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What is 5G Technology and How Does It Affect the Metal Building Industry?

Posted on August 27, 2020 by Fredrick Moore

Computer technology continues to have notable impacts on the people and processes involved in the metal building industry as discussed in an earlier blogpost “How Commercial Buildings are Getting Smarter”. Here we look at one of the emerging technological advances that will bring things to an even higher level of capability and opportunity, namely, the growth of the 5G communications network.

What is 5G?

It is simply an abbreviation for the fifth-generation (5G) of cellular communication technology. The engineering behind it has been focused on substantially increasing the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks and has generated a lot of interest and excitement. At full fruition, it promises speeds fast enough to operate heavy-duty data transfers like video and building operation applications. The promise of 5G is so strong that experts are touting it as a way to replace broadband and Ethernet based Wi-Fi. That’s because it is expected to support more devices with greater speed, reliability, and efficiency as compared to other networks. Clearly then, 5G can become a game-changing technology for many people and applications around the world.

In light of this emerging technology design, construction companies of all types are tracking its progress and trying to decide what actions to take. Metal building manufacturers, installers, and owners are finding that there are three primary areas where the use of 5G can be truly transformative:

Metal Building Systems Manufacturing

The equipment used for manufacturing and forming metal building components has increasingly become automated. Everything from fairly simple electronic control panels to full-scale, robotic operations all rely on being connected to a common communication platform. If that equipment is no longer reliant on a wired Ethernet connection, then equipment can be re-arranged for more efficient operation and greater productivity in potentially less space. Furthermore, the use of wireless 5G as the communication platform in a manufacturing plant means that equipment can more easily be moved and re-arranged at any time as needs change. It also means that manufacturers may have more equipment options that allow for greater automation or mechanization of the plant. This helps everyone since each manufactured part can be controlled with greater efficiency and fewer people actually needing to touch the products.

Design and Construction

Communication between all parties is critical to the success of any project. That communication can become compromised or delayed when design teams, manufacturers, and installer/contractors are remote from each other without reliable ways to share data or other information. 5G is particularly helpful in these situations in a number of ways. First, it can provide a common communication platform where everyone is on the same network. This can help during design allowing all parties to collaborate with ready access to the same engineering data and software. In the field, where Wi-Fi is often not an option, 5G allows mobile access for real-time communication without having to travel to a location where service is available. The second thing 5G offers in design and construction is the opportunity to use additional electronic tools for documenting, recording, and communicating on-site activity. Drones and stationary site cameras for example have become very popular as an economical way to take photos or videos of construction work and details. Connection to the 5G network means that these tools can be used to their fullest potential, allowing all stakeholders to obtain the latest information for accurate timelines, scheduling, and documentation, leading to more efficient construction.

Completed Buildings

Building owners and managers often want more product offerings with technology already built-in or integrated. Many contractors/installers are embracing such product options to help them close bids faster in scenarios where there is a demonstrated desire for the latest technology. For example, coiling metal doors are available with new options such as electronic sensors paired with automated operation. This provides a means to electronically control access through those doors and monitor which people are using them based on their access privileges. The 5G connection allows for a reliable way for this system to work while collecting data that can be used to better understand work and people flows within a building. It can also provide feedback to the metal building systems manufacturer allowing them to improve offerings to their customers.

Overall, 5G holds the real promise of becoming the means with which to seamlessly connect manufacturers, designers, contractors, and building owners/users by providing a reliable, fast, and robust communications platform. Its real-time capability allows timely interaction and collaboration that can make things easier for everyone involved. It can also capture information and data to identify trends, preferences, or issues allowing for better outcomes in the future. To find out more about how to incorporate the latest technology into your current or next project contact your local Ceco representative.