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By Duane Craig
July 24, 2017
Let’s face it: apps are nothing without a piece of hardware to run on. And hardware is essential for connecting all those mobile devices you find on a modern jobsite. Here’s a rundown of emerging and recent tech hardware that’s itching to be included in your next project.
Mesh WiFi For Reaching All The Corners
Projects with multiple floor buildings using dense materials, and projects with large enclosed areas are prime candidates for mesh WiFi systems. If you’ve got a single router sitting in a job trailer or in one corner of a large structure, anybody who must connect to the system will face spotty or non-existent WiFi coverage. And, it’s not just smartphones and tablets that are missing connections but also the growing list of sensors that feed data to building systems. Range extenders drop a lot of the bandwidth fed through them and WiFi access points need wires. That’s where a mesh network comes in.
A mesh WiFi network has multiple stations to carry the signal farther using the standard 2.4GHz or 5GHz radio bands and some use even a dedicated radio band. Each station, or node, communicates with all others so they don’t need to have a direct link to the router. You can set these systems up easily with the accompanying app showing you the best places to put the nodes as well as the best radio channel to use. You can also manage your system right from your smartphone.
Communication is a vital aspect in construction projects so justifying the cost is straightforward. And, it is a tiny percentage of the cost of a project you’d typically use one of these systems on.
Person to Person Without the Language Problems
Another aspect of modern jobsites is they include people with varying language skills. People communicate best in their native languages, leaving the door open for misunderstandings when they must switch back and forth between languages. Universal translators now offer to bridge the gap in understanding between people who speak different native languages.
While the Pilot uses an earpiece, Travis the Translator is a handheld device. Google Translate is an app you use with your smartphone. All of them handle two-way translations so you can converse in a more or less normal fashion.
Mobile Device Juice
There’s no way around it. Mobile devices love electricity. The problem is that over the course of long days and nights it’s easy to end up staring at a blank screen because the battery is drained. So why not keep a battery on hand to deliver much needed juice?
Manufacturers offer a number of storage capacities from 3,000mAh all the way up to 27,000mAh. You can also find these packaged in hardened cases complete withbuilt-in flashlights and even some that can recharge with the sun. Be sure to look for multiple charging ports.
Augmented Reality to the Masses
There is something insanely magical about superimposing virtual realityover a view of the real world. Commonly called augmented reality (or AR for short), this technology offers construction a link between the imagined and the real. Superimposing a BIM model on an area of a building can give the wearer of an AR headset a view of what is and what is to be all at once. For example, clients can walk through the space and see how the changes or additions will look once they’re finished. Additionally, technicians can view the BIM model over top of the work area to better understand how things fit together.
Until recently, getting in on the ground floor of augmented reality meant spending quite a bit of money. New options are coming on the market though that make AR available to almost anybody. For example, Aryzon offers a cardboard headset for under $40. It works with most smartphones and is an open source DIY kit. As the platform for AR, the headset lets users “scale, rotate and navigate in augmented reality.” You can order now for estimated delivery in September or October 2017.
Collaborate in Big Style
Digital whiteboards are the next step in taming construction meetings so they are more convenient and more collaborative. Microsoft’s Surface Hub and Google’s Jamboard help to get everyone involved in a meeting, whether they’re physically there or not. As people write and place items on the boards, everything shows up on invited tablets and computers. You can also link up more than one digital whiteboard. That lets two or more meetings get together to collaborate and share information simultaneously across the boards.
Getting Tough With Tablets and Laptops
Makers of tablets and laptops have their own versions of rugged. Many fit the infamous MIL-STD 810G rating, and most are rated for solid and liquid ingress protection (IP 0-8). They look rugged too, with all that hard rubber padding and port covers. Take the time to really study their toughness though because there is wide variability among them. In the solids rating IP-1 is not nearly as rugged as IP-6; IP-3 on the liquids rating means the item is only protected from sprays hitting it at certain angles.
As your smartphone is probably integrated deeply into your daily work activities, it helps to provide a little protection. These protectors aren’t cheap, but then, neither is replacing a phone.
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