5 Ways the 5G Revolution will change Civil Engineering and the construction industry



What is 5G?


5G is a collection of new spectrum, new technologies, and new infrastructure that will convert cellular communications from voice and data communications to a high-performance unified networking platform. From a commercial standpoint, 5G integrates all network edge touchpoints into a single platform, from fixed wireless access to vehicle tracking to complete Internet of Things functionality (IoT). In a nutshell, 5G is smarter, quicker, and more efficient than the existing 4G.


This most recent standard includes three key elements: improved mobile broadband, ultra-low latency for time-sensitive applications, and the capability to connect huge numbers of IoT and rapid-capture technologies. Because of the high bandwidth and low latency of 5G, the technology is expected to greatly improve data capturing across a variety of project delivery processes.


Commercial construction companies that can take benefit of the next 5th generation (5G) of wireless networks have a bright future ahead of them.



How is 5G going to revolutionize the construction industry?


The commercial construction industry is expected to evolve in the following ways:

3D Models


An on-site view of project drawings can be provided by combining Augmented Reality (AR) with Virtual Reality (VR). These techniques can also be used in combination with BIM (Building Information Modeling) (BIM).


 VR in engineering Ref: Skywell software
VR in engineering Ref: Skywell software

Today's hardware is pricey and inconvenient for all-day use, but it will advance to lighter weight, less expensive variants. Thanks to 5G. With 5G's power, speed, and accuracy, clients will be able to imagine the project in new ways, from the foundation excavation to the ribbon cutting celebrations. This will make AR and VR more convenient and cost-effective for the construction industry, which will benefit greatly. Virtual reality and augmented reality will play a supporting role in the future construction industry as 5G is able to move and analyze vast amounts of data to the cloud or edge, both during construction and operations.


Using AR and VR, it will be possible to add extra information to the animation, such as task planning and material pricing, as well as the characteristics of various construction pieces. As a result, the scheduling of building tasks might be significantly streamlined. With 5G's power, speed, and accuracy, the clients will be able to imagine the project in new ways.


 

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Shared modifications to the design in real-time


Today's construction sites rely on models that are regularly updated and modified by the several stakeholders involved in the building of a structure, whether it's a building, bridge, or road. Consider architects and designers making 2D and 3D modifications to digital blueprints that are immediately available for viewing and interaction on mobile phones, digital tablets, or giant monitors in construction trailers.


5G can help construction crews save time and minimize delays caused by someone forgetting to deliver new drawings. This will be especially noticeable on large projects or when working in remote areas.



Machines that can be operated remotely and autonomously


Robotic operators or self-driving cranes and remotely operated machinery like bulldozers and excavators are examples of autonomous machinery.


Self-driving construction machinery will be able to recognise signals, map an area more precisely, and interact with one another more simply than ever before. All of these will improve the efficiency and safety of building sites. Sensors allow these components to continuously gather data about their surroundings, such as video images or physical measurements.


Remotely operated machine
Remotely operated machine

Autonomous machinery in motion can be stopped if it gets too close to an employee or structure, or a crane operator can be alerted to an unexpected problem using camera recognition. As a result, workplace safety can be improved by constantly analyzing huge volumes of data.


An operator can also operate the machinery from a safe location, this sort of equipment reduces the risk of workers being exposed to potentially hazardous conditions on the job site. Human error can be avoided by using self-driving machines.


However, if the communication fails or the data is not received in a timely manner, fatal incidents can occur.


Workplace Health and Safety


It is important to establish a workplace culture that quickly adheres to safety regulations and best practices for risk management. Digital onboarding can be used by site teams to verify that personnel have completed safety training programmes using wireless cameras and QR code scanning.


Monitoring high-risk areas and personnel and providing timely warnings can assist ensure a safe work environment. A network of sensors installed in high-risk regions can monitor environmental factors such as the quality of the air, temperature, or noise levels. Real-time alerts to workers in high-risk situations can reduce the amount of falls and being struck by machinery or other items, which can lead to numerous accidents and deaths.


It also includes wearables, which can measure employees' vital signs and notify them in the event of weariness, as well as sensors in safety equipment (hardhats, boots, harnesses, etc.), which can identify whether workers are using them correctly. The 5G network can ensure that everyone is up to date on the newest procedures and prevent unauthorized personnel or visitors from entering the site.


Management of Construction Projects


Sensor networks, IP cameras, and drones capable of capturing 4K video can be utilized to track the maturity of the concrete, the location of machines and equipment, and the weather. All this data will enable more informed decision-making, which will reduce time and costs while enhancing productivity and quality of the final product as well as avoiding future difficulties.


When it comes to the setting of concrete, for example, a short waiting period might lead to later issues in the construction, such as cracks. On the other hand, waiting too long would lead to waste of time and money on the project.


Consider the power of deploying smart sensors attached to rebar and embedded in concrete aggregate to transmit data to cloud computers, where it can be analyzed quickly and in depth. Thus, experts may assess if concrete is correctly placed and monitor the setting of concrete at any stage over time, enhancing safety and highlighting potential maintenance issues.



Wireless concrete maturity sensors Ref: Humboldt Mfg
Wireless concrete maturity sensors Ref: Humboldt Mfg

The supply chain can also be improved by having more control over existing resources and the current status of work.


As a result, material orders can be placed on time, and delays in the initial planning of jobs can be avoided. It is also possible to keep valuables like materials and equipment safe by installing surveillance cameras.



Conclusion


The World Economic Forum and others have recognised 5G as the key to unlocking a fourth industrial revolution because of its transformative potential. Even if we don't know properly how that will play out, just as we didn't know what the first personal computers built 40 years ago, 5G will bring the connectivity and power to achieve things that have never been possible before, whether on a construction site or elsewhere.


References






  • Mendoza, J.; de-la-Bandera, I.; Álvarez-Merino, C.S.; Khatib, E.J.; Alonso, J.; Casalderrey-Díaz, S.; Barco, R. 5G for Construction: Use Cases and Solutions. Electronics 2021, 10, 1713. https://doi.org/10.3390/ electronics10141713