This year sees Australia rolling out 5G – the next generation of mobile wireless network technology. 5G has been highly anticipated and hotly debated. If the rollout is successful and uptake is widespread, it represents a major step-change for mobile technology in Australia.
So, what could it mean for the construction industry?
Here are five key aspects of 5G that have transformative potential for construction.
We’ve all heard it’s fast – but how fast exactly? The Australian Government’s Bureau of Communications and Arts Research reports that “4G technology allows download speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps), while 5G could potentially enable speeds of more than 1,000 Mbps. It currently takes about eight minutes to download a feature movie using 4G; people could be able to do this in seconds with 5G”.
Not only does 5G transmit data more rapidly, it also boasts lower latency, meaning signals travel through the network at far higher speeds. This is good news for developing technologies like robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT), which rely on real-time connectivity to operate with precision. It also benefits predictive analytics software because it enables better collection and analysis of big data that can lead to more real-time decision making.
5G offers higher connectivity, which signals (pardon the pun!) big benefits for mobility on construction sites. With 5G-enabled devices, construction teams collaborating via mobiles and tablets using cloud-based solutions (such as sitemobi’s construction management software) wouldn’t have to worry about remote areas or patchy connections slowing down communication.
The speed and reliability of 5G has the potential to boost efficiency in construction in a number of ways:
- Facilitating new and increasingly sophisticated innovations in remote-controlled, automated and machine-to-machine technologies, which can allow more efficient use of labour and capital on construction projects.
- Making cloud computing even more effective, enabling speedier, more reliable communication.
- Making paperless construction sites (where schedules, costs, quantities, forecasts and other data are digitised and liberated from cumbersome spreadsheets and paper systems) more achievable.
- Providing enhanced picture quality at a better resolution, which improves outcomes for visualisation and simulation software.
Always a key concern in the construction industry, safety levels should also see improvements as a result of 5G-enabled technologies. Examples of areas where 5G will create positive impacts include:
- the precision of predictive analytics offered by IoT sensors, which can prevent dangerous machine failures
- robotics and autonomous solutions that remove human workers from hazardous zones altogether
- real-time communication, enabling higher visibility and communication relating to hazards on site.
Sites that are more efficient and have fewer safety risks are likely to be more productive sites – and it’s in this area that construction really stands to gain from 5G.
“5G will have a direct positive impact on productivity,” Calle Skillsäter from Volvo Construction Equipment (one of a small number of companies trialling 5G mobile connectivity) assures us. “Today’s remote control technology provides a delay which makes it very difficult to control a machine with any speed or precision, but 5G will be as good as real time. In addition, the picture quality is much better, video footage is in a better resolution and 5G provides a more reliable connection – all of which makes it easier for the operator in the simulator.”
In Australia, productivity growth has stagnated in recent years and, with an ageing population and slowed rates of income growth, it’s not expected to bounce back to previous levels. “This means that new drivers of productivity will have to be found if income growth and wellbeing are to improve in the coming years,” according to Australian Government researchers on the impacts of 5G.
Products (like ours!) that simultaneously address on-site execution, digital collaboration and back-office integration with mobile technology can work even more effectively with a faster internet connection – boosting productivity through:
- better planning
- improved on-site coordination
- better communication
- reliable performance monitoring
- real-time data capture
- mobile access to data and documentation
- less admin
- fewer manual systems
- predictive analytics
- automated reporting.
At sitemobi, we’re eager to see the positive effects of 5G technology spread across the construction industry. Companies who’ve chosen to invest in mobile, cloud-based solutions are already living the benefits of more efficient and productive operations – 5G offers the promise of an even brighter, smarter and more prosperous future.