Robots and drones equipped with scanners are often held up as a productivity breakthrough for construction, allowing teams to monitor activity and measure progress automatically without requiring the physical presence of surveyors and supervisors. But their usefulness is limited by the data-carrying capacity of today’s wireless telecommunication networks, the “pipes” through which data travels. A 5G network is being tested in Singapore that may be as much as 20,000% faster than the current 4G systems.
From an article in Global Construction View by Rod Sweet.
Robots and drones may be able to collect gigabytes of data per second, but it takes a long time to send that quantity of data over the airwaves through today’s fourth generation (4G) networks, meaning real-time interaction between the BIM model, say, and the new data coming in is difficult.
The emerging fifth generation (5G) standard for broadband cellular networks could change that because its “pipes” are exponentially bigger.
Claims vary but according to Verizon, 4G delivers data at a rate of 100 megabytes per second while 5G can deliver at a rate of 20 gigabytes a second, a nearly 20,000% increase, meaning real-time transmission of huge amounts of data becomes possible.
What this might mean for construction is now being tested in Singapore in a pilot run by Gammon Pte Ltd, the Singaporean subsidiary of Hong Kong-headquartered Gammon Construction, mobile operator Singtel, and the Building Construction Authority, an agency of the government of Singapore.
Standalone 5G network
The trial is taking place on Sentosa island where Singtel has deployed a standalone 5G network for Gammon’s site running in the 3500 MHz spectrum band. Supported by Govtech Singapore, the project is set to run until the end of 2022.
The GSMA, a global organisation representing mobile network operators, has prepared a case study of the trial to show the potential of 5G combined with mobile computing and data collection to advance construction productivity.
Four things to test
According to it, Gammon hopes to boost productivity by as much as 40% by using robots, drones and other technology in four ways. In the first, 5G-connected robots from Boston Dynamics track the progress of the structure being built. The robots use 3D laser scanners to update a building information model (BIM) residing in the cloud.
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