Mobile communications and hand held devices

28 September 2004

This briefing sheet has been prepared by the ICE’s Information and Technology Panel (ICTP). It is an updated version of the edition that was published in April 2002.

This briefing sheet aims to provide a snap shot of today's technologies, as well as consider those that are likely to become available in the near future.

Mobile communication
Since this briefing sheet was first written two years ago, there has been a significant culture change in the way that mobile devices are used throughout society. The mobile phone is still the king of mobile communication, and it has evolved to include smart features such as picture messaging, diary management, e-mail and web browsing. Likewise, many handheld computers (Personal Digital Assistants) are being produced with phone capabilities. For many individuals however, affordable smart phones have become feature rich enough to lure them away from their handheld computer, mainly because smart phones are more compact. As smart phones win over the personal computing device market, handheld computers are being developed more for the business computing market. Users in this market are more willing to sacrifice device size for increased computing power, and so devices such as the Tablet PC and Ultra Personal Computer (uPC) are being developed. Unlike most personal use, business use of mobile communication is concerned with the transfer of all forms of electronic data. Equally important is the way in which data and information is captured, and then managed to ensure it is readily available to other people/ devices when and where required. Improved cost effective mobile computing power will further reduce the office/ field divide. The uptake of integrated mobile communication & computing devices and services has been significant. This growth in use will continue as smart phone devices gain more features, and handheld computers gain increased computing power. This is the belief of many leading players within the construction and telecom industries. Companies need to plan for this wireless future, and exploit the expected growth in their business strategies.

Construction needs
The construction industry is a diverse beast, generating and trafficking an enormous amount of information. Expectations of people within the industry to have access to the latest information, produced at any point in the project/ supply chain, has increased dramatically in recent years. This expectation reflects the increasingly competitive pressure to deliver quicker and cheaper solutions. It also reflects the increased electronic awareness that internet use has cultured, realising a one-stop 'information on demand' medium. Many operatives working in the field are currently wasting valuable time because data is captured manually (or maybe using a standalone handheld device), and then physically transported between site and office. The information may then have to be keyed into the office computer system. A handheld computing device enabled with a suitable wireless capability can reduce travel costs, increase operative efficiency, and speed data transfer. The use of project extranet solutions (a single project database shared by all project members: Client; Designer; Contractors; Suppliers) and document management systems is now common on large projects. The benefits of such systems, and therefore return on investment, can be significantly enhanced if personnel on the move (on site for example) can interact with these honey pots of information.

Existing solutions
The rapid adoption of handheld computing devices in recent years has driven the development of proven mobile communication solutions and capabilities. From their roots as standalone devices that were reliant upon a cable connection to a desktop PC or a connected mobile phone, handhelds have evolved to integrate features that enable wireless connection to mobile phone networks and computer networks.

Briefing sheets are provided free of charge to help increase knowledge and awareness. They may be freely copied. Care is taken to ensure information is correct, however readers are advised to consult source documents for authoritative information.

Institution of Civil Engineers, One Great George Street, Westminster, London SW1P 3AA Registered Charity No. 210252

Current mobile phone network standard.Orange technology enabling speeds up to 28. RFIs. but offer greater data transmission speeds. One Great George Street. Other exotic solutions such as satellite phones are not considered here. however readers are advised to consult source documents for authoritative information. and more robust than hub networks. SMS (Short Message Service) . Site Management: Site diary. mesh networks that utilise connected devices as network nodes are beginning to be used to deploy larger networks. High Speed Circuit Switched Data (HSCSD) . enabling the delivery of games. that are more flexible. Charged per packet of data transferred. Innovative companies and individuals are pushing the boundaries and developing new uses all the time. UK Legislation now allows the commercial use of WLANs to provide internet access in public areas.5 Generation'. London SW1P 3AA Registered Charity No. Wireless computer network solutions currently operate over shorter ranges (though internet connection can provide global range).uk/specials/wifimap). PC to digital camera/ video camera. Application to construction Use of mobile handheld computing is widespread within the construction industry. from several different suppliers. Institution of Civil Engineers. Highway & bridge inspections for example. Several hundred public WLAN nodes (hotspots) are currently available throughout the UK (www. GPRS enables ‘dial-up’ speed connection to Internet services. Most useful in combination with other functions.g. Can be used to extend wired LANs. which discuss the appropriate use of IT solutions for construction sites. Digital camera expansion modules enable image capture. up to ~50Kbps.8Kbps via GSM. • • • • • • • • Forth Generation phone network standards are already being planned. Westminster. A variety of established and developing standards exist: • • • • • GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) . setting out. GIS data access & collection. Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN): Up to 300m range (an external antenna can extend this to several miles). Interaction with project extranet databases to read & write data.Briefing sheet Speed of data transmission. Snagging lists. word processing. usage and wastage of materials and other construction assets. up to 384Kbps. Can be combine with GPS functionality to automate positioning. snagging records for example. PC to LAN). 2004 sees first phones in UK.zdnet. Currently available. Data capture and auto report generation for repetitive tasks. range and cost is a primary issue when procuring a solution. • Briefing sheets are provided free of charge to help increase knowledge and awareness.Standard to send text up to 160 character messages via GSM networks. phone to handheld An excellent set of guides were produced by Sarah Bowden of Arup in 2002. These are available at www. such as drawings. WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) Standard to access E-mail and text based internet via GSM. letters.g. Speeds of 100Mbps to 1Gbps are being suggested.pii. Low power. UMTS (Universal Mobile Telephone Service) -commonly referred to as 3rd Care is taken to ensure information is correct. GPRS (General Packet Radio System) always connected. The most common mobile phone and computer network solutions are listed below. up to 120Mbps (faster generations are constantly emerging). Bluetooth: 10m range. Wireless Wide Area Networks (WWAN) are being developed to deliver 70Mbps over 50km. CAD. Essentially a faster version of GPRS. and e-mail. and mobile Where present (mostly in urban areas and at transport nodes) temporary site offices and mobile construction workers can use nodes to access corporate/ project resources via the internet. but we will have to wait until 2010. and should be checked with each service provider. up to 16Mbps. PC to printer/ monitor. always connected. up to 9Kbps. • • Infra Red: Up to 2m range. 210252 . computer. They may be freely copied. up to 1Mbps. to extend the site office network across the whole construction site. and task planning. e. Applications for design. video. The coverage of mobile phone networks varies greatly. being dubbed '2. Current applications include: • Laser Barcode & Radio Tag readers are being used to manage & track delivery. spreadsheets. low cost solution to replace peripheral cabling (E. surveying. Also.

They may be freely copied.3g. and are continuing to change the methods and speed in which tasks are being carried out. innovative solar charging solutions are in development. As more processing power is squeezed in to smaller – WLAN Technology • www.kinns. Institution of Civil Engineers. and will reduce the cost of phone calls. London SW1P 3AA Registered Charity No.wimax.wifi. Babtie Group – PDA Smart Phones • www.tabletpc2.kinns. As coverage and accessibility improves. – Palm Handheld Computers • – WWAN Technology • sheet The future The systems demonstrated in Orange's 2000 future house conveyed a vision in which all communication and control is . whilst maximising speed. transported and utilised faster than Companies that do not embrace the new working culture are in danger of missing the new business – Example Ultra PC • which can connect to any available networks (mobile phone & computer networks) in order to maintain uninterrupted connection.wimax. One Great George and www. One such solution is integrating flexible solar panels into clothing. it will only get This will increase as wireless networks proliferate.lastmilecoms. the last technology frontier has become battery www. bringing us closer to the Orange vision. Briefing sheets are provided free of charge to help increase knowledge and October 2004 Summary Mobile computing devices have. Initiatives such as Westminster. however readers are advised to consult source documents for authoritative information. www.Wireless Technologies • – Pocket PC Computers • – PDA phones • – Free Wireless Web Access • In addition to efficiency improvements. This increased connectivity will provide more workers in the field and on construction sites with access to project and asset related systems and – GSM Mobile Phone Network • will extend the coverage of fast wireless internet – Personal Digital Assistants • www. Technology redundancy can be a business drain. 210252 . The second-hand/ refurbished handheld market continues to provide a very cost effective mechanism for those wishing to adopt tried and tested mobile – Wireless lamppost network • – Construction opportunities for mobile IT John Mobile technologies are evolving rapidly. but still not common place. Information can now be generated.blackberry. and wholly integral with our business and leisure lives. It is very important to manage the appropriate use of technology in order to balance cost and – 3rd Generation Mobile Phones • www. Care is taken to ensure information is – Tablet PCs • www. Intelligent multi-band devices are How long will it be before we see the solar yellow jacket? Further information Other sources of information include: • www. Support of phone calls over wireless computer networks and the internet is an available solution. but can also reveal new benefits and uses when placed in the hands of innovative and progressive PDA Advice • www.

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