A 5G transmission tower in front of a blue sky and large white clouds

The 5G revolution is coming, but are commercial construction companies ready?

The future of construction is bright for commercial construction companies that can capitalize on the coming 5th generation (5G) of wireless networks. Though the full experience of 5G hasn’t arrived, the technology is already here, presenting an incredible transformation that has the potential to make your company safer, more productive and more profitable.

Back at the turn of the millennium, 3G provided the network that allowed your old flip phone to connect to the Internet. Then came 4G about a decade later, permitting video streaming and numerous apps that needed continuous wireless connectivity. Now 5G is enabling the next level in speed and capacity. Some believe 5G will be 10 times faster than 4G, with some others estimating that it could even be 100 times faster than current speeds. Either way, the real magic of 5G is what is known as “low latency”. Latency is the delay between a user’s action and the network’s response. It causes the digital skipping you get when using a video conferencing app like Google Video Chat or Zoom. With improved speed and seamless connectivity, combined with cloud computing, your digital devices will become essential tools for digitizing and automating your construction worksite in profound ways. Furthermore, 5G will improve collaboration opportunities for businesses working in remote sites, as well as help personnel work better remotely.

A recent Boston Consulting Group report predicted that 5G’s impact on construction will add $127 billion in GDP and create upwards of 450,000 new construction jobs. 5G small cells will need to be built onto existing structures such as light poles and buildings. Construction of edge computing data centres will also be a must. (Edge computing entails data collection and computation at the source, rather than at great distances, in a centralized network, the cloud). These developments, combined with the demands of futuristic construction sites using emerging technology such as site mapping drones, remote controlled cranes and autonomous delivery trucks, will transform the construction sector and offer tremendous opportunities for innovative companies. That is, provided these companies have the courage to embrace change, of course.

How will worksites change? Here are some ways we can expect the commercial construction sector to evolve.

Holographic building visualization using virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR)

Imaginea contractor with mixed VR/AR reality smart goggles that employees and customers wear on-site to view a virtual model of the building or elements of the construction process, such as holographic structural steel, framing, or electrical schematics. With 5G’s power, speed and accuracy, your clients would be able to envision the building from its early stages right to doors open, from the ground breaking to the ribbon cutting ceremonies, in new ways. And they could even invite partners and vendors to join from off-site.

Monitoring throughout a structure’s lifecycle

Consider the power of using smart sensors fixed to rebar and embedded in concrete aggregate to send data to cloud computers where it can be subject to rapid and in-depth analysis. Thus, engineers can evaluate whether concrete is poured correctly and track any shifting of concrete over time, thereby improving safety and signalling potential maintenance issues. 5G can permit smart buildings and infrastructure that signal when structures are unsafe and need proper maintenance.

Real-time design changes shared widely

Envision your architects and designers providing 2D and 3D changes to digital blueprints that are instantaneously available for viewing and engaging with on mobile phones, digital tablets or large monitors in construction trailers. 5G can ensure construction teams save time and avoid delays because someone forgot to bring the revised plans.

Effective safety compliance methods through tracking

Contemplate a workforce culture that rapidly supports safety compliance and best practices for risk management. Using wireless cameras and QR code scanning, site teams can use digital onboarding to confirm workers have completed safety training programs. The 5G network can ensure everyone is up-to-speed on the latest practices and prevent access to the site by workers or visitors who are not authorized because they missed vital and compulsory training.

These are just some of the possible ways we can improve construction sites by using 5G networks and devices. There is so much more that will be possible in the years to come. Once the bugs are worked out, 5G networks will enable improved quality, cost control, schedule compliance and security. And when combined with wearable technology, these innovations can also monitor occupational health and safety. f leaders embrace an innovative future with a renewed enthusiasm, the future of commercial construction worksites will be marvellous.

Black & McDonald is an integrated, multi-trade contractor that safely delivers electrical, mechanical and utility construction and maintenance solutions to clients in the commercial, industrial, institutional, government and utility sectors. Our multi-trade teams of technicians and professionals can help you establish plans for creating the workplace of the future with the aid of 5G technology.