5G for construction: From now to beyond

The buzz around 5G is growing. And in construction, while the prospect is creating real excitement, many are still unaware of the tangible impact it will have. Burcin Kaplanoglu, Executive Director and Innovation Officer at Oracle Construction and Engineering, explores further.

Dr. Burcin Kaplanoglu is a recognised industry technologist, thought leader, and keynote speaker. He leads industry strategy & innovation at Oracle’s Global Construction and Engineering business unit, and is the co-founder of Oracle Construction and Engineering Innovation Lab.

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rom a business sense, 5G will be an enabler. Better connectivity is obviously good for business, particularly in terms of data collection, capture and analysis/evaluation. But with 5G, much of this will happen in real time, meaning decisions can be made more quickly and issues addressed sooner.

Thoughts from IT and business professionals

A recent study by Oracle Communications titled ‘5G Smart Ecosystems Are Transforming: Are You Ready?’ found that over 80% of IT and business professionals believe 5G will increase employee productivity, reduce costs, enhance the customer experience, and improve business agility. But does 5G have the same potential for the construction industry?

It seems so, with 30% of business respondents and 24% of IT respondents saying that real-time asset or process monitoring is a key solution that 5G can provide.

3 keys to 5G success in construction and engineering

1. Enhanced mobile broadband: High speeds and greater capacity will allow fast access to data intensive cloud applications, and enable multiple users to interact with each other in real time from anywhere.

2. Mission-critical operations: Low latency and high reliability help people understand what’s happening on site in real time – essential for a complex and constantly-evolving construction site.

3. Massive machine-type communications: High scalability and geographic coverage will enable initiatives such as smart cities, where the number of nodes will be considerably higher than on a normal project.

Imagine a construction site where all workers, vehicles, drones, devices and assets are equipped with sensors and 4K or 8K camera feeds. The data collected from these sensors – combined with real-time analysis using AI – will improve productivity, safety, and compliance on- and off-site.

The visual data collected can also be combined with historical data to show how a model has evolved. This could increase productivity by reducing downtime and provide predictions for potential scheduling and production issues.

A cautionary tale

There are, however, important considerations around 5G for construction and engineering, particularly in terms of standardisation and security. Some construction businesses are sitting on huge amounts of data across their portfolio but don’t have standardised processes in place to measure, analyse, or understand the data. 5G and deployment of sensors will just add to that data issue. Standardising processes across a portfolio ensures governance control and visibility.

With the ability to capture and share more construction site data, security must certainly be a consideration. The aim of 5G is for higher security and how it’s going to be implemented will be clear in time.

There are many unknowns with new technology, and 5G is no different. There will be ways in which 5G can be used in the future that we haven’t even imagined yet, and that’s why we’re only really scratching at the surface of the opportunity today.

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