Construction sites are changing – or rather construction and building sites are evolving. Yes they are still muddy, noisy and full of people and machinery, and yes they still have their portakabins and porta-loos full of people in high vis jackets working out how to stay as warm and dry as possible whilst building their houses, office blocks, bridges and motorways (or railways for that matter). The big difference though is that internet connectivity is becoming more and more important at these sites.
In the past everything was paper based and communication was by phone and by human. Piles and piles of architects blueprints, quantity surveyor reports, time sheets and invoices and order forms. If they were lucky they might have a fax machine on site and a phone line, but more often than not it was mobile phones and a man in van rushing to the local print shop to get the latest revision of the plans printed by a man in reprographics.
The Digital Construction Site
Now of course everything is digital – or at least everything is trying to be. With Building Information Modeling Systems facilitating the management of all the information required to get a project done, and CAD drawings emailed to site printed locally on A0 plotters in the site office. In fact a typical modern construction site of any scale will have quite a lot of IT services in situ. Things like computers, tablets, smartphones, plotters, printers, IP CCTV and Wi-Fi access.
It’s All About Connectivity
One of the biggest challenges of making all of this kit work in the middle of a muddy field is connectivity. Yes you can order fixed line services and get them provisioned just about anywhere including in the middle of a field or at the side of a motorway, but anyone who has done so knows how frustrating this process can be and how long it can take. New line provision can take weeks and sometimes months – especially if getting lines to site requires additional engineering by the line provider such as new ducting under existing roads.
USB Dongles and Mi-FI are Not Enough
Many will turn to cellular dongles and Mi-Fi devices as a temporary sticking plaster until fixed line services become available, but even these have a number of inherent issues. Designed for individual user connectivity, multiple dongles are required for each of the users at a site, and even if they are plugged into a router that has the ability to use it as a WAN link and share that connectivity between multiple users, bandwidth on a single cellular link is rarely enough to be shared in this way.
Mobile Service Provider Coverage Varies
Further, actually choosing a mobile service provider that works at a location can be impossible without first going to site with a pocketful of dongles to see what bandwidth is actually available from each provider – with local topology such as hills, valleys and other buildings potentially blocking signals completely.
The Peplink Advantage
So what is the alternative and how do Peplink products make this easier? At Peplink we produce a range of multi-cellular routers with a number of key features that make them perfect for construction deployments.
Embedded Multi Cellular
As multi-cellular routers with embedded cellular modems, bandwidth from multiple mobile service providers can be utilized at the same time and shared by LAN side wired devices such as computers, VoIP handsets, printers and IP CCTV cameras. With integrated WiFi Access Points on most models, this connectivity can then be shared via WiFi with other mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, and since they also act as WiFI AP Controllers, more APs can be deployed across a site to provide broader coverage areas.
The key advantage though is the ability for our routers to connect to multiple types of connectivity and present all available bandwidth to the end users, so our MAX HD4 router as an example can use its four internal cellular modems in combination with two additional wired WAN connections which could be fixed line services (like a pair of DSL lines) or additional over air connectivity like Satellite.
This means that a new site can be brought on-line immediately using Cellular Links, and when the fixed line services become available they can be simply plugged into the front of the HD4, with easy WAN usage configuration deciding on how best to use the new bandwidth. Using automated WAN health checks, if a digger cuts through the fixed lines on site, user connectivity is unaffected as the cellular bandwidth kicks in. Then when a mobile office needs to move (across the building site or along the side of the motorway), it can simply be moved and once powered back on the site continues as normal with the lowest possible downtime.
And There’s More…
SpeedFusion is our proprietary VPN bonding technology that allows nearly all WAN connectivity at a location to be combined into a single logical VPN connection. Not only does this provide packet level failover across WAN links –keeping real-time services like VoIP and Video Streaming connected – even when a WAN link fails, but it also aggregates all the available bandwidth providing a single high bandwidth connection between a pair of our devices.
Unbreakable High Bandwidth VPN Connectivity
With SpeedFusion, large CAD drawings, high resolution Photos and even Hi Def video can be transmitted to and from a construction site office with ease, speeding up issue resolution, improving communications and generating efficiencies that are impossible to achieve with out a high bandwidth, resilient connection.
Really Easy Remote Monitoring and Management
InControl 2 is our cloud based remote monitoring and management platform. It make centralised management of all of your devices easy, providing firmware and configuration management as well as centralised bandwidth usage reporting.
Peplink products and technology – combined with the skill and experience of our network of partners across the globe can really help make construction sites digital whilst also taking away the pain of remote construction site management from internal IT teams who are not normally equipped to deal with these kinds of complicated and challenging deployments.
See the case studies in the sidebar above for some real world examples.