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5G and Construction

By Gregory Ceton, CSI, CDT posted 05-13-2019 10:19

  

This month, I wanted to open the door on a new technology that, while far from secret, few—if any—of us have had the opportunity to experience. To make sure we are able to consider how this technology might change design, construction, project delivery and management, and operation of facilities, we first need to make sure we understand what the new mobile connectivity standard 5G is capable of.

5G is the latest in a series of regular speed updates for mobile technology data transmission. It leaves the current 4G in the dust the same way 4G did to 3G before it, upping the speed factor by an order of magnitude in some cases. The capacity of 5G even outstrips traditional fiber optic and cable internet connections from all but the fastest providers, promising speeds of 1 GB per second and possibly more.

Connected, always on, and in your pocket

At this point, most adults have gotten very comfortable with having regular access to the internet and its tools and information at a moment’s notice. Nevertheless, the increase in speed and the ability to move large amounts of data without delay opens a host of new possibilities.

In addition to speed and capacity to move large files, 5G also promises to reduce the latency, or delay between sending a bit of data and receiving of that data, down to as little as 1 millisecond. 4G currently boasts about 45 milliseconds of latency and though that is a short period of time, it is enough to be just noticeable in many situations.

In the medical field, doctors are already talking about how this increased responsiveness will improve the capacity to monitor patients and perform surgery remotely. China has already conducted an initial test performing surgery over 5G.

5G also has the capacity to completely replace current wired and even wireless networks. For many complex facilities that have a lot of data to move around, like hospitals, the amount of cable in the walls, floors, and ceilings has reached maximum capacity, and the complex infrastructure to support that connectivity is expensive and time-consuming to maintain. 5G promises to do away with all that fiber and copper in one fell swoop.

What that means for your work

In design and construction, there are possible developments that mirror the remote monitoring and functionality 5G promises for the medical field. For example, with the use of gaming engines to present extended reality (XR), increases in the graphic detail and reduction in the computing power needed to work in a building information model will be possible by moving the needed computing power to a remote site and transmitting a constantly refreshed feed of high resolution data to the end users. The use of a common data environment and a single, centrally-hosted model and associated set of federated databases could change and become in many ways more immediate and collaborative than current practices that share those experiences asynchronously.

Even more exciting is the capacity to expand the amount and types of data that Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can track and transmit. Growth in the number of IoT devices is already expected, but that growth plus broader data streams with capacity for better monitoring of spaces, transmission of higher resolution video and audio streams, and more and different sensors all promise the ability to know more about our buildings, and have vastly more data to improve their performance.

There’s always a downside

Of course, all these increased capabilities also bring with them the capacity for issues from bad or simply careless actors. Issues with the degree of designed-in security in 5G networks have been noted, and as history has shown, weaknesses in security bring with them exploits and problems with privacy.

So what do you think? Looking forward to 5G, apprehensive until they get the security issues sorted, or simply dreading having to buy another phone? Don’t keep it to yourself. Leave a comment below or email me at gceton@csinet.org.

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15 days ago

As someone with multiple radio licenses and a long interest in electronics, I am interested in following these developments. I understand that this might involve additional cell towers on buildings, and developments in materials and methods along that line will be important. I understand that FirstNet has rolled out tests for first responders, I believe in the Philadelphia area, and those results will be a marker for future developments.