The economic value of the construction industry is significant. The industry contributes up to 10% of the annual GDP for most nations (Best & De Valence, 2002). The industry encompasses many other complementary industries such as electrical, mining, steel and transportation to name but a few. This involvement of multiple industries suggests that the construction industries success or failure can reflect on a number of other industries.
We will write a custom Report on WLAN Deployment on Open Area Construction Projects specifically for you
301 certified writers online
Despite the clearly vital role of construction as an economic entity, the industry continues to be affected by inefficiencies which mostly spring from a lack of communication between the relevant parties involved especially in the field setting (Best & De Valence, 2002). This is because the success of projects in the construction scenario hinges on the availability of information to the necessary personnel when they need it. Malone (2005) asserts that automating information capturing and access by use of mobile technology greatly enhances performance in such settings.
Considering the significance that information systems can have in the construction industry, it would be prudent to look into the ways in which these systems can be exploited for optimal benefit. Wireless communications technology implementation provides the best means for dealing with the inefficient communication systems. This paper sets out to illustrate that implementation of mobile communication technologies in the construction industry is not only technologically and economically feasible but also the most cost effective manner in which construction companies can best utilize their IT resources in the field setting thereby leading to optimal results. This paper shall delve into the various hardware and software required to achieve a functional network. In addition, an overview of the process of implementing this innovation shall be described. This shall aim at showing how WIFI can improve construction processes.
Wireless Implementations process
For any kind of network to be implemented, various hardware and software components must be made available. As has been previously stated, a WLAN is a grouping of computing devices that share a common communication network. There are a number of components that are basic to any WLAN implementation. An access point which is a device that links the wireless LAN to a wired LAN is one of the core components in the network system (CITA, 2005).
This is the device that is directly responsible for transmitting signals which are used for communication by the computing devices. The capacity that this device can support is largely dependent on the particular Wireless Access unit. Ideally, this device should be installed on a central location at the site and at a high point so as to ensure that there is a direct line of sight to as many spots in the site as possible. High gain antennas can be fitted in case the site is expansive but this would require the station remains EU compliant with the resultant Effective Isotropic Radiated Power (Otani, 2002).
The other device of equally great importance in the network is the Wireless Network Interface Card. It is this piece of hardware that will enable the machines of the various users to detect and connect to the Access Point. These devices are mostly inbuilt in the computing devices that many of the users utilize. In a situation where this is not the case, the same can be purchased and installed easily. In the event whereby the network will be connected to the internet, a Router will be used.
A router is a device that is used to share a single internet connection by many computers which are on the same network (Otani, 2002). This would come in handy in a situation where the workers in the construction industry require some resources from the internet. The organization may also greatly benefit from the vast pool of resources that are available on the internet should they connect their network to the internet.
The hardware that will be used by individual users varies greatly. According to Martinez and Scherer (2006), the most popular mobile computing device in the construction industry is the personal digital assistant (PDA). This device is largely favoured because of its relatively small size (as compared to notebooks) as well as the wide range of applications that can be run from it. By use of a PDA, users can perform tasks such as tracking the materials received, sending emails and accessing the centralized database. Apart from PDA’s, other mobile devices also do exist such as laptops, tablet PCs and Pocket PCs. The decision on which devices employees should use, lie in the hands of the construction company’s management.
The basic software that will be needed in all devices will be an Operating System that allows for network communication. There exist a number of vendors for this and the choice selected may be a matter of organizational preference or a consideration of other software that the particular platform supports. Owing to the large number of users in the construction industry who are highly mobile, a number of applications have been developed to support this versatile group of users. These class of applications are know as mobile business-to-employee (B2E) applications and they play a critical role in ensuring that the logistical hurdles that exist in the construction industry are gracefully conquered (CITA, 2005).
In any organization, having all the vital information located in a centralized database with search functionality can be not only convenient, but also effective. This is also true for construction firms and there are applications for searchable databases for contractors, materials and prices. These applications help the project manager to find the closest suppliers for the relevant material as well as look up the names of their business contacts. This software not only makes the manager more efficient in his work but, it also reduces costs which would have been incurred in phone bills. In addition, it lessens the time spent as personnel try to trace crucial information that is decentralized.
Mobile online project collaboration and print management solution is among the software classes that are tailor made for the construction industry (CITA, 2005). This software help users to manage, distribute and share project related documents from a centralized location. A site manager using this application can effectively manage the use of material and labor personnel on site by logging into the network and using the project collaboration tool. Printing of blueprints and site plans can also be done. Similarly, the bill of materials management systems is an effective application for the staff on site (Man et al, 2009).
Through using this application, on site project progress reporting can be done in a timely fashion therefore keeping the various stakeholders informed as to progress made on the ground. In addition to this, the consumption of material on site can be closely monitored enabling the detection of reduction of ordered materials. This mobile system can also greatly reduce the paperwork that would otherwise have been generated and avoid transcribing error as the data is keyed into a computer.
In the construction field, managers may be found on site or in their offices. When they are on the project site, there may be errors or defects located on site. A leading magazine in construction technology, CITA, suggests that with the launch of a mobile application such as the BuildOnline, mobile data capture can ensure better defect management (CITA, 2005). By using such an application, managers can automatically capture and log all defects on site and subsequently post the same to a centralized database. PDA’s are prevalent in the construction industry as a result of their reduced size and usability.
By use of these devices, staff can input data and later update the centralized database. Software vendors such as Buildscape provide application that can be used for ordering materials as well as synchronizing the supplies list so as to create a large list on a mobile computing device (Best & De Valence, 2002). Synchronization Software enables the users to cache data on their respective devices and also transmit data to the company database at some later time. While this is not a real-time wireless implementation, it may be necessary when the user is out of range of the WLAN. This can be a functional solution when the data in question is not time-critical and a delay does not lead to repercussions for the organization.
Get your first paper with 15% OFF
I conducted a survey in four construction sites. The questionnaires (Appendix 1) were distributed among thirty participants. The questions in the survey were designed to gather information regarding the efficiency of WIFI in construction, whether the network was user friendly and to evaluate whether people in the construction industry preferred WIFI networks. The results (Appendix 2) indicated that in the four sites, most builders preferred this network type and they rated it as being highly efficient. However, the results suggested that in some cases, builders were not able to use the network properly due to insufficient knowledge on how the infrastructure operated. Despite this shortcoming, I believe that instituting a training program in all construction companies may go a long way in ensuring that all builders have a clue on the benefits of these networks as well as how to use them while they are at work.
Wireless LAN implementations in the construction industry may be the key to reinventing the construction industry therefore making it more effective by changing the mode in which activities are carried out. This paper set out to illustrate how the implementation of mobile communication technology in the construction industry can be achieved. To this end, a detailed discussion as to the various hardware and software requirements for a mobile infrastructure implementation has been given. A list of the hardware devices necessary and the software applications that are provided by vendors has been given. By implementing this network infrastructure, the construction industry will be able to work faster and reduce the errors that occur due to miscommunication and the human factor.
Best, R., & De Valence, G. (2002). Design and construction: building in value. New Jersey: Butterworth-Heinemann.
CITA. (2005). Special Issue: Mobile Technology in Construction. California: CITA.
Malone, S. (2004). Case Study: A Path towards a Secure, Multi-role Wireless LAN in a Higher Education Environment. New York: SANS Institute.
Man et al. (2009). NangKOM: Development of a Web Based Job Scheduling Tools for “Nangka” On Mobile Using Wi-Fi Technology. Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 1(2): 172 – 178.
Otani, H. (2002). Let’s Set Up A Community WLAN. Web.