Wireless Networks in Construction Industries

Subject: Tech & Engineering
Pages: 12
Words: 3081
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: College

Introduction

One of the most important accomplishments realized in the 21st century was the invention of the computer and the subsequent creation of computer networks. These two entities have virtually transformed the world as far as information processing and communication is concerned. The networking capability of computer systems can arguably be described as the feature which makes them versatile and invaluable to their users. This being the case, the network functionality of computing systems has been exploited by organizations and individuals alike as efficient local and global communications became the defining attribute of success. As such, the creation of networks is instrumental to any interconnected computing system. There are two types of networks; one that uses cables (wired connection) and another which uses radio waves (wireless network). Each of these connection options has its own inherent merits and demerits. This proposal shall set out to advocate for the installation of wireless networks in our construction company. This shall be attributed to the fact that wireless networks are hugely beneficial to organizations owing to their numerous advantages. To reinforce this claim, a detailed look at some of the benefits of wireless networks shall be undertaken.

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Purpose and objectives

Purpose statement

The primary purpose of this project shall be to ensure that the company adopts the latest technological trends in a bid to counter competition, all the while guaranteeing a competitive edge against our competitors. In addition, the project shall aim at designing a learning program that shall ensure that all employees gain useful skills in regard to the application and usage of technological infrastructure used in the transformation and implementation processes of the proposed wireless network.

In regards to objectives, the project shall aim at improving performance through the enhancement of workplace flexibility as well as enhancing our current information and communication system through wireless technologies. The choice of shifting to wireless networks has been influenced by the fact that they are cheaper, reliable, more secure, and very flexible. This makes it a worthwhile project for our company which is transformational in nature and willing to diversify in order to provide more efficient services to our ever-increasing client list. These objectives shall be met through the following criteria:

Objectives (that achieve the purpose)

  • Gather useful information from various stakeholders regarding their overall expectations and views about the relationship between wireless networks and performance in the organization.
  • Discuss with the operations managers how the proposed network can be used to reflect on their organizational performance.
  • Interview the various implementers and network administrators about how the benefits of such a network can be measured or analyzed.
  • Using the gathered data, prepare a report about the findings collected relating to the above objectives.

Outcome

  • What are the benefits of wireless networks to the employees, stakeholders, and to the organization?
  • What factors within the organization are most influenced by the implementation of wireless networks in terms of optimum performance and the influence of the new system on the HR department performance?
  • How can the added value from the proposed network improve the performance within the organization?
  • What are the additional benefits accrued from implementing this network type as compared to the current network system?

Relationship to the strategic plan

The construction industry is communication dependent and the absence of efficient and accurate information exchanges leads to non-productive field activities thereby reducing the capacity and productivity of a company. There has been an increase in research efforts to enable construction companies to overcome the communication inefficiency obstacle which greatly hampers the productivity of the industry. It is with such facts that I propose this new project which shall make a great difference in employee performance and efficiency.

Attempts at transforming how data and information are handled in the construction industry began as early as the late ’90s. However, the technology required to facilitate this was rare and very expensive. Since the technology is available now, it shall be a worthwhile endeavor to ensure that the foremen and other supervisors are equipped with laptops and other technological gadgets to enable the instantaneous record of the field events as opposed to recording on paper and then having to transcribe the information to a digital format a later time. This strategy is supposed to increase the efficiency of all employees and reduce the likelihood of errors that occur during the transcribing process. As such, using wireless networks addresses this strategy by ensuring that the organization’s informational needs, as well as those of this personnel, are adequately met and satisfied.

Membership Segments/External Audiences Reached

The project shall encompass the main players in the construction industry. This means that it shall be able to serve the practitioners (project managers, engineers, foremen, and supervisors). In regards to external audiences, the network can be extended to cover suppliers and project owners who shall be able to get up-to-date information regarding the progress of the project. As such, the primary external audiences that shall benefit from this project include the financial sponsors (construction owners) and the organization’s off-site executives. The secondary audiences include suppliers, while the tertiary external audience shall include members of the public and other shareholders.

Project Deliverables e.g. Value/Benefits/Messages

The implementation of the project shall ensure efficiency prevails and costs are reduced. We live in an age where speed and accuracy are the defining marks of success. Computers have been hailed all over the world for enhancing these two attributes. In the construction industry, the utilization of mobile communication would lead to an increase in the efficiency of staff as they utilize B2E applications to perform computations in a timely fashion. The availability of a centralized database would also result in data consistency, therefore, eliminating the problems that arise as a result of data inconsistency caused by delayed updates.

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Adoption of wireless technology by the organization shall give it a competitive advantage and this is most desirable since stiff competition is a constant reality as firms aim for the same lucrative projects. A firm that has its staff employing the use of wireless technology shall overcome the inefficiencies inherent in an industry that has traditionally been highly manual. The software development industry is constantly coming up with new applications that can enable the collaboration of contractors, suppliers, and other key components in the construction industry in real-time therefore transforming the manner in which a firm performs its business, therefore, making it effective.

Construction activities are mainly tied around resource allocation and management. This resource may be in the form of human labor or material. By use of the PDA’s, managers can remotely track time-critical data such as the number of labor hours that are inputted into a project and the project cost. This enables the project managers to detect any anomalies or deviations from the schedule and hence take early corrective measures which may salvage the project before too much damage is done.

Another advantage that stems from the use of mobile communication technology is the elimination of the gap in time and space. By implementing a mobile application system to a farming management system, users can directly input data with the wireless mobile device for job scheduling. Additionally, the mobile system eliminated the duplicity of work in the construction industry by automatically generating reports on the central system.

Project Scope and Possible Execution

The project is designed to cover the current project we are working on. In this regard, the wireless network is expected to cater to all informational needs forwarded by the various parties involved in the current construction project. As such, the main aim of this project is to facilitate effectiveness in terms of service delivery and ease in communication among the various stakeholders. The implementation of the project is to a large extent expected considering that it has more benefits to the company than it has costs. In addition, a detailed analysis of the costs and benefits of the project has been highlighted. This shall go a long way in ensuring that the board of directors and other relevant participants in the current project are persuaded to advocate for the wireless network project.

Timelines

The project is expected to last through the whole duration (6 months) of the construction project. However, the implementation process is expected to last for two weeks. The breakdown is as follows:

  • By the end of the first week, all hardware and software shall be put in place.
  • The second week shall cover all the training and clarification processes to pave way for the subsequent weeks which shall see to it that the systems are up and running.

Budget/Resources

In regards to the budget, the project is expected to cost $10,000. This preliminary figure is high due to the fact that it is a new project and new equipment has to be bought to achieve the desired standard. 80% of the funds shall go into buying the necessary hardware and software while the remaining 20% shall cover the costs of deployment and labor fees during the implementation process. However, the cost shall reduce by more than 75% in case the project is to be reused in other sites at a later time.

It should be noted that for any kind of network to be implemented, various hardware and software components must be made available. As has been previously stated, a WLAN is a group of computing devices that share a common communication network. There are a number of components that are basic to any WLAN implementation.

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Hardware requirements

An access point which is a device that links the wireless land to a wired LAN is one of the core components in the network system Wi-Fi Alliance. This is the device that is directly responsible for transmitting signals which are used for communication by the computing devices. The capacity that this device can support is largely dependent on the particular Wireless Access unit. Ideally, this device should be installed on a central location to the site and at a high point so as to ensure that there is a direct line of sight to as many spots on the site as possible. High gain antennas can be fitted in case the site is expansive but this would require the station remains EU compliant with the resultant Effective Isotropic Radiated Power.

The other device of equally great importance in the network is the Wireless Network Interface Card. This piece of the hardware enables the machines of the various users to detect and connect to the Access Point. These devices are mostly inbuilt in the computing devices that many of the users utilize. In a situation where this is not the case, the same can be purchased and installed with ease. In the event whereby the network shall be connected to the internet, a Router shall be used. A router is a device that is used to share a single internet connection by many computers which are on the same network. This would come in handy in a situation where the workers in the construction industry require some resources from the internet. The organization may also greatly benefit from the vast pool of resources that are available on the internet should they decide to connect their network to the internet.

The hardware that shall be used by individual users varies greatly. The most popular mobile computing device in the construction industry is the personal digital assistant (PDA). This device is largely favored because of its relatively small size (as compared to notebooks) as well as the wide range of applications that can be run on it. By using a PDA, users can perform tasks such as tracking the material received, sending emails, and accessing the centralized database. Apart from PDA’s, other mobile devices also do exist such as laptops, tablet PCs, and Pocket PCs. However, the choice of devices to be used in this project shall depend on the financial backing offered by the sponsors as well as the applicability of the device in accomplishing stipulated tasks.

Application Software

The basic software that shall be needed in all devices shall be an Operating System that facilitates network communication. Owing to the large number of users in the construction industry who are highly mobile, a number of applications have been developed to support this versatile group of users. These classes of applications are known as mobile business-to-employee (B2E) applications and they play a critical role in ensuring that the logistical hurdles that exist in the construction industry are gracefully overcome (Casonato & Trinkner, 2002).

Similarly, in any organization, having all the vital information located in a centralized database with search functionality can be not only convenient but also effective. This is also true for construction firms and there exist applications for searchable databases of contractors, materials, and prices. These applications help the project manager to find the closest suppliers for the relevant material as well as look up the names of their business contractors. This software not only makes the manager more efficient in his work but also reduces costs that would have been incurred in phone bills and the time spent as personnel try to trace crucial information that is decentralized.

PDA’s are prevalent in the construction industry as a result of their reduced size and usability. By use of these devices, staff can input data and later update the common database. Software vendors such as Buildscape provide an application that can be used for ordering materials as well as synchronizing the supplies list so as to create a large list on a mobile computing device (Best & De Valence, 2002). Synchronization Software enables the users to cache data on their respective devices and also transmit data to the company database at some later time. While this is not a real-time wireless implementation, it may be necessary when the user is out of range of the WLAN. This can be a functional solution when the data in question is not time-critical and a delay does not lead to repercussions for the organization.

Measurement/Evaluation (Accomplishment of Objectives)

The progress and success of the project shall be evaluated on a weekly basis. The measurement parameters shall greatly depend on information gathered from interviews and questionnaires which shall be designed to answer the following questions.

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  1. How adaptable is the new system?
  2. How has the new system enhanced your performance?
  3. What suggestions can you offer to improve the system?
  4. Would you prefer the previous or current network system?

These questions shall provide a basis from which the wireless network can be evaluated and measured. Simple as they may look, they address the fundamental aspects needed to ensure the success of any project in relation to information flow. Through these questions, the project manager shall be able to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of the project and make the necessary adjustments to ensure the success of the wireless network initiative.

Possible Complications/Challenges

The ideal deployment for a construction’s network setting is the use of Access points which shall be positioned such that the workers who need network connectivity are in the hotspot. This raises a number of issues. One of the issues is that of configuring a laptop or a similar device to enable it to access the resources available in the network as well as communicate with others. Wi-Fi Alliance (2004) asserts that the configuration of most wireless client software to be connected to a WLAN is not trivial and users shall need considerable knowledge to accomplish this without the use of outside help. While this may not be an issue for a large organization that has an IT department and numerous resources at its disposal, it may prove to be an issue for small firms that cannot accommodate IT personnel to provide user support to their staff.

WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) can be used to provide security for the WLAN. This is a wireless encryption standard that provides wireless LAN users with a high level of assurance that their data transmitted over the radio link shall remain protected through encryption and authentication (Wi-Fi Alliance, 2004). While it has been acknowledged that encryption is not an airtight form of security as it still has various vulnerabilities, encrypting of communication shall protect the users from opportunistic intruders as well as protect any vital information since a hacker shall have to sieve through a substantial amount of data for his trouble. However, for organizations whose data is of a highly confidential nature and the compromising of the same would lead to dire consequences, extra measures have to be implemented to secure the network.

Responsibilities and Coordination

It should be noted that each individual within the organization has a role to play towards the success of this project. As such, it is the duty of the system administrator to ensure that the network infrastructure is at its best at all times. Similarly, the employees have a responsibility to report any negative incidence that arises as a result of using the new network system. In addition, all participants are supposed to conform to the set rules and regulations regarding the usage of the proposed network system in order to avoid any chances of intrusion and misuse.

Similarly, it is an agreeable fact that organizations depend on the employees for the successful execution of tasks. As such coordination between the various stakeholders (sponsors, managers, employees, and interested publics) shall be instrumental in ensuring that the project is a success.

Project summary

Wireless LAN implementations in the construction industry may be the key to reinventing the construction industry, therefore, making it more effective by changing the mode in which activities are carried out. This proposal set out to illustrate that the implementation of mobile communication technology can be achieved. To this end, a detailed discussion as to the various hardware and software requirements for a mobile infrastructure implementation has been given. A list of the hardware devices necessary and the software applications that are provided by vendors have been given. The implementation of this communication network is not without its limitations as has been highlighted in this proposal.

While it can be observed that the relative benefits of a wireless WLAN far outweigh the costs, one should not forget that the inherent demerits of a WLAN if not properly handled may lead to negative outcomes for the organization. It should also be noted that mobile computing technology is constantly evolving and as such, the construction industry should keep abreast with the ongoing changes so as to ensure that they make the most of the information technology field.

References

Best, R., & De Valence, G. (2002). Design and construction: building in value, New York: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Casonato, R., & Trinkner, R. (2002). A U.S. View of Mobile Construction Industry Applications. USA: Gartner Research.

Wi-Fi Alliance. (2004), WPA Deployment Guidelines for Public Access Wi-Fi Networks. USA: Wi-Fi alliance.