options for Construction in Industry 4.0

UK, October 24, 2017.- Construction sites require quick and flexible connectivity even before the start of a project, yet many sites still struggle to get reliable broadband and phonelines. In this particular article, Countrywide Telecoms explore several options which a site agent can choose to employ into their site: 

Fixed Line

A fixed line is likely to be the first solution the site agent will look into. With a DSL/fixed line, Open-Reach, Virgin or Hypertronic etc., will deliver your line as a physical cable. It appears, superficially at least, to be painless because fast connection speeds are available, there are no limits on data usage and fixed IP addresses are available thus offering secure VPN access. However, a fixed line can take a minimum of 90 days to pull onto site, and you will be tied into a minimum 24-month term. The service is highly inflexible, given that it is a physical line that is fixed into place, and the infrastructure required can cost thousands (the lowest installation is £1,250 but we have seen some sites pay as much as £17,000 for a basic phoneline). If faults are found, more costs will be incurred, and you have very little to no control over the network- plus, if your connection does fail, it can take an elongated period of time before anyone may be able to come and look at the issue.

Satellite

Secondly, you can use a satellite to gain connectivity. The satellite solution requires you to hold a large satellite on your site, and this then sends + receives data from a relay station in space, back to earth to a data centre. The advantages of this are that rapid connectivity can be delivered (within 90 days, however), and connectivity can be delivered to anywhere in the UK.

On the other hand, a satellite is hard to place. If moved, even by an inch, connectivity will be lost. The data costs are typically high, and the customer will usually be roped into a long-term contract. Bandwidth allowance is poor, meaning that if a lot of people are using the network, it is likely to break down or give you low speeds. Finally, a satellite is not well supported by the provider, as they do not own the network and as such have limited abilities when supporting speed issues.

Dongles

Next, mobile network dongles also seem like an easy solution, as a handy USB device that allows users to access the internet via 3G mobile broadband connection. In the UK alone, a quarter of a million units are sold by month. A dongle is advantageous to you because it’s conveniently portable; as tiny as a USB flash disk, anyone can simply plug the device into a port. A dongle, furthermore, is universally compatible, i.e., can be used with various service providers, and a dongle is highly secure.

On the other hand however, it is very limited in usefulness, particularly with speeds of 3.2 mbps to 7.6 mpbs. One can be affected by the Faraday effect, meaning if your device is in a metal container your network won’t be able to communicate with your dongle. AKA you will lose connection. As pointed out in a study, because coverage relies on mobile phone reception, the mobile blackspots that have you cursing your provider will also affect mobile broadband. Further, a dongle is typically only happy dealing with one device because of their bandwidth.

SiteConnect

Another solution on offer to you is SiteConnect, enabling your device to connect to the network. LTE-Advanced, or CAT 6 LTE allows the SiteConnect router to receive two signals from a single mast. This effectively doubles bandwidth. Delivered in 10 days from the order, the speed of the service is up to 100mbps minimum speed (the UK average is 23mpbs), and the solution can be cheaper than alternatives. The number of users is significantly higher than, say, a dongle- 30 people can access a single device.

Comms tower BIM

Wireless Solutions

Today the 4G mobile connection is essential. In the future 5G communications will make the Internet of Things possible. According to experts, 4G networking means that when it comes to working remotely, construction businesses no longer need to wait weeks to be up and running – they can get going without having to wait for expensive cable installations.

Some 4G wireless routers reduce the time it takes to set up a remote project sites from around 30 days to less than 48 hours. This means that engineers and designers can start work almost as soon as they are on-site, an efficiency that would not have been possible prior to 4G. For permanent locations, 4G also provides an ideal failover solution. Outages can prove massively detrimental, both to your bottom line as well as your brand.

If your network is fully reliant on a wired line, it can be more at risk of severe disruption. Using a 4G router as your backup is the perfect solution. 4G can pick up if the main network fails, offering seamless connectivity at broadband speeds. A failsafe is essential for the construction industry, as a site’s connection to central databases and systems needs to be secured, even if the wired line fails. By leveraging the power of 4G LTE wireless network solutions, construction companies can implement fast, secure connectivity from day one of the site build — empowering the site to progress at full speed, right from the start.

Building Information Modelling

The use of more advanced Internet-reliant applications – for example Building Information Modelling (BIM), continues to grow in the construction industry, increasing the need for bandwidth and reliability, Trimble reports.

One of the most valuable additions BIM offers the AEC industry is an opportunity to work together more closely and concurrently than ever before. Historically, there has all too often been a perceived divide between architects and contractors, engineers and subcontractors.

BIM can play a significant role in promoting collaboration between all project stakeholders, improving efficiency and profitability for all concerned – including clients. However, not every contractor and subcontractor feels yet inclined to assume the responsibility for promoting and championing BIM. Instead, there’s a degree of buck-passing among major stakeholders with each tending to view BIM implementation as the responsibility of someone else in the supply chain.

Here, Trimble outline where each key stakeholder sits within the BIM design and build process, what impact BIM will have on the way they work and how everyone, at every stage, can benefit from working in a BIM environment. Now, the architect begins working on their model. When complete, the architectural model is then presented to the owner.

They undertake a walkthrough of the model, during which the owner suggests a number of changes and their thoughts on the architect’s vision of the finished project. Equipped with the owner’s feedback, the architect can begin the design phase in earnest. As explained in a definition of BIM: 4D BIM involves time-related data, such as information about scheduling (including lead times, installation and build phases) being added to the model and 5D BIM is, principally, about the inclusion of information that helps facilitate accurate cost estimates. 

Furthermore, when BIM is properly integrated into a project, there needs to be an orderly pre-construction process, prior to design, and that requires subcontractors to be involved. This should provide a valuable opportunity for them to add value at an early stage. As well as helping subcontractors win more work, this will facilitate savings – in both time and money – through the avoidance of costly rework that might, otherwise, prove unavoidable.