Rural High-speed Cellular Coverage & Infrastructure Planning

A large crowd gathers, often dressed in a combination of suits and construction worker gear. A giant red ribbon is cut with a ridiculously large pair of scissors. The media is there, and even political rivals are faking smiles and offering handshakes (at least pre-COVID). 

Everyone is thinking of the future as they build the next <fill in the blank>. It may be a bridge, hospital or highway.

Nothing seems to inspire the future as a large infrastructure project. While there is often a decent return on investment for a bridge, it pales in comparison to spending money in other areas that are far less “media-friendly.” Fixing legacy sewer pipes and repairing ageing bridges likely offers a better return on your tax dollar, but no one wants to put on a suit to talk about that. The same goes for upgrading Internet connectivity for rural areas; what is sexy about something you cannot even see?

However, upgrading the Internet connection speed for rural residents may be the single most significant investment that a government can make. It helps with so many aspects of their lives that a single dollar spent may translate into more than 10 dollars of return for the community, and it is also great for business.

First, before we get to the benefits, let’s answer a fundamental question:

 

Why should the upgrade be cellular (and not landline connections)?

 

Sure, it is technically feasible that money is spent on upgrading landline-based connections in rural areas. But, while it is technically possible, it is not economically viable. The sheer distance between homes in many areas makes it way too expensive to trench landlines between properties. In this case, cellular-based technology makes a lot of sense.

One may ask, “would we just put in 5G?” In an ideal world, you would, but 5G, also suffer from an inability to handle long distances cost-effectively. For many areas, a 4G Network would be a great choice. With the limited amount of traffic being sent, the speeds would be in the upper part of the range, more than enough to handle video-based traffic. Also, since the coverage would be better, commuters could also be used while driving through the area, increasing public safety.

As for the benefits of better Internet connectivity in rural areas:

 

Better education for children

 

With few exceptions, the education system in most rural areas falls below the standard offered in most cities. When you look at how larger school districts are starting to use technology, the gap grows even further. Many are now using smart boards and asking children to access video-based content as part of their homework assignments. When you can barely get dial-up speed for connectivity at home, this puts you way behind.

Higher speed connectivity allows children to access information in a way that puts them on-par with the students in big cities. It also provides for remote learning for children who are unable to attend regular school.

 

Better opportunities for business

 

I have stated on many occasions that no company, regardless of their size or industry they are in, can function normally without a reliable form of Internet access. This has limited many companies for opening or thriving in rural communities. It has also limited a type of business that rural locations could easily compete in: e-commerce.

By having access to the Internet, many rural businesses can access the world of Amazon and Etsy. Also, they can interact with customers online and in social media outlets better.

 

Better access to health care

 

When your primary doctor is 2 hours away by car, you may not get things checked out nearly as often. It gets even worse when you have to travel a full day by car to see a medical specialist. 

It is for this reason that life expectancy is often lower in many rural areas than their urban counterpart.

Virtual medicine is just starting to take hold, but it requires a relatively quick and stable Internet connection to be viable. By providing this, we can reduce medical costs and significantly improve the level of health care.

Naturally, it will not be sexy to provide better coverage for rural residents. I doubt anyone will make one of those cool time-lapse videos for people to watch. But, it does offer the best bang for the buck, and we need to do it now.

 

5 real-life examples 5G will change life forever

 

Ok, we have all heard the hype. 5G is blazing fast, it will allow you to do things that we never thought capable over a cellular network. But, what does that mean to your day to day life?

 

As a bit of a primer, 5G brings three things to the network that make it different from previous networks, namely the current 4G (LTE) that we have now:

- Its gain in speed is simply incredible. It offers upload and download speeds that easily beat most available landline connections.

- The latency (the amount of time it takes to send a bit of information back and forth) is so low, it opens up the possibility of truly real-time applications like never before.

- The network offers a mind-boggling number of users in a set geographical area

This all sounds great, but what does this mean for life for the average person? Glad you asked, here you go:

 

Reduced Internet inequality around the world

For many of us, it is hard to believe that everyone in the world does not have access to high-speed Internet. And, this is not just in third world countries, but also in major North American cities. Many still use dial-up as their main access method or have no access at all.

 

5G will help to alleviate this for both urban and rural users around the world. For urban ones (where 5G may be readily available), they can now access key things like online government forms, e-learning and more. Although 5G may not reach many rural customers right away, the expansion of 4G still offers a great experience for many of these things.

 

Improved Rural life

This point is linked to the first point … people in many rural areas will see a greater quality of life. They will have better access to healthcare (through advanced e-health), to education and to open businesses. This will help to raise the level of health, income and to open up many opportunities for advancement.

 

Increased urban capacity should equal lower data rates

Try browsing a video or making a real-time video conference call in most downtown cores during rush hour … yeah, it might not always work like you want. Network operators have done a great job in building out capacity, but there is always a finite amount of capacity. 5G will help to alleviate this and will in fact possibly create excessive capacity (if you can believe it).

This extra capacity should help to reduce the costs of cellular data, allowing for competitive data rates and the likelihood of much bigger data plans (even unlimited) becoming available.

 

Reduce the needs for office space (by changing how remote work is done)

The past month has seen millions of workers being forced to work remote, affecting the availability of tools like Zoom. It has also caught the attention of those who own and operate commercial real estate properties. Many companies have found that although it has taken some adjustments, many are operating well with employees working from home in their pajamas. It brings up a question … do companies need so much office space going forward?

 

5G will help to expedite this trend. When workers find out how great of an experience 5G brings, they will want to work from home more than ever. Employers will also love the ability to lock down corporate traffic and keep it off of the public Internet. This may reduce the demand for office space in most urban areas.

 

We will monitor and track everything

There is a huge trend towards making things “smart” in our lives … watches, scales and heating units are just a few of the examples. This works great when the device is expected to be used inside of a home or office as there is usually an available Wi-Fi network to connect to. However, this becomes a bit of an issue when the devices are used in multiple areas or while mobile.

 

Today, many have used cellular-based devices to track key shipments, but the cost was often difficult to justify for many applications. Technologies like CAT-M and NB-IoT will lower both the upfront costs and on-going costs, while the aforementioned uptick in network capacity will ensure that devices always have available resources to connect.

 

5G is here: let the cord cutting begin!

Hello and thanks for reading.

 

In many ways, North America is leading the charge on technology.  However, one area that we might have been a little slow is in the use of cellular-based connectivity for the home.  Most of us have a wired Internet connection for all of our kids to play Fortnite and browse YouTube on.

 

That may change, and faster than you think …

 

Verizon announced this week that parts of 4 US cities can now use 5G technology to replace their existing landline connections.  The service is reasonably priced and offers speeds that would allow most people to easily make the switch (and in fact, it may be faster than what is offered today by cable/DSL in their area).

 

To expedite this deployment, the FCC has started to make it harder for local governments to drag their feet on 5G by placing mandates to force faster approvals and even to force access to government-owned equipment for 5G equipment.  Not to be outdone, AT&T is trying to leapfrog over Verizon by offering 5G connectivity for mobile devices in as many as 12 cities before the end of the year.

 

What does this mean for landline providers?

For now, not much, but you have to know there are some nervous executives in many companies now.  Internet connectivity is often the main reason why people stay connected for other services, such as home phone and cable.  By moving those customers over to wireless, landline providers risk the chance of losing more than just the revenue from your monthly Internet connection.

 

However, I think this is just a natural progress.  As little as 10 years ago, Wi-Fi was not common in most homes and was not widely available in most public areas.  Now, just about every mall, airport and office waiting room offers free Wi-Fi access to customers.  People have just grown used to the idea of not being locked down by cables …

 

Do keep in mind two important things:

  • 5G really is about mobile, so the likelihood is that most of the gains in traffic will be from devices that were likely already using cellular connectivity, or in the case of self-driving cars, ones that could never use a fixed connection.
  • 5G won’t be everywhere that quickly. They will focus most on the urban cores, so don’t expect it in the suburbs for a while.

 

However, expect to see more announcements about 5G over the next 12-24 months …. It is coming.

5G will push cellular gateway sales into the stratosphere

Having sold cellular gateways for the better part of the last two decades, I have been in a position to see the growth as well as anyone.  The initial products were based on very slow cellular technology, making them ideal for only transferring small bits of data.  As such, they were usually used by those who really needed to connect remote assets badly enough ... police cars, oil wells and more.

 

As we hit the world of 3G, there started to be enough bandwidth to expand the appeal (and the increase in the network coverage didn’t hurt either).  We started to see cellular gateways used in applications such as retail, hospitality, mobile office and more.  We even started to see people “cut the cord” (meaning that they were using cellular-based communication even in places where traditional landlines were readily available).

 

The launch of 4G helped to continue this trend, right up until today.  Speeds are now capable of transmitting large amounts of data and the latency of the networks has decreased to the point that real-time applications like video are feasible and often comparable to landline speeds in some areas.

 

Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet- wait until 5G hits.

 

First, why is 5G different?  I mean 4G offered enough speed that many never even used all of the available bandwidth, so why do we need 5G?  In some cases, you don’t, and I have written about that a lot in the past.  But this will not stop 5G from sending the cellular gateway business into a “hockey stick” growth starting next year ... here is why:

 

The speeds and latency really are that much better

4G speeds were great, but when you started to load up users onto the connection, it started to show that it was not as fast or capable as your available DSL connection.  5G has got you covered ... most people will see as fast (or faster) speeds than they have now, meaning that it truly is a viable option to cut the cord at most small and medium businesses as well as in all homes.

 

People will value the portability of cellular more than they know

Ok, most of us (based on what I see at my kid’s sports practices) have found out the value of having a live Internet connection in their hands.  However, think of what it can do for your business ... you can move outside, such as in the case of a store wanting to sell their wares in the parking lot ... you can have the same connection as you move from site to site, such as in the case of a construction company ... you have a truly functional disaster recovery solution, in the event that you have to evacuate your building ... you don’t have to worry about construction accidents damaging your line when they are working outside.

 

The capacity of the network is staggering

One of the concerns that many had about 4G (and networks before it) was network capacity and its effects on speed.  Namely, if a network gets congested, will my connection speeds really suffer?  While no network has endless capacity, 5G offers the ability to support more connections than ever before, making this less of an issue.

 

It takes mobile gaming to a new level

Ok, this might not fall under the category of “corporate reasoning,” but one cannot deny the incredible amount of money spent by gamers each year.  5G provides a speed and latency environment that just screams out gaming, and I can see many of them looking for a common experience at home and on the road.

 

The cellular carriers won’t resist selling this by the ton

The final reason comes down to something simple ... cellular carriers will see this as a huge potential area of growth.  While the amount of data traffic will continue to grow exponentially over the next decade, not sure about the number of smartphone users.  Sure, they will add some here and there, but do you know anyone who wants a smartphone and does not have one?  Replacing DSL and cable lines in the home, especially for cellular carriers who do not have a landline counterpart in their company, is just too much of an exciting prospect.

 

While we like to avoid making these blogs too much of a sales pitch, Novotech looks forward to helping you make the leap towards using cellular gateways to power your business.  We have the best lines (list lines) and all of the expertise that you need to get started!

 

 

 

Why your GrubHub order doesn’t arrive without IoT

I have to admit; I was not one of the early adopters when it came to using food apps. Perhaps it is my age, maybe it is my level of pickiness when eating, or perhaps it is that I am a decent cook. Whatever the reason, I never saw what all of the fuss was about until COVID.

 

While we have not become regular users of the delivery apps, they had brought us some of our favourite meals that we were missing when the dining areas of restaurants were shut down.

 

The ability to get food from dozens of restaurants is something that most of us never saw coming, and if it were not for many IoT components, it would never have happened in the first place! IoT has allowed for two major trends in the restaurant world to occur food delivery apps and the “virtual kitchen.”

 

Food Delivery apps

 

These apps rely on three key pieces of technology to happen:

  1. The location of where you are (which is often done using GPS or other location-based services).
  2. The area of the closest available delivery person (using the GPS of their phones)
  3. Internet connectivity on three sides (the application’s servers, the restaurant and the user) provides cellular-based connectivity on at least one connection.

 

If any of these components were not functioning, much of the convenience of the process would disappear. This includes how you can track the location of your food while avoiding being surprised while in the shower, which is the UPS driver's domain!

 

Virtual Kitchen/Restaurant

 

For some, this is a new term that you may not be familiar with. We are all familiar with our local restaurant, where they have a fixed address that we go and visit. However, there is a growing trend in the food business where there is no actual storefront for you to visit a restaurant; instead, you can only place orders via your favourite food delivery app.

 

Many of these “restaurants” share kitchen facilities with other “restaurants,” which lowers their operating costs. It may be underutilized kitchens or facilities like schools that rent them out on the weekend for extra revenue.

 

Since their only way to receive orders from customers is via the application, most of these places have more than one way of accessing the Internet (in the event of an outage). Some of them use cellular-based routers to enable high-speed connectivity, especially in places where it is not feasible to have a landline installed (such as at a school cafeteria).

 

When you combine these new inventions, it is easy to see how it is changing the restaurant business forever (whether it is good or bad, I will leave you to decide). Either way, you can thank IoT for allowing it all to happen in the first place!

Kids may not go back to school in September… IoT is here to help either way

For the past two months, my wife (along with millions of other parents) is doing her new day job: a 3rd and 9th-grade teacher. The kids are still doing a fair amount of work online through various platforms and seem to be maintaining some schedule. Like most parents, though, we are wondering how long this can continue as it is.  

There has been an increasing number of reports in many areas that these practices will continue until there is a vaccine readily available. We are seeing this in many post-secondary institutions already moving to online only for the upcoming fall semester. So, how can we improve things if our kids are still home when September rolls around?

IoT is here to help, and it can help both if our kids do stay home or if the kids go back (requiring a fair amount of changes to keep them safe).

 

If the kiddies stay home

 

The idea of this does make me sad. One of my favourite commercials each year is the one from Staples where the parents sing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year“ while shopping for school supplies. 

In all seriousness, IoT can help solve two issues if the kids stay home.

Each morning when I was in school, the teacher yelled out our name, and we yelled back, “here or present.” We then were pretty much planted in our chairs unless we had permission to get up. 

One issue with remote teaching is that teachers do not always know if kids are in front of their computers. It turns out that kids have figured out how to move around while on Zoom calls.  

One forward-thinking school decided to use Bluetooth seat sensors for their kids. If the child were to get up for more than a couple of seconds, a teacher is notified.

The other issue has to do with connectivity. Many of us with super-fast Internet connections forget that a massive part of the population does not have such luxury, especially in rural areas. 

One way to solve this is through the use of low-cost cellular routers. 4G provides enough bandwidth to get the job done, and today’s routers allow for unwanted / after-hour traffic to be blocked to prevent overages. The costs of each router can be made up by reducing spending on the upkeep of the schools.

 

If the kiddies go back

 

Yes, they are out of the house! But, how do we keep them safe and not have to shut the schools down again?  

One of the main symptoms of the virus is an elevated temperature, so scanning the kids for fever is a must. However, waiting until they are inside is too late; they may pass along the virus on the bus or in the schoolyard. We need to move the scanners out to the edge of the school property or on the bus. Mobile IoT scanners can be hooked up to smartphones or cellular modems to make this happen.

Once they are on the property, we need to ensure that they are social distancing. 

There are two ways, depending on the age of the children. For the younger ones, video scanning technology can help. It uses AI to note that kids are too close to each other and can keep track of this (in the event of a reported infection). For the older ones, we can use what is always in their pockets (or their hands)- their smartphones. In many jurisdictions around the world, Bluetooth-based tracking can track the distance between students and keep track of who may have been near an infected student.

The last thing has to do with kids being homesick. With temperatures being taken, more children will likely not be allowed to attend, often for up to 2-3 weeks at a time. This threatens to put them far behind their classmates. This is where smartboards come into play.

Now, the use of smartboards is far from new, but they are incredible for enabling the sharing of information. The teachers can easily share videos as well as the remote students, can easily see what is being written on the board. It also allows for improved interaction with the rest of the class.

Parents are excited for their kids to go back to school in the fall. 

However, no one wants to put them into an unsafe situation. IoT can help not only keep them safe but also to help them thrive in these tough times

COVID is making it tougher for retailers to use IoT to fight off Amazon

I have written before about how much I am not a big fan of malls (or any in-store shopping for that matter). I usually know what I want, and, if available online, I will typically buy it. Based on trends over the past decade, I may be somewhat alone on this, as the percentage of people who shop has not accelerated as much as you would think (or as the media has suggested). However, COVID has started to change that, and this is a troubling trend for retailers.

To get people into their stores, it has become incumbent on retailers to offer a level of service/experience that could not be matched online. One of the ways that they were doing this involved IoT solutions, allowing for an incredible level of customization.
Sadly, the virus has put a bit of a damper on this, at least for now.

 

Self-search Kiosks

 

While they have been prevalent in malls' main corridors, stores were only starting to deploy touch screens to allow customers to navigate the store better.
They were able to direct the customer as to where an item was, inform them of the stock level and, in some cases, even have an employee waiting there when they arrived at the spot. While people have not abandoned using touch screens entirely, many will avoid using them, regardless of the precautions that have been taken.

 

Interactive displays

 

I wrote about this in my book and previous blogs. I had to buy a new faucet for a bathroom and walked into the hardware store to see this massive wall of metal. I had no idea which faucet to look at it. The smart display made this easy. It started by lighting up all of the faucets, and as I went through the checklist, it turned off the light for ones that no longer met my criteria. Once I picked one, it quickly highlighted where to find it on the shelf.

Like the self-search kiosk, customers may not be overly excited about first spending a lot of time in the store and interacting with a screen. The same holds for displays that allowed someone to visualize what a particular colour (or piece of furniture) would look like in their room. People are streamlining their time in stores and will not stick around for these features.

 

Free Wi-Fi and coffee stations

 

Many stores have been using cellular technology to provide free Wi-Fi (using it to create a network that is not connected to their leading network) for their customers. At the same time, people may still want some coffee while shopping; they are more likely to want it to go for the ride home.

 

Smart dressing rooms

 

While most dressing rooms have simple mirrors, forward-thinking retailers have started to use smart mirrors to help to increase sales. Imagine you were inside a store and had brought in a new top into the dressing room. You try it on, and then you think, "Will this go with the skirt/pants that I bought last week?" or perhaps, "I don't have a skirt/pants that will match this?" Not to worry, it has you covered. First, as it would recognize you from your previous visit, it would be able to not only know what skirt you had bought but also use AI to visualize how they would look together. It could also do the same for a piece that you did not already have available in the store. It could even allow you to ask for an associate to bring it to you with the touch of a button.

Now, don't get me wrong. Over the long term, these (and other IoT-based technologies) will help brick-and-mortar stores fight against online shopping. But, until a vaccine, customers may be a little nervous about using them. They are still worth investigating for most retailers, in the long run, perhaps installing them in 2021.

Securing 5G: How do we secure a “dirty network?”

5G is everywhere. It is not the actual network itself, as it is only available sparingly in some areas but instead, let's talk about how our lives are going to change. Who needs to go to a hospital when your doctor can operate from anywhere? Traffic jams? 

They will disappear once we all have self-driving cars that talk to the network and each other.

 

But, can this all indeed be done securely?

To explain, let’s go back in time just a bit. The whole reason for the development of the Internet by the US Military was to create (this quote is from the New York Times) “a reliable network out of unreliable parts.” The Internet was built with many checks and balances to ensure that your data always made it safely to the other side during times of disaster. However, this left open many security flaws that are still being exploited today.

The original network was not designed for billions of access points and billions of users, most of which are far from technically inclined. By default, the Internet is a “dirty network.” Sure, we have taken precautions, such as data encryption, to ensure that you can safely send your credit card information to Amazon, but what about the network itself?

Take a significant electrical grid that covers a city. The manufacturers of the different hardware components and the utility can take precautions to protect the security of the data. But, can they prevent every attempt to take over the network itself? This network would have thousands of entry points, whether put in intentionally or not. 

This is a considerable threat.

The threat becomes worse when you think of the possible widespread nature of “planted backdoors.” The theory is that many governments could demand that manufacturers put in a backdoor in their equipment to allow them to manipulate a device or even the entire network. While this is dangerous during peacetime, it is downright scary during a time of war; taking over financial, power and security systems would weaken your enemy.

 

So, how does 5G play into this?

Before 5G, most cellular data network traffic was user-centric; you looked up information on the Internet, posted stuff on social media or sent the e-mail. 

While machines did talk to each other, they did so at nowhere near the frequency that we expect to happen on 5G. 

It is anticipated that billions of devices will talk to each other in an effort to automate everyday life more.

 

How can we possibly secure each device and the network that they run on?

Naturally, you can’t. This is the dilemma of securing 5G or any network of its size. Sure, there are things you can do to protect your device, but ultimately, if there is a backdoor into your device, it could be moot. 

We need to be diligent about inspections of factories and products, and we need to put pressure on all parties (network providers, device manufacturers and software providers) to look harder for security flaws and increase penalties for failing to do so. Finally, as consumers, you need to ensure that you are enabling all security features and encryption and only buying popular products- but will that be enough?

Why companies who “automated” have fared the best in 2020

As an avid follower of the stock market, I am always on the lookout for an early sign of a trend to make money. There have been some great long-term trends over the past few years, ranging from the move for people to eat healthier, the “greening” of the energy market and, of course, the move towards IoT and other disruptive technologies.

 

The onset of the pandemic caused the overall stock market to plunge in a manner that has not happened in our lifetimes. However, the pain was not felt equally by everyone. Many companies saw a spike in their sales (I mean, who thought we would see Chef Boyardee become a big thing again) while others like Disney dropped precipitously due to the closing of their parks and cruises. 

 

Throughout all of this, however, there is an exciting trend among all industries. Those who have implemented different forms of remote working and, primarily, automation have fared better than those who did not. All of the automation in the world might not have helped particular industries during this crisis. You can fully automate a baseball stadium, but if there are bans on large crowds, it wouldn’t matter at all. However, many companies were not quite in that drastic of a situation, yet did not fare that much better.

 

Just look at companies that moved towards automating their warehouse and stores; they had fewer cases of COVID and saw fewer drops in their productivity levels. The same goes for companies that have moved away from having human analysts and now use software-based programs. These include industries such as the financial markets that have seen minimal issues over the past two months. You may say, “Well, my business needs to have face-to-face interaction, so those do not apply to me.” However, there are almost always ways that automation, especially IoT, can help. 

 

Remote sensors can prevent property maintenance teams from having to go on-site as often. At the same time, smart video surveillance systems can allow you to interact with visitors without having to be in front of them. As I have written before, I think that the pandemic will be a wake-up call for many companies who will now explore technology from a completely different angle. 

Previously, it was all about the cost of automation when compared to the cost of an employee or contractor- did it make sense to invest? Now, I think many companies will see technology (remote computing, automation, IoT, etc.) as a way to not only reduce costs but also to ensure they have a better emergency plan for next time.

 

 

Where does the average small business want to look? Here are a few ideas:

  • As you move towards putting things on the cloud (for access from anywhere), all of your key sites will need to have a backup method of accessing the Internet. Think cellular routers here as a low-cost method of protection.
  • Sensor-based solutions are great for letting your team know what is going on from anywhere; ideal when you are trying to social distance
  • Robots may be costly for many businesses, but there is an increasing amount of lower-cost devices on the way. These may be used for greeting customers, working in high-risk areas or even for deliveries. They are also ideal for riskier roles or those that may cause physical injury.
  • As we can gather more information than ever before, software packages are allowing for data to be crunched and actions to be taken in ways that would have been science-fiction a decade ago. There are cloud-based and turn-key services that fit the budget of even the smallest companies.

 

If you are looking at making a move, do remember that there are many emerging cellular technologies out there to allow you to do more than ever before. If your business needs blazing speeds for communication, 5G will be just what the doctor ordered. If you just need reliable connectivity for small bits of data, CAT-M is made for you.  

How IoT optimizes the Construction and Infrastructure Industry  

When one thinks of construction, a lot of things may come to mind: cool pieces of large machinery, very tall cranes and of course, very hard-working men and women. One thing that you might not think of is technology, and that belief is well-founded. The construction and infrastructure industry has been routinely ranked very low in technology use compared to other sectors.

With several large projects likely to take place (thanks to the expected large stimulus packages), I want to cover different ways that IoT is helping maximize the work done while reducing costs and making it safer.

Precision GPS

Most of us think of GPS as something that is reasonably accurate. Your smartphone roughly knows where you are, and this is accurate enough to get you to the closest Starbucks. However, if you are building large-scale projects, you need to have a higher level of accuracy. Precision GPS solutions are being used to ensure that things go where they are supposed to by accuracy down to the inch. Precision GPS is also heavily used in the agriculture space.

Point to Point communication

Imagine a construction site before it starts; do you visualize a high-speed Internet connection? In most cases, construction (both new and upgrades) often takes place in areas that are not covered by traditional landline services. While there are a few ways to solve this issue, one way is using a technology that uses Point to Point communication, which is when you set up two “points” to communicate. This set-up enables you to extend an existing connection from a nearby source.

Technologies (like Free Space Optics) are built to allow for a rugged and easy to set up solution. They are ideal for extending coverage (such as for a new building) and can easily be re-used for the next project when once finished.

GPS Tracking

The construction industry uses some huge (and expensive) “toys” to do their work. 

They are not only expensive to buy/lease but are also costly to operate. These tools need to be up and working at all times to avoid expensive losses of productivity.

GPS Tracking allows you to know where they are and how they are operating at all times. This both reduces the chance of theft and reduces on-going operating costs.

Monitoring of “previously unmonitorable” equipment

In the previous point, we covered how large vehicles are tracked. Due to the costs involved, it was easy to justify the cost of doing so. However, what about things that are not quite as valuable but still vital: think construction fencing, smaller equipment and even the porta-potty?

The lower cost of IoT hardware, as well as the reduced size that has been introduced by technologies such as CAT-M and LoRa, have opened up the ability to monitor equipment more than ever before. This reduces the chance of loss and maximizes your uptime.

Sensors

IoT, as I always say, is about information. With so many things going on at most sites, it is impossible to know everything that is going on, increasing the chance of accidents. 

Sensors can provide valuable information to warn about things before they happen. This may be vibration sensors that can alert to early signs of an earthquake, it can be heated/cold sensors that alert to conditions that may make it unsafe to work, it can be humidity sensors that alert to levels that may damage essential supplies- or it can be motion sensors that alert to an unwanted presence after hours.

On-person biometrics

Sensors help you keep track of the status and condition of critical assets. This also holds true for your most valuable assets: your team members. 

First used by the military for soldiers in combat, biometric sensors in clothing are being used by some companies to alert to issues with key team members, such as those driving the large cranes on sites.

Whether it be from an illness, work accident or environmental issue, you can be alerted when this team member has a problem, even if they are unable to tell you so themselves.