Jobsite technologies: Quick setup for wireless and mobile communications

February 2013 » Columns » BEYOND WORDS
Jim Purcell
Brasfield & Gorrie developed "Jobsite in a Box" mobile technology to make wireless connectivity available within hours at construction sites.

New technologies are enabling companies to become bigger, faster, and more efficient, and companies that can harness new technology and adapt it to their needs have a clear advantage in the marketplace. For architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms, which are constantly challenged to be more resourceful on project sites, technological advancements that result in increased quality and efficiency translate to savings of time and money for the client – ultimately increasing profits for the firms as well. Because of this, AEC companies are becoming early adopters of new technologies.

For these companies, like most others, communications technology is particularly critical in day-to-day operations. AEC firms can face the challenges of establishing communications in a field office for each new project. Undeveloped jobsites, especially those in rural areas, can be particularly difficult. Initial setup for telephone landlines and broadband Internet lines can take as long as 45 days, crucial time in an industry that often is charged with completing projects on an expedited timeline. Companies that can mobilize jobsites rapidly can save owners money and accelerate project completion.

At Brasfield & Gorrie, we set out to find a solution to establishing communications quickly for rapid jobsite mobilization. The result, developed in partnership with Sprint and Feeney Wireless, is "Jobsite in a Box" – mobile technology that can go anywhere and make wireless connectivity available within hours.

The "box" portion of Jobsite in a Box is a Pelican case – waterproof, airtight, lightweight, and crushproof – approximately the size of a wheeled carry-on piece of luggage. Inside of the case is Aruba Networks wireless router technology; on the outside are four Ethernet ports, three ports for flexible rubber antennas to boost the unit's range, and one AC outlet for the power cord. All ports are covered with caps when not in use to ensure that the case remains watertight.

Jobsite in a Box is carrier agnostic and easily adaptable to any coverage area. Before the case is shipped to the jobsite, staff engineers determine the 3G or 4G provider with the best signal or satellite in the area and then configure the routers accordingly. The padlocked case arrives, and once the power cord is attached, jobsite communications can be established in a fraction of the time required with traditional methods.

Rather than creating a new, temporary network specifically for the jobsite, Jobsite in a Box extends Brasfield & Gorrie's existing network. The router operates behind the company's firewall, ensuring the same security and functionality at the jobsite as in any of the company's eight corporate offices.

Jobsite in a Box also paves the way for use of another new technology that has quickly found multiple applications on construction sites – the iPad. Brasfield & Gorrie's project managers and superintendents now routinely carry iPads loaded with Latista and other project management software. Brasfield & Gorrie partnered with Latista to tailor and implement a state-of-the-art quality assurance tool for use throughout construction and during the closeout process. The quality checklist, punch list, and safety inspection application allows project personnel to manage issues on each project more efficiently by providing a digital platform to link images, drawings, and site plans. With iPads loaded with Latista, project personnel have the technology at their fingertips to address quality and safety issues more effectively by:

  • managing a large number of quality and punch list items seamlessly in one application;
  • recording a detailed history for each deficiency;
  • quickly and easily creating sorted reports for subcontractors;
  • attaching images and photos to deficiencies; and
  • marking up drawings/plans and instantly attaching them to deficiency reports.

With technological advancements allowing construction firms such as Brasfield & Gorrie to be more resourceful onsite and therefore more competitive and profitable, the use of new technologies will be an increasing trend.

Jim Purcell is chief technology officer at Brasfield & Gorrie (www.brasfieldgorrie.com), one of the nation's largest privately held construction firms, providing general contracting, design-build, and construction management services for a wide variety of markets including health care, commercial, institutional, federal, municipal, industrial, and wastewater treatment.


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