How to make
the most of 5G
in construction

5G can help the construction industry innovate for a better future. Reliable, high-speed connectivity on worksites could allow companies to deploy new construction technology applications, including massive Internet of Things (IoT) and automation, to boost efficiency, productivity and safety. What's more, using 5G in construction could enable firms to do this at scale, beyond what can be achieved with Wi-Fi or 4G alone. 

The benefits of 4G vs. 5G for powering new construction technology

In the construction industry, 4G LTE offers cutting-edge data connectivity and transfer speeds for devices including tablets, sensors, drones, and robots. And 5G continues to build on these benefits. Take mass digitization, for example. 5G has the potential to provide higher speeds, lower latency and more capacity than today’s 4G networks.

5G is well positioned to expand on the many benefits 4G LTE already offers the construction industry, helping to move the industry toward its next technological leap forward into advanced automation, massive IoT, near real-time data analytics and more.

The use cases of 5G in construction

Here are some of the core benefits 5G could support in the construction industry.

Enhanced collaboration

Construction is a collaborative process, yet stakeholders, partners and personnel can be located at different sites or regions. Advanced remote coworking can be facilitated through 5G, however. For example, with access to sensor data and HD cameras, a specialist could remotely examine and analyze an on-site problem to provide a diagnosis. Augmented reality (AR) glasses and devices can assist on-site engineers to make repairs.

Other technological advances 5G facilitates, such as faster data sharing and digital twins (a virtual representation of a real-world physical system taken using sensors), enable stakeholders and partners to work from the same up-to-date information source. They can then continue to realize the project concept, monitor progress and make faster, more informed decisions, even if they are not located in the same place.

Automation in construction

Automation is breaking through in almost every industry and with good reason: Autonomous robots can complete tasks and free up employees to do more important work. The low latency, high speed and huge bandwidth that 5G can offer in construction could be particularly beneficial for this purpose as autonomous robots require reliable connectivity and fast computer processing.

Sensor and HD camera-enabled trucks and loaders could traverse warehouses and specific sites unmanned, doing much of the heavy lifting and transporting of equipment unaided.

Engineers have even developed an autonomous brick-laying robot capable of building the walls of a house in as little as a day. Eventually, complex software, AI, cameras and sensors could enable swarms of drones to work together to complete increasingly complex tasks faster and more efficiently.

These machines can work 24/7, completing monotonous jobs more quickly while also helping managers mitigate widespread industry skills shortages.

Drones for eyes in the sky

Valued for their ability to carry increasingly sophisticated sensors and HD cameras while surveying large areas and assets, drones have the potential to be more widely used in the construction sector. These unmanned aerial vehicles could scan a potential build site to understand it better. They could also run regular construction site surveys to monitor weekly or monthly project progress, providing a methodical way to quickly and efficiently oversee work while collecting vital data.

Combining drone technology with 5G connectivity and cloud computing could empower them—and their users—to access more computing power, run them autonomously and transfer the data they collect to off-site project managers in near real-time. This data might then be used to spot problems more quickly—such as using heat-sensitive cameras to reveal cracks and water damage—and to aid collaboration and gather data for regulatory compliance.

Improved health, safety and project compliance

Construction site jobs are statistically some of the most dangerous places when compared to other industries. New construction technology and the increased use of 5G in construction could help support safer operations.

Robots and drones can tackle jobs at height, lowering the risk for staff, or they could assess the site beforehand so workers are prepared. Wearable sensor-enabled and internet-connected technology in hard hats and other personal protective equipment could monitor workers' health and location to support their safety. For example, if a worker falls or enters a dangerous and restricted area, the alarm could be raised. They could also monitor environmental conditions, notifying the wearer if sensors detect a gas leak or air quality falling below a certain standard.

Digitization could also help with compliance. IoT and digital surveying could help accurately record asset and inspection information, helping managers meet compliance needs. Digital twins can help seamlessly pass on essential information about an asset. Using 5G, on-site teams could view and update project data through tablets, smartphones and other computers, providing near real-time information on project progress.

Augmented reality improves accuracy and consistency

5G could have an important part to play in the growing use of augmented reality in construction, due to the high bandwidth requirements. AR helps designers share their vision with clients in a more immersive way. The integration of building information modeling (BIM) into AR allows planners to tour virtual sites, probe details, and make changes earlier, helping to minimize delays. At the construction site, AR can enhance positioning accuracy, support training and improve safety. Artificial intelligence also plays a role by helping construction managers make informed decisions from the robust amounts of information collected by IoT devices.

More capacity for big data and AI-controlled equipment

Along with 5G in construction, edge computing could also enable new construction technology. The latter can take computing power out of the cloud and closer to the edge, meaning nimble devices can access much bigger computer power than they could ever carry around.

This could open up a wealth of opportunities for new construction technology, including AI-powered robots and devices that use machine learning to continually get smarter. Using the low latency and large bandwidth that 5G can offer, these devices could transfer data, such as video, quickly for processing either at the edge or in the cloud. This could help lower the overall cost and expand the possibilities for further applications of new technologies.

Verizon's 5G in construction

Construction companies are often managing multiple sub-contractors and projects at different locations. The last thing needed is an unreliable network. That's why partnering with Verizon makes sense. Whether your network is permanent or temporary, Verizon can provide fast, simple and reliable wireless internet to support construction projects.

Learn more about how Verizon can help enable construction companies become more connected, efficient, productive, safe and cost-effective.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.