Three ways 5G will help usher in the next wave of construction innovation

May 13, 2022 | 5 minute read
Margaret Lindquist
Writer and content strategist
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The US plans to spend $65 billion for broadband expansion under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in November 2021, and 5G expansion will be a sizable part of that investment. Verizon, for example, has unveiled its plan to offer 5G connections with peak download speeds as high as 1 gigabit per second to 100 million people by 2022, 175 million people by 2023, and more than 250 million people by 2024.

Ubiquitous 5G networks will upend the way a lot of business gets done, and the construction worksite is ripe for such change. According to research from Boston Consulting Group and communications industry association CTIA, over the next decade 5G deployment will contribute $1.5 trillion to the US GDP and create 4.5 million jobs, directly through infrastructure investment and indirectly by powering innovation through a broad range of industries. For construction companies, the advent of 5G aligns perfectly with the wave sweeping through the industry. Long seen as resistant to change, the industry’s up-and-coming leaders are looking to technology to overcome legacy processes and create more efficient, repeatable construction processes.

For telecom companies, using 5G in the construction and engineering industry in many ways provides the ideal proving ground precisely because the environment is so difficult. For example, construction sites are often large areas that change dramatically from day to day, and there are many large metal objects that can impede connectivity.

“It’s a really tough place to build ultra-reliable connectivity,” says Andrew De La Torre, group vice president for Oracle Communications. “5G has all the advanced mobility functionality to deal with those changing environments.” Even more important is the highly reliable 5G connectivity. “You can't have a network that drops a connection because a truck happened to drive past the sensor and created a huge shadow and suddenly the signal’s been lost,” says De La Torre.

Here are three ways that 5G will help usher in the next wave of construction innovation.

Moving massive datasets from office to worksite. Huge volumes of data are generated every day on a worksite, but it can be hours or days before people can access the data to measure progress and track where materials are on the site. 5G could change that by offering high bandwidth—10 to 100 times faster speeds compared with existing LTE networks—that lets people back in the office continuously access the very large datasets generated on location.

High-resolution cameras will recognize workers quickly and sound an alert in case of an accident. Every stage of the build process will be captured by scanners and cameras to create up-to-date digital models—known as digital twins.

These digital twins will not only offer progress updates during construction, they’ll continue through the life of the building to monitor the structure’s condition and what might need repair. Such monitoring is only possible with connectivity that offers high bandwidth and low latency at a reasonable cost, so that vast amounts of data can be collected and processed in real time.

“I call this the rise of the owner,” says Roz Buick, senior vice president, product, strategy and development, Oracle Construction and Engineering. “These platforms will give the owner a lot more visibility into how assets are being built and what they're buying.”

Sensors everywhere. Much of the new data that buildings generate will come from sensors embedded in structures. Prior to 5G, sensor data had to travel through older Wi-Fi routers, and those hit their capacity at 150 to 200 sensor devices. With 5G, approximately 1 million sensors can be inserted into a square kilometer, transmitting data through a 5G-enabled router.


“IoT sensors can be used to remotely measure humidity, HVAC heating and cooling, security, and even tension or vibration in critical assets or buildings, and into something like a bridge to drive maintenance activities,” says Buick. “Eventually construction companies will be able to add sensors to virtually everything on the worksite to collect data from tools and materials.”

—Roz Buick, senior vice president, product, strategy and development, Oracle Construction and Engineering


During the building process, sensors will track where workers, equipment, and materials are located and link that data back to a master schedule or set of work orders.  After construction, sensors will be used to track myriad points of data, such as determining when trash needs to be picked up and when lights need to be turned on. Beyond that, sensors could consistently monitor for deterioration.

“IoT sensors can be used to remotely measure humidity, HVAC heating and cooling, security, and even tension or vibration in critical assets or buildings, and into something like a bridge to drive maintenance activities,” says Buick. “Eventually construction companies will be able to add sensors to virtually everything on the worksite to collect data from tools and materials.”

For example, sensors embedded in concrete can provide updates on the drying progress.

The remote-control worksite. Before autonomous cars become a common sight on roads, construction sites will be using equipment that is operated autonomously or managed remotely. This could be something as small as a robot dog that uses 3D laser scanning to capture and monitor construction progress, and something as large as an earth mover. Again, the key is low latency between the machine and distant operator, so that if a dangerous situation arises, the remote operator can instantly stop the machine.

“5G promises latency of 10 milliseconds or less,” says Burcin Kaplanoglu, Oracle vice president at Oracle Industry Labs. “Currently networks offer 80 to 100 milliseconds.”

Many construction companies are mired in legacy processes from highly bespoke vendors. Buick believes the wave of the future is a move from custom-everything to supply chains and processes that are more controlled and repeatable, such as building components that are built in factories with manufacturing-like precision and assembled onsite.

The advent of 5G is part of this modernization and the roadmap is clear for major investments in 5G infrastructure, including towers, fiber optics, and IoT sensors. The challenge, according to Buick, is to figure out how to modify existing infrastructure and machinery, and make sure that new assets are enabled for 5G.

The biggest challenge that the industry faces isn’t technology, though. It’s developing these repeatable and streamlined processes. Construction might seem like it would be done the same way all over the world, but in reality the local environment, supply chain providers, and products lead to localized and highly variable processes.

“This has made the industry hard to optimize, but tech now is greatly improving this, and the past few years especially has shown that construction assets can be set up for better measurement of energy efficiency, carbon utilization, and ultimately much more affordable operation and maintenance costs,” says Buick.

Oracle Construction and Engineering, the global leader in construction management software and project portfolio management solutions, helps you connect your teams, processes, and data across the project and asset lifecycle. Drive efficiency and control in project delivery with proven solutions for project controls, construction scheduling, portfolio management, BIM/CDE, construction payment management, and more.

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Margaret Lindquist

Writer and content strategist

Margaret Lindquist is a senior director and writer at Oracle.


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