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Internet Connectivity on Job Sites

Have you heard about Generation C? Maybe you are a prominent member…

Most often members of Generation C are characterised as digital natives and very tech-savvy. Unlike Generation X or Y, it is not bound to a specific age group (even though most members tend to be younger).

Interestingly, there is no consensus what the C stands for. However, I really like “connected”, since member of Generation C are connected to people and things in ways not imagined in the past. Social media, gadgets, and wireless technology allow Generation C to share data on the fly.

So, businesses have adapted to this generation; co-creation products and services or co-creation marketing campaigns are common nowadays. There are also a lot of companies tweeting, posting etc. about what and how they do things. This applies also to the construction industry. Maybe we are not as far as other industries, but social media channels or co-creation marketing campaigns are now standard and can be widely found.

Also, there has been a general trend in the construction industry (as in other industries) to collect and share more data. Most prominent are telematic or job site solutions in our industry. Often users can contribute data (e.g. through job site pictures documenting results or potentially dangerous spots).

What’s so special about job sites

However, collecting and sharing data requires most often that gadgets or products in general are connected to the Internet. Most often there is mobile phone coverage and it is very easy to establish the required connections. But there might be situations in which it is difficult or even impossible. 

I do not want to give you the standard Australia example with a map showing that most of the inner parts of Australia are without mobile coverage. Obviously, it is very sparsely populated and the distances are huge (at least from a European point of view). But I want to give you an example form Germany. After Germany’s re-union in 1990 the government started major infrastructure projects to better connect the east and western parts. There is only one project left to be finished. It is a ca. 70km motorway (Autobahn) stretch between the cities of Kassel and Eisenach, providing crucial west east connection; all the way from the huge ports in the Netherlands to Eastern Europe

(based on mobile coverage map on: http://www.computerbild.de/specials/netzabdeckungskarte/)

The picture shows mobile coverage for the last 20 km or so of this stretch; the motorway to be built is marked black. As you can see, there is either only GSM (2G) coverage or no coverage at all. Even with 2G, it might get difficult to share plenty of data. If you choose another provider you might get lucky and get some 3G coverage instead of 2G, but still plenty of areas with no coverage.

Alternative Connectivity

One could argue that mobile networks are not the only way to connect to the Internet. Using existing WiFi hotspots could be an option. If you want to share data from a job site in Estonia or Lithuania, you might have a fair chance to use hotspots as these countries have apparently the best and widest-ranging WiFi hotspot network in the world. Unfortunately, the WiFi hotspot density is much lower in other countries.

Coming back to Australia, here some providers offer satellite-based communication (e.g. Iridium or Inmarsat) in areas of missing mobile coverage. Unfortunately, satellite communication is very expensive compared to mobile networks. 

Where does it leave us?

In summary, sharing (more and more) data from users, machines and systems on a job site becomes most likely the new normal. However, job sites might end up in areas without any form of cost-effective Internet connection. Therefore, I think job sites continue to be a special case for Internet connectivity in the near future. 

My approach to this special case is that (a) we make sure that all machines, systems and users(!) can work on job sites, even if they are not connected and (b) that there is a plan in place, how all important data of a job site can be brought into the Internet later on (e.g. buffering, USB flash drive, etc.).

What do you think? Is Internet connectivity on job sites an on-going problem or will it be solved soon?

 

mlimbach 17.07.2017 0 514
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