The complexity of connecting the jobsite has been a key reason why construction has historically been one of the least digitized industries. Because of the rigors of the jobsite—where a building’s footprint, layout, and dimensions can change on a daily basis—conventional connectivity technologies have been inadequate. They have been unable to effectively penetrate concrete and steel, or work within the power limitations of the jobsite.

Because of these challenges, many universally used technologies have been no match for the construction environment. GPS (global positioning systems) used for navigating in our everyday lives have difficulty identifying locations on the vertical plane or getting a signal in an area with tall buildings, a common requirement in urban settings. They also need a lot of power, which is in short supply on the jobsite.

Similarly, UWB (ultra-wide band) networks require a lot of bandwidth and power, do not perform well in short-range applications, and can only support a limited number of devices. Wi-Fi is not effective because of its distance and signal limitations. BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) can’t support a large number of devices, particularly if they are clustered closely together in a typical jobsite set up.

A scalable, robust network for construction

It’s become clear that in order to bring digitization to the jobsite, contractors and service providers had to take an innovative new approach. Since traditional approaches are inadequate, the way to achieve connectivity and visibility on the jobsite is to build a communication network from the ground up that can withstand the rigors, and unique requirements, of the jobsite. It has to have a communication frequency that can penetrate steel and concrete as well as be able to communicate across large distances—on both horizontal and vertical planes, indoors and out. It has to be able to scale with the jobsite and enable tens of thousands of devices to be connected and function reliably, all at the same time. Hardware requirements must be minimal and devices must be able to function well in low power environments. And, network connectivity must be secure and, at the same time, enable different tools in the ecosystem to be easily connected and integrated, so contractors can benefit from synergistic capabilities and greater value.

The backbone for visibility, insight

Once a robust and reliable network is in place, it opens up a world of possibilities for contractors. It enables IoT (Internet of Things) sensors to collect data that can be aggregated and connected to the network, providing newfound visibility across the jobsite and the opportunity to elevate safety and productivity.

For example, wearable sensors can collect realtime data on workers’ location by project floor and zone, providing contractors with an immediate view into where hundreds of tradesmen are at any given time. In addition to using this data to help with time and attendance, these sensors can also include additional technology—such as a gyroscope, altimeter, and accelerometer—to detect worker falls as they happen. These fall alerts can be communicated through the network to safety and other designated personnel in realtime, so they can immediately dispatch help to improve response times and potentially reduce the injuries. Workers can also use these devices to communicate hazards or unsafe conditions right away, so they can be addressed before incidents occur. And, managers can send evacuation alerts to everyone’s devices to ensure that immediate notification in an emergency, as well as use the location data on the devices to make sure everyone is out of the building or locate any workers still inside.

Similarly, equipment tags can track equipment utilization and location in realtime, so workers don’t have to waste time looking for machinery or tools. And, when data from these sensors communicates with data from wearables, contractors can ensure that only authorized personnel certified on the equipment are operating it—helping them manage compliance and mitigate the safety and financial risks that come from improper equipment usage.

Connectivity brings added value

By having access to real-time data across the jobsite, contractors have the visibility to make more informed, data-driven decisions based on accurate information. This enables them to make adjustments to resources in real time, see patterns of potentially unsafe practices that can be corrected before incidents occur, and gain valuable insight into the resources needed to complete projects for future bids.

Importantly, this data gives contractors the insights they need to reduce risk and costs, while improving safety and productivity. And, it all starts with a robust network, which serves as the hub of the construction site, enabling critical communications and making way for the jobsite of the future.

As vice president of product, Ian Ouellette is responsible for the evolution of Triax Technologies’ product line and the growth of the platform’s analytical functionality that centers around client- and industry-specific business problems and use cases.